Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Years ago, scientists Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) wrote a book together about the paranormal. Very few believed their theories – but Yates continued her research while Gilbert tried to distance herself away. But when ghosts start appearing across Manhattan, the two are brought together alongside nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to investigate, research and try to capture them.
Who would have ever thought a silly Science-Fiction Comedy about fighting ghosts would become the single most controversial Film of 2016? I am certain co-writer/director Paul Feig had no idea how adverse the Internet reaction would be to an all-female lead Ghostbusters. But as we should have expected all along, the Film is entertaining and often quite funny. It updates the story and mythos created by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis over 30 years ago, and introduces some really slick new weapons and even better CGI-designed ghosts. The look and level of detail in these horrific creatures is great, and lead to a terrific mix of laughs and scares.
But that said, the Film never wants to be its own creation – it seems completely indebted and undone by nostalgia and references to the original Films. At every turn, there’s a reference, joke or line directly lifted from those Films. Some of them are used well, but others are so choreographed and unoriginal that they become downright irritating. While I cannot fault Feig for adding these homages (or the mostly amusing cameos by the surviving original cast members minus Rick Moranis), it seems like he uses them as a crutch more than he does to help enrich his new vision for the franchise. What little new material is here – co-written alongside The Heat’s Katie Dippold – misses more often than it hits, and that includes the not so subtle jabs at misogynist Internet fanboys.
While the Film is packed with recognizable faces in supporting roles, it is the four leads that make the most impact. McCarthy teams up with Feig for the fourth time (after Bridesmaids, The Heat and last year’s Spy) and does mostly well as the Film’s co-lead. She has a problem making us believe she knows and understands all of the wacky scientific terms she recites, but she gets to have a lot of fun playing her character more straight and narrow than usual. Wiig on the other hand, seems ill-equipped to be playing the straight character. Her personality and traits keep changing wildly throughout the Film, never becoming anywhere near as distinct or well-rounded as her co-stars. Jones has a blast playing the larger-than-life non-scientist of the group. She gets many of the best lines, and delivers them with the same overbearing force that has made her a hilarious standout on SNL.
But the Film’s MVP and secret weapon is McKinnon, who easily steals each and every scene she appears in. Her performance is hysterical and borders on being literally insane. I could not look away from her any time she appeared, because she always delivered no matter what ridiculous thing she was asked to say or do. She is a chaotic and hilarious force of nature that makes the Film’s many lesser moments infinitely better. This is the very definition of a star-making performance.
And if the trailers have not already ruined him for you, Chris Hemsworth is a rapturous delight as the group’s clueless, pretty-boy receptionist Kevin. He tends to be the butt of many jokes, but he takes it all in stride and reveals a comedic side we have only seen hints of thus far into his career.
Ghostbusters is entertaining, but feels like a missed opportunity to really create something new and bold. There is no way this Film should have caused nearly as big a firestorm of Internet controversy as it has. But while it falters in many areas, it does have some really funny moments, spectacular CGI effects and an incredible performance from McKinnon that needs to be seen to be believed. So if you were a fan of the franchise before or just ain’t afraid of no ghosts, put down your pitchforks and keyboards and give it a shot.
Sony Pictures Canada release GHOSTBUSTERS on Friday, July 15, 2016.