Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

View Post

Paul Feig is not as funny as his leading ladies.

So: unfunny feminazis and their SJW director did not rape this male’s childhood, or castrate a sacred, masculine, pop-cultural institution. This movie simply did what most remakes its era do: not much at all. It also did what Paul Feig movies tend to do: not much at all with the talented performers he casts. I like the cast – though I found Chris Hemsworth to be the funniest thing in this, which would be saying a lot if the material was any match for what Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon have to offer.

Feig’s Bridesmaids left me similarly underwhelmed: that one also had Maya Rudolph, perhaps my favourite of this generation of gifted, off-kilter, improviser / performer SNL alumni (see Away We Go, ┬ájust for her). This director is the weak link in his own movies – in short: Paul Feig is not as funny as his leading ladies. This Ghostbusters is not as funny as the original, its scripted jokes are not as funny as the bits of improv that made it in, and most of those seem to break from character and pull us out of the story.

But to be fair to Mr Feig: did anyone think any remake of Ghostbusters was going to be as good as the original? I’m not even referring to internet trolls here. I want very much to believe this is not a cynical cash-in, but Feig even revealed in interviews he really hadn’t understood what a pop-cultural phenomenon the original had become since its release. That’s not a good start.

Like Batman v Superman (which is not an encouraging way to begin a sentence in any movie review), so much of the plot, references and world-building depend on what the audience already knows from outside this movie – and, like BvS, that’s just weak film-making.

So who is this movie for?

Is it for little girls? Here they have funny, ghost-ass-kicking women to look up to; but I wonder how much this movie would make sense to them beyond that.

Is this a chick flick? It certainly has a lot of riffing on friendship and perving on impossibly handsome (and astronomically air-headed) beefcake men. But then why so many gags and nods to the original, but in purely cosmetic, odd, fall-flat ways?

Is it for fans of the original? The cameos from the original cast members all feel weird, not least because they effectively function as reminders of a (better) movie you aren’t watching. The appearances from and references to the more iconic ghosts are, again, only even a thing if you’re a fan of the original – and what fan was going to be excited about a remake? The villain is (however deservedly) the embodiment of the stereotypically hateful troll who hounded this movie from the day it was first announced – but ironically, the film’s treatment of the original’s iconography plays right into the sort of proclamations said slimeballs were making about the movie, sight unseen. That’s a high-stakes bet: if this movie knocks it out of the park, then it’s a victory for so many things. But this movie definitely didn’t. It’s just… fine. Not memorable, not solid, not that funny, and certainly not a lesson that a remake nobody asked for can triumph over public backlash (however gross and awful that backlash might be).

So… why?

I feel like the only lessons this movie and its release taught us were: many men in the world are awful; the most vocal geeks are awful; and misogynists are unabashedly vocal… and awful. I didn’t need to watch a “meh” remake of Ghostbusters to have that shown to me, but unfortunately it seems that’s the most significant function this movie has served in the wider cultural landscape. I’m keen to see a comedy starring this cast – just not about ghosts, and directed by someone other than Paul Feig – as I said after seeing Oceans Eight, a female-led reboot should be helmed by a young, female director with a voice and a vision. But who could that be…?

Further Viewing

While I don’t often agree with their reviews, Red Letter Media’s take on Ghostbusters (2016) hits several nails on the head – including re-edits of moments from the film, to demonstrate its points about comic timing: