More noise than signal

Ghostbusters (2016)

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

The reboot that caused a million obnoxious white male voices to suddenly cry out in terror and refuse to be silenced, despite all appeals to logic, sanity, or basic human decency. Looking beyond those charming organised hate parades, now it’s out we can now judge it on it’s own merits, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved for a film to be enjoyable than this one.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, this Paul Feig directed outing runs through the basic plot from the apparently idolised 80’s original, although I must have missed that memo raising it to untouchable status – I’ve only ever remembered this as a reasonably amusing effects showcase, and surely the execrable second film did more to tarnish memories than this film ever could.

Here a now respectable physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) takes issue with former research partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) when she re-issues a book they co-authored on the paranormal, ruining Erin’s chances for tenure and her reputation. There’s not much time for recriminations, however, as along with engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), they are called to investigate what turns out to be an actual haunting.

While this validation of their long-held beliefs gives them some cause for celebration, by the time subway attendant and soon to be fourth Ghostbuster Patty Tolan calls them to investigate an actual ghost train, it’s apparent that someone is creating and leaving gizmos that amplify the supernatural activity in key locations around Noo Yawk. That someone is a Rowan North (Neil Casey), a hotel janitor with an aptitude for para-physics and an apocalyptic mindset.

Once the team figure out what’s going on they’re able to stop Rowan’s plan, or so it seems, but it turns out that when Rowan is struck down he can become more powerful than they can possibly imagine, fulfilling his plan to open the portal between this worked and the nether realm and leading a spectral invasion, including taking over the body of the Ghostbuster’s beautiful but impossibly stupid secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), so of course it’s again left to Erin and Co to stop this nonsense.

As mentioned, I find this to be an entirely acceptable film, and one that’s reasonably enjoyable, putting it firmly on level pegging with the original as far as I’m concerned. Sure, you lose out on Bill Murray, except for a shoehorned cameo that’s actually one of the low points of the film, but the ensemble is as strong as the original, all things considered. In many ways Wiig and McCarthy are shown up by McKinnon and Jones, who certainly show more energy.

By an admittedly tighter margin than I’d like, more jokes in the film land than don’t, so it passes my first and only criteria for a comedy to hit – is it funny? Yes, it’s funny. I’d hoped for a touch funnier, but this will do. I’ll take what I can get. Now that I’ve lavished, or at least lightly scattered, praise on this film I suppose I get to pass brief comment on that controversial trailer that started this internet idiot parade – at least half of what the haters said was true, it’s a terrible, terrible trailer than undersells the film greatly. Crucially, it’s funnier than the trailer makes out, for some reason taking the least amusing and most awkward bits of character interaction, and the special effects look better in the final film than as glimpsed in the trailer.

To unpack that a little more, what I mean is that in the context of the film, the ghosts have a very intentional stylistic look to them. That’s as shown in the trailer, but taken in isolation it does look a bit like the shonky CG offcut to was criticised for. When viewed as part of a film, the ascetic makes more sense. It still won’t be to some, perhaps many’s taste, but it’s bold and consistent, and I like it well enough.

That, however, is a side-track that’s not worth pursuing any further. The remake proves that it’s possible, were such proof ever required, which of course it is not, that a gender-reversed remake can work as well as the original. Perhaps some people would be better served re-assessing why they still hold the original in such high regard – for me both original and remake sit on the same level as somewhat above average effects comedy, and frankly, neither of them are as good as The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, so maybe watch a few episodes of that instead.

At any rate, Ghostbusters 2016 has defied expectations as a decent film, and frankly in this blockbuster season, I’ll take what small wins I can get.