In the time that I’ve been writing reviews I don’t think I’ve seen a film get the same level of revulsion prior to release that this new version of Ghostbusters has received. Not only were there the typical sexist arseholes who were going to hate this film no matter what and harass people who do enjoy it, but the trailers released for the film were pretty terrible, none of the jokes in them working, some of them even coming across as racist. I also didn’t have too high hopes for it because of Paul Feig directing as, whilst I enjoyed Spy, I still find Bridesmaids to be one of the worst comedies made in the past few years. However, I decided to give the film a chance, mainly to spite the sexist arseholes, and what I got really surprised me, I had a lot of fun with the film and I laughed pretty consistently throughout.
The plot concerns Erin Gilbert, a physicist about to get tenure at Columbia University when she finds out that a book she wrote with her former friend Abby Yates saying that ghosts are real has been placed on sale. Going to Abby to get the book taken off, Abby only agrees if Erin introduces them to someone who claims they saw a ghost at an old manor house, with Abby bringing her new research partner Jillian Holtzmann along with her. When they find out the ghost there is real, with a video of Erin after the event going viral and causing her to lose her job at Columbia, the group set up a firm to investigate what is happening with the hope of capturing a ghost for study, later being joined by subway worker Patty Tolan after she saw a ghost in the subway, and dimwitted receptionist Kevin. At the same time, a mysterious man named Rowan is going around the city triggering all the ghost appearances in order to bring about the end of the world. The main thing that works about the film is the dynamic between the team, some of which I’ll get more into when I talk about the cast, mainly the dynamic between Erin and Abby. We find out that they were friends since high school, united in their shared belief in ghosts, which makes the decision Erin made to disown the book they wrote in order to gain credibility, sacrificing her beliefs in the process more powerful. This is especially the case later on in the film when they are confronted by sceptics and we see how much it resonates for Erin in particular, bringing back painful memories of her time in therapy as a child and when her and Abby were bullied for what they believed in. This gives the film a more powerful emotional bent than I was expecting which helped elevate the film in my eyes. The film also does a good job at showing that this team is at more of a disadvantage due to them being women, bringing in a fair few elements of the real life hatred surrounding the film, mainly related to comments made about the whole premise. By doing this, it helps make the scenes of triumph for the characters all the more effective. That said, even with the dramatic side of the film working, the film would still fall apart if it wasn’t funny and thankfully the film delivers in this aspect. Most of the jokes here land and I was laughing pretty consistently throughout the film, even jokes that had me cringing in the trailers made me roar with laughter in the film, mainly because the trailers removed the context for the jokes, which removed what made them funny. The only times the film really falls apart in terms of humour are when it references the original film, all of these scenes coming across as forced. I also feel there were some joke and dramatic opportunities in the finale that were not utilised effectively, along with the whole third act feeling a bit rushed for me, especially with the first two acts having this great mix of comedy, drama and a bit of horror.
The other main reason why the film works is because of the dynamic between the cast. Kristen Wiig as Erin is great at showing the shift of the character from being worn down by all the hate she has received to being revitalised, her passion for what she loves being reignited by her experiences in the film. This joy at what the characters are doing is echoed by Melissa McCarthy as Abby, the joy she has when first seeing the ghost being infectious and her overall demeanour as the foil to the other characters works for the film. The friendship between Abby and Erin also works due to how well Wiig and McCarthy play off each other, the initial hostility they have to each other, the moments when we find out the backstory and the relationship they have working as well as they do because of subtle pieces of acting by Wiig and McCarthy. When I saw the first trailer, the character I was the most worried about was Leslie Jones as Patty, the character coming across as the stereotypical street wise, loud black sidekick and that isn’t the case here. When Patty says she knows New York she means in a historical sense, being sort of an amateur historian, her knowledge about the history of the city being invaluable. She also isn’t as loud as the trailer implies, taking on a role similar to McCarthy in being a straight player for the more wild performances to bounce off of, her reactions to what she sees feeling believable. Speaking of wild performances, the standout of this team of Ghostbusters is easily Kate McKinnon as Jillian. She is easily the funniest character in the film, her reaction to everything, the way she moves, her whole fun loving, constantly tinkering, badass personality (she gets the best action scene in the film), she’s the one who loves what she does the most and she steals almost every scene she’s in. The reason I say almost every scene is that there’s another big scene stealer in the film, that being Chris Hemsworth. His portrayal of Kevin is up there with the great performances as complete idiots with Ardal O’Hanlon in Father Ted, Tony Robinson in Blackadder and Emma Chambers in The Vicar of Dibley. This is a character who doesn’t know how the phone works, covers his eyes when told something is going to be loud and who’s ideas for logos range from nonsensical to plagarism, the stupidity of Kevin being a great counterpoint for the intelligence for the Ghostbusters themselves, with interactions between Hemsworth and Wiig providing some of the films biggest laughs. The interactions the main cast have together are excellent, the bond between all the characters feeling believable throughout the film, all of the performances bouncing off each other to create some of the funniest scenes in any film this year.
On a technical level the film is very impressive. The design every piece of equipment has is excellent, having this charming homemade feel which fits the whole tone of the characters and helps to show the intelligence of the characters, especially Jillian considering her role in creating them. The production design has this great feel of grandeur, especially near the end of the film, whilst the design for the HQ of the Ghostbusters is effective at showing their scrappy roots. The CG effects for the ghosts are impressive, the weightless nature of CGI being used to the advantage of the film to give the ghosts a great floaty feeling. The action scenes are well directed as well, the choreography of them fitting the nature of the characters, with Feig’s direction showing that he has a real knack for large scale CG intensive action, especially a scene in the climax with McKinnon. The only real downside of this side of the film is the music, mainly the constant inclusions of Fallout Boy’s version of the Ghostbusters theme, which sounds terrible.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Ghostbusters. I didn’t go in expecting much but I got a very funny film, anchored by an excellent cast, all of whom work brilliantly off each other, a script which was a lot more intelligent than I thought it was going to be and strong direction from Paul Feig. In a summer which has seen a lot of comedies, sequels and reboots for franchises completely fall apart, it’s great to see this one succeed, proving the sexist arseholes who hated the film as soon as it was announced wrong.
My Rating: 4/5