Review: Ghostbusters directed by Paul Feig
July 14, 2016
The sheer volume of vitriol levelled at Paul Feig’s all-female reboot has illustrated just how vindictive, reactionary and entitled those most ardent cells within ‘geek culture’ can be; how quickly fandom can stoop to chauvinism. The industry has had to learn the hard way that you feed the fanboys and the fanboys must be sated. In the wake of the film’s initial announcement and the release of its trailer, a curdled nostalgia prevailed in which an army of trolls bewailed the death of their childhood, allying themselves with the anti-feminist backlash that finds its most vituperative voice on social media. All of which leaves what was intended to be a lightweight summer romp in the unenviable position of being both a cause célèbre and a bête noire; risky territory for a $150 million film to occupy.
There is a danger in effects-heavy comedies for the jokes to be dwarfed by the spectacle; scale is rarely a comedy’s friend. But the original film, thanks in large part to the masterful touch of director Ivan Reitman, harnessed the irreverent talents of its cast to create something both comedically satisfying and truly cinematic. Feig proves himself equal to the demands of marrying mirth with momentum, honouring the franchise without paying undue deference to its legacy. This reboot, much like Feig’s previous offerings The Heat (2013) and Spy (2015), more closely resembles Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s ‘Cornetto trilogy’ in the cine-literate, breathless élan with which it both deconstructs and celebrates genre tropes.
Much like Reitman, Feig is building a formidable repertory of talent, and Ghostbusters joyously makes the most of his most favoured collaborators. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy do most of the dramatic heavy lifting as Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, leaving Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon to deliver the best jokes. McKinnon captures the wisecracking essence of Billy Murray’s Peter Venkman as the madcap Jillian Holtzmann; hers is the film’s standout performance. Jones’ Patty Tolan is somewhat problematic, straying at times into a ‘streetwise’ caricature, but the gusto of the performance overcomes any shortcomings in the writing. There is an abundance of comic talent in the supporting roles – the likes of Zach Woods, Matt Walsh and Ed Begley Jr. – though Andy Garcia’s wheezy performance as New York’s mayor is half-hearted and he is outshone by Cecily Strong as his flustered representative. The big surprise is Chris Hemsworth, who reveals himself to have a flair for the zany as the team’s scatty uber-hipster secretary.
Ghostbusters carries the wilfully silly, scatological spirit of Bridesmaids (2011) into the 12A realm, while retaining the gothic underpinnings which distinguished the original. Ghostbusters is everything a summer blockbuster should be: smart, fun, exuberant and accessible. Well-honed one-liners, well-executed physical comedy and well-aimed swipes at online haters hit their marks time and again. This band of Saturday Night Live alumni proves itself undaunted by their illustrious progenitors, delivering a fresh and inventive take on the blockbuster, a landmark film which only the most churlish troll could dismiss. One can only hope that it will be looked back on as a watershed rather than an anomaly.
Follow Daniel Palmer on Twitter at @mrdmpalmer.