Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters 2016 film poster.jpg
Polter-zeitgeist

Director: Paul Feig
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy García, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cecily Strong, Neil Casey

From the earliest of announcements, each aspect of Paul Feig's latest film has been met with widespread criticism. While this is nothing new, particularly for a rebooted of a much loved classic, the dislike and downright vitriol that's been spread has been unparalleled. For anybody expecting a disaster on level with last year's Fantastic Four, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Ghostbusters is pretty good.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) are a pair of authors, writing a book about ghosts being real. Years later, Gilbert lands a prestigious position teaching at Columbia University, only to lose her position when the book resurfaces. When ghosts invade Manhatten, Gilbert and Yates are reunited, teaming up with nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), to save the world.

Much like the original, the pictures survival is dependant on the Ghostbusters themselves, which makes it lucky how the assembled cast prove to be the films greatest strength. Thankfully, none of these characters feel like rip-offs of Ray, Egon, Winston or Peter, but rather their own fully fledged characters who each carry unique strengths and quirks.

Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy prove to be rather subdued in their humour, which allows for more focus on their shared history. The early stages may feel more like set up for the plot as opposed to being beneficial to their character arcs, but the friendship comes off as rather sweet. Leslie Jones' sassy performance proves to be the loudest one, but she can't help but come off as rather fun. Kate McKinnon excels, delivering a performance full of energy, lighting up the screen in her own idiosyncratic way. But the key element to these characters is their chemistry, as these four feel like a fully functional unit who can trust one another, and genuine friends.

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, the dim receptionist, is a one joke gag stretched out, but remains humorous thanks to the actor selling every line that passes his lips. Spare a thought for Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh and Charles Dance, who are each wasted in their roles. Andy García fares somewhat better, as Mayor Bradley, who wishes to keep the reality of ghosts contained, to limit widespread panic.

But the biggest problem appears to lie with Paul Feig. It often feels as though he's undecided upon what kind of picture he wishes to make, one of his usual comedies, or a Ghostbusters film. Things flow best when these moments naturally mesh together, but even then, the comedic efforts prove to be rather hit and miss. The final act is a particular disappointment, lacking any urgency or energy to deliver a satisfying finale to this self-contained tale. The landscape is instead populated with crammed references, effects resembling Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and a defeat that feels recycled from The Heat.

Considering how much the original still resonates with audiences, it's expected to see cameos and nods to the 1984 picture. It's just a shame they all feel rather forced, especially the use of the logo (a tribute to Harold Ramis is rather touching, though). But credit where it's due, the picture delivers on the entertainment front, resulting in an enjoyable time. Just hearing the opening notes to Ray Parker, Jr's classic tune delivered the biggest smile on this reviewers face. Plus, the opening scene comes off as genuinely creepy, and tense in all the right places. Wouldn't mind seeing Paul Feig tackle a horror film after this scene.

Does Ghostbusters trump the Ivan Reitman directed original? Of course not, but it's doubtful that was its goal in the first place. The picture may hold its share of problems, but thrives thanks to the wonderful characters placed front and centre here, ensuring a fun time to be had. It'd be wonderful to see these characters make a return, but perhaps with a different director.

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