Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is about to get tenure at Columbia University, but her plans for a career in academia are scuppered when the book she wrote with former friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) resurfaces. The book posits that ghosts are real and when Erin tries to confront Abby about publishing the book she is drawn into the hunt for a real life ghost. Of course, this is Ghostbusters, and where there’s one ghost, there are many, and it is not long before Erin and Abby team up with New York local Patty (Leslie Jones) and weapons whizz Jillian (Kate McKinnon) to investigate hauntings and take down ghosts. They just need a catchy name…
Ever since the release of Ghostbusters II in 1989 there has been talk of a third film in the highly successful and beloved franchise. That sequel never materialised, but this reboot of the franchise could have worked better if it was taken to be the Ghostbusters III that we never had.
The cast is made up of established funny gals Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, who are joined by Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. McCarthy plays a straighter role than we have seen from her in some time, which makes a nice change, but Kristen Wiig is still working with the awkward brand of comedy we have come to expect from her, as well as some uncomfortable sexual advances to Chris Hemsworth that would have caused an outcry if the genders were reversed. Jones plays a character that feels decidedly backward looking, since this black New Yorker is all about shouting and sass, and while McKinnon’s character is fun at times, she does feel as though she was transported in from another movie. The rest of the cast includes Andy Garcia, who obviously has a lot of fun with his role as Mayor, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr, Neil and Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters’ dim but pretty receptionist. Many of the original cast of Ghostbusters make appearances too, with Sigourney Weaver, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson turning up in the film.
The story, written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, reboots the Ghostbusters franchise, with the girls finding their feet and setting up their business, but there is definitely an argument to be made for this film not ignoring the ones that have gone before; a sequel could have given the choice to gender swap the film a decent explanation and paid tribute to the legacy of those that went before. The dialogue for the film is fine, although the jokes are not a patch on the original – there is nothing that even comes close to the ‘Dickless’ joke – and most of the laughs come from the cameos, rather than the leading cast, and much of the science talk feels a lot less passionate than the dialogue written by Dan Ackroyd for the original. As well as this, there are issues with the main villain of the film, who is never given a decent motivation or fleshed out to seem properly scary. Add to this a finale that is rather silly and convenient, and Ghostbusters begins to deflate rather like the new version of the Stay Puft marshmallow man.
As director, Paul Feig tries to recreate the lightning in the bottle of Bridesmaids, while being seemingly aware that this is a film that has a long legacy and many old school fans. The pacing of the film is a mess, to be quite frank, and this is where the trouble begins; after the big scare at the start of the film – which works well and tries to set the tone – much of the running time is spent establishing weapons, and not the story that the film is telling. There are some laughs to be had, but there is as much dead air as there are giggles. As well as this, the final set piece of the film feels like it was taken from any superhero film you care to mention, and this undermines all the film’s attempts to stay true to the spirit of the original. Oh, and the change in sound of Ecto 1’s siren is a travesty.
In all, Ghostbusters is funnier than you thought it would be, but not quite as smart as you hoped it would be. The story could have been a heck of a lot better with some simple changes and although the film has plenty of laughs, these do not come from the main cast. The final set piece is a mess, but that said, this new version of Ghostbusters is fun and funny, and tries its best to stay true to the feel of the original with varying results. There is a lot of fun to be had with Ghostbusters, but that new version of the theme song and the sound of Ecto 1 are just unforgivable.