It is absurd that Ghostbusters (2016) has prompted such serious conversations, becoming a flashpoint for the unbridled misogyny that has beset geek culture of late. Manbabies are railing against the film whilst simultaneously declaring they will never see it, whilst spamming IMDB with zero star reviews. This is all even more absurd because the only area in which Ghost Busters (1984) truly excels is in being really, really fun.
You can add another reason to feel sorry for the so called Ghostbros who are refusing to see this film – they are missing out on one of the year’s best times at the cinema. There are definitely things the film does not do particularly well. But much like the film it is based on, this is above all fun. Really well performed, well directed and spectacular looking fun at that. The story is pretty thin and will feel familiar to anyone who has seen the original. Two scientists posited a theory of the paranormal years ago. In the interim one has gone ‘legit’. They briefly feud early in the film. That is resolved very quickly, then with another scientist and a MTA worker in tow, they set up their ghostbusting enterprise. Fun ensues. And that’s what it is all about really. There are some flat spots. Early on particularly and it is a little exposition heavy at times. But it is all the other aspects – the acting, score, action, visuals – attached to this story that make this a very worthwhile watch. Where there is thankfully some depth is the paranormal mythology set up. It helps to explain the actions of the main villain and adds some malevolence to the goings on that are populated with somewhat silly looking CG ghosts in a way that actually works well. As for the controversy swirling around the film, it engages with that really well I feel. A couple of the script’s funniest zingers are one-liners about the internet trolls commenting on YouTube videos and railing against the fact that women couldn’t possibly bust ghosts. But the script never makes this a focus, rather getting in some good jokes, but never distracting itself from the main plot.
One of the major assets this film has going for it is that the best mainstream comedy director working today Paul Feig is at the helm. Not only is he good at the funny stuff, but just like in Spy (2015), though even more so here, he proves himself really adept at doing action. The large scale set piece at the end manages not to merely devolve into an effects-fest, but continues the narrative threads set up earlier. Also sprinkled throughout are a reasonable number of good smaller pieces of fisticuffs. We’ve seen how hard it is to tell compelling action with any sense of weight when it is a human performer facing off against a bunch of CGI sprites. But the director and his performers bring that to life well. There are some nicely done scary moments too, especially the haunted mansion style opening where the sound design and riffing on genre tropes makes for pretty effective stuff. The film looks exceptional as well. Not only does the 3D avoid the common traps of being totally dark or having that tacky diorama feel, it elevates what is on screen. There is a black border around the image which allows weaponry and lightning to go outside the frame. It’s a simple approach, but it feels fresh. Plus the slime and ghosts coming right for you is as fun as you would expect, without being overdone. I would definitely recommend making the effort to catch it in the 3D format.
On the performance front, all five of the leads are good at the very least. The patter between McCarthy and Wiig was the best thing about Bridesmaids (2011) and it is again joyful to watch here. They are both excellent performers. If anything there could have been more of that. Wiig does a lot with a character that could have been overwhelmingly boring, and her interactions with Chris Hemsworth are really charming too. Hemsworth is a lot of fun, subverting the traditional dopey receptionist cliché, though the writing of that character does on occasion veer a little too silly. Probably the best of the performers are the two relative newcomer ghostbusters. Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann is (rightly) getting a lot of the buss at the moment. Her energy is infectious and you could feel the cinema leaning in every time she was the focus. But I think Leslie Jones as Patty may even outdo McKinnon. She is my favourite character, getting a lot of the best moments and biggest laughs. The writing of some of the characters is a little up and down. Especially early on for McCarthy, she is subdued whilst the tokenistic beef between her and Wiig is sorted. But the script also provides the base for McKinnon and Jones to launch their winning performances from. The score of the film is a definite highlight. A film of this tone is hard to score and rarely done right. It is here though. It brings atmosphere to the more frightening scenes, but always just addingsome spookiness, not trying to terrify. Playful and spooky are hard to do without it sounding silly,but that is what is done really well here.
Verdict: Once again Feig, McCarthy and crew have delivered a comedy filled to the brim of laughs, fun action and really excellent performances. I certainly can’t wait to see this band of characters fleshed out on more ghostbusting adventures. Pint of Kilkenny
For some reason Ghost Busters (1984) was never a real formative film for me, despite some of my absolute favourites coming from that era. I am sure I had seen the film on TV years ago, but I only had pretty vague recollections of it, making this viewing almost like seeing it for the first time.
It’s weird that whilst the 80s was a pretty dire time for some other art forms (I’m looking at you music), it was a great time for film, especially popular film. Ghost Busters is a definite part of that. This New York set film sees three academic scientists who are kicked off campus go into the ghost hunting business. Lucky for them, that is a field of work that happens to be in high demand at the time. Much of the humour in the early parts of the film comes from the sheer lack of experience or knowledge that our heroes have about what the hell they should do when they happen upon a ghost. This makes their early experiments in ‘ghostbusting’ hilariously fraught. But luckily for the folk of New York, they are also generally successful in these endeavours. Especially as the supernatural goings-on really ramp up, culminating in a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man Godzilla sized beast rampaging through the streets. As will happen. The supernatural happenings are driven by what I assume were some pretty impressive for the time special effects that by and large have aged relatively well. There are some definite exceptions to this rule, but the effects are there to only enhance the other aspects of the film, they are not the focus of the film itself. A lesson there for many a filmmaker I think.
The two major strengths of the film are the sharp comedy of the script and the fantastic cast. Two of the stars of the film, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were also on writing duties. What they turned in was a wryly comedic gem that will have you chuckling throughout, without feeling like you are being beaten over the head with an endless bombardment of jokes. Another major credit to the script is that it actually gets stronger as the film goes on, with many of the funnier lines coming toward the end of the film. If you really wanted to quibble, there is a plot diversion and character or two that are underdeveloped, but in reality it is highly doubtful you will notice. Plus, as with any high quality film of this ilk, there are a bunch of really quotable lines peppered throughout. Most of them are delivered by Bill Murray, such as the classics “he slimed me” and “cats and dogs living together”. Murray is definitely the star in terms of screen time and his performance is really good too. He is able to comfortably nail both wry, dry humour as well as the odd bit of silliness. He is really well supported by basically everyone else as in the film, with my personal favourites here being Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver. Moranis especially creates a really full and fun character in his short time onscreen. Man I love that guy, watching this film brought back plenty of memories of a film that definitely was a formative one for me, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989).
In the end, Ghost Busters is just about as fun as a film can hope to be, managing to mix elements of comedy, horror and fantasy all together to come up with something highly original. I can definitely see why this is an absolute favourite of many and a really formative film for a lot of huge film fans.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
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