Since its release the Ghostbusters reboot has barely managed to recuperate the cost of its production budget and as such is a far cry from being a resounding success commercially, unsurprising considering the negativity that has plagued the movie. Despite the movie's poor performance at the box office executive producer Amy Pascal has recently claimed the movie has warranted an "endless franchise" - unsurprisingly Amy Pascal was sacked as Sony Pictures chairperson for, among other things, mismanagement. Critically the movie has received mixed reviews with most genuine reviews giving the movie a poor rating. Although higher profile reviews have given the movie praise some critics claim that such outlets are reluctant to post negative reviews of the movie for fear of a social-political backlash.
Some reviewers have claimed that the movie promotes a strong depiction of women through a group of friends that overcome all odds and save the world. Some reviews have also praised both Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth for the portrayal of their characters, while others have criticized these actors for the very same roles. Having watched Paul Feig's past directorial features two character tropes have become apparent in his movies. The first is his preference for a leading female cast, while the second is the use of one-dimensional character stereotypes for supporting characters, especially those depicted by male characters. In the Ghostbusters reboot, the characterization of the supporting characters is so flat and unrealistic that the characters are mere caricatures of said stereotypes and ultimately feel cartoonish. Worse still is that this depth of character extends into the leading cast with McKinnon's character Jillian Holtzman's quirky depiction being so unrealistic she feels like the cartoon daughter of Egon Spengler and Janine Melnitz. With Leslie Jones portrayal of Patty Tolan serving as little more than the token black character and Chris Hemsworth's Kevin Beckman leading the one-dimensional male cast of the movie, it becomes apparent while watching the movie that the characterization within this movie is both racist and sexist, with not a positive depiction seen among the men or any non-caucasian character. Even the relationship between Melissa McCarthy and Kirsten Wiig's characters Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert feels forced with multiple scenes showing the two characters in competition with each other (possibly reflecting some off camera rivalry). As such there is very little friendship depicted between the leading cast whose comradery is only possible because they exist within a universe populated by cardboard cutout stereotypes.
The lion's share of the movies intended comedic moments are given to Melissa McCarthy's character, which is unsurprising considering the directors past comments that he intends to make her a Hollywood star, but for her character of Abby Yates McCarthy's brand of aggressive acting seems out of place with the characters initially quiet and reserved portrayal, Although McCarthy's use of raising her eyebrows to convey that she has been possessed may show the limits of her acting ability.
Unlike some reports and reviews have claimed the narrative for the Ghostbusters reboot is actually quite cohesive; there are no gaping plot holes or inconsistencies. The narrative also flows at a welcome pace, never laboring on a scene for too long nor moving too fast for the audiences attention. The movie follows the four-act rule to the letter with each act clearly defined, but not overly so, keeping the whole narrative complete rather than feeling like four distinct parts. Even the "technobabble" is coherent, sounding plausible within the movies self-contained world.
Unfortunately, as seems to be the case with films co-written by Paul Feig (The Heat and Spy) the narrative is unimaginative and uninspired. The linear path of the narrative has no subplots, no dead ends, and no twists. A key message behind the movie's narrative is one of anti-bullying, which is resonated throughout the movie by both the exposition of McCarthys character and the group's struggles to be taken seriously, yet this message loses all sincerity with the villain character Rowan, a victim of bullying who overcomes his bullies by committing suicide - far from an ideal message to be sending to the victims of bullying.
Before the movies release its plot details were leaked online, the particulars of which rightfully received much criticism and mockery from fans and critics. Despite both the director and his co-writer, Katie Dippolds assertions that the movies narrative would vindicate them from the growing negativity the project attracted it becomes clear that their integrity is as empty as the movie's supporting characters with the movies much publicized musical number having been re-edited into the closing credits. The shallowness of the writing is even extended towards the negativity the movie attracted with at least two references to "nasty online comments", references that in time will be lost upon future audiences unfamiliar with the movies unorthodox marketing campaign.
The first major joke in the movie did make me laugh, which I initially thought was a good thing until the joke that made me laugh was systematically ruined, leaving a foul taste in my mouth, a taste that tarnished the whole movie as every joke, gag and setup was needlessly forced or elaborated upon for comedic value. In comedy, the best jokes are the natural ones that roll off the tongue, the jokes that emphasize the moment by commentating upon them. When a joke or punchline is forced for comedic effect it insults the audience, telling them when and when not to laugh. Surprisingly for a movie with two leading cast members that are SNL regulars, the Ghostbusters reboot plays like manufactured US sitcom without the laughter track, whereupon the audience realizes the laughter track was funnier than the shows jokes.
The original movie featured a lot of improvised and scripted circumstantial comedy whereby the jokes were born from the characters reactions to the circumstances they faced, such as Gozer asking if the Ghostbusters were Gods, or to choose the form of their destructor, or Ray's call to "grab" the ghost of Eleanor Twitty who haunted the New York Public Library. The jokes delivered act like punctuation marks to the scenes, adding the comedic element and lightening the otherwise dark tone of the scene. Ultimately the comedy on display in the original comes from the Ghostbusters themselves as they are repeatedly placed in perilous or otherwise disadvantageous positions by the actions of the narrative.
In the Ghostbusters reboot, however, the comedy is derived from the situations themselves such as the uncontrollable proton pack, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man balloon and the possession of McCarthy's character. Rather than relying on the natural stand-up comedic talent of his cast, director and co-writer Paul Feig forces upon the audience a brand of childish slapstick which has been seen too often before, and to better effect elsewhere. The very little commentary comedy present in the movie is either too lewd or too "pigeon-holed" to be laughed at - while a fart is almost universally funny a "queef" is downright disgusting.
A final comment on the "comedy" of this reboot is the movie's failure to identify its target audience, with many of its lewd jokes too crass for younger ears and with other jokes such as Slimer "family vacation" and McCarthy's advertised Exorcist references being too old to be recognizable by the younger female audience this movie is reportedly intended to empower.
The director of the original movie Ivan Reitman made a career from making comedy movies, yet with Ghostbusters he was able to emulate the style of Richard Donner for the movies finale, adding a sense of threat and disaster that has since been emulated (repeatedly) by Roland Emmerich. Reitman was also able to emulate other directors such as Tobe Hopper and even Alfred Hitchcock with the haunting scenes in the Library, Sedgwick Hotel or Dana and Louis' apartment building, adding a sense of suspense and genuine horror to the movie.
Paul Feig's directorial filmography pre-Ghostbusters includes Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy; three similar movies with similar tones and similar direction, none of which has called for Feig to move his direction above the tried-and-tested stationary establishing shot used throughout US sitcoms. During Ghostbusters' dialogue scenes, Feig is proficient enough to know when and where the camera should be and how to frame the shot, but when the movie attempts to raise the pace or the threat level his overreliance on eye-level cinematography becomes both painfully obvious and restrictive. The swarm of ghosts seen in the movies climax gathering at Times Square should have been a spectacle with crane shots, helicopter shots, and waves of screaming citizens, but instead, the director chose a barren, smoke filled Boston crossing filmed mostly at eye level with the cast.
Judging the Ghostbusters reboot on its own merits
Ghostbusters is a watchable movie, but for a summer blockbuster based upon one of the biggest intellectual properties from the eighties is a "watchable" movie enough. Fans of director Paul Feig and any of the leading cast will no doubt enjoy the movie on some level, but in all honesty, any such fans will not be counting Ghostbusters as the shining example of their respective celebrities work. As mentioned, throughout its marketing this movie has attempted to turn the misogynistic negativity it has received into a message of female solidarity, but making the female Ghostbusters appear strong through the use of negative depictions of male characters and the over-reliance on one-dimensional character stereotypes delivers an empty message - that women can only succeed in an inept, unrealistic world. Again this is not the message that should be packaged towards the young girls that feminist fans have been proclaiming to be present at the theater while watching this movie. Ironically with over 40% of fans of the original Ghostbusters being female, this is one franchise that never needed to have pandered to a female audience. With an empty and mute attempt by the studio, director and cast to sell this movie through feminism, what audiences are left with is a "watchable" movie that fails to live up to any form of hype it created.
In comparison to the original movie
While general movie audiences may find the Ghostbusters reboot watchable, and barely so, fans of the Ghostbusters will instead find themselves in disbelief and possibly even enraged. Compared to the original movie the reboot simply, doesn't. It is a flat, inferior, unimaginative, offensive and empty cash in on the intellectual property that dominated the childhood of those growing up in the latter half of the eighties. This reboot even manages to fail to reach the lower bar set by 1989's Ghostbusters II. In addition to my criticism above, one aspect of the reboot that falls just as flat as the rest of the movie are the cameos of the original cast. The worst cameos are those (plural) of Bill Murray, whom after having repeatedly refusing to commit to Ghostbusters 3, he has a repeating role in this reboot. The worst cameo by far though is in the movies mid credit scene in which, as reported, Leslie Jones' character listens to a tape she finds at the team's newly acquired Firehouse HQ, before asking the others "Who is Zuul?"
This ill-conceived twist is attempting to infer that this reboot is actually a sequel to, and exists within the same universe as the original movie, despite the fact that the original cast cameo in roles other than those of which they played in the original movie.
Arguably the Ghostbusters reboot is not as bad as I imagined it would be, but it is far from what it could have been with a better script and a better director, such as Ivan Reitman. The needless social-political circus that has followed this movie seems to have abandoned its cause upon the movie's release, despite desperate attempts by the movies cast, director, and studio to maintain the drama with the recent reports of Leslie Jones departure, and inevitable return to Twitter. The movie's failure to live up to its own hype and its own social-political platforming is probably the biggest letdown, especially for those that defended the movie so religiously before its release. With each of the movies messages falling flatter than its offensive and childish brand of humor one realizes that the rumors of Sony's attempt to damage control both the movie and its marketing were true. The biggest casualty of all of this is Ghostbusters 3, which as I have repeatedly reported was to be made prior to Amy Pascal (also sacked for sexist and racist misconduct) green lighting this somewhat racist, but wholly sexist reboot. After the release and fallout of this movie, the name Ghostbusters will for quite some time be stained with no self-respecting actor nor director willing to even approach the property. Even if Sony have now realized they should have paid service to the fans with a third Ghostbusters, the likelihood of one ever being made has all but disappeared.
Scified's Star Rating
2 out of 5 stars
"...flat, inferior, unimaginative, offensive..."