Friday, 22 July 2016

Ghostbusters

This spook-fighting foursome can bust ghosts, but won’t make you bust a gut

Written by Jason Solomons
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An all-female team of Ghostbusters had the internet fanboys in a sliming, ectoplasmic rage when the trailer hit. Quite why anybody cared so deeply was beyond me. I mean, the original movie was fun in a shabby-early-1980s-blockbuster kind of a way, but there really wasn’t much else to do back in those days.

Feminising the team seemed as good an idea for a 21st-century reboot as any, especially as it came from director Paul Feig, who had such runaway success with the female cast of Bridesmaids. Indeed, two of that movie’s breakout stars are reunited here: Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a serious science academic dismissed from her prestigious post when it’s discovered she still believes in ghosts, while Melissa McCarthy is Abby, a blustery professor of the paranormal at a cash-strapped research institute, whose dean responds to a request for more funding with, ‘I didn’t know your department still existed.’

Is it really such a sin to replace Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd with these two? Not at all, and actually, their halting, talking-over-eachother style of banter is probably the best thing about the movie. They’re joined by a science-geek eccentric, Holtzmann, played by the littleknown Kate McKinnon, and a jivetalking subway attendant called Patty, played by Leslie Jones; both she and McKinnon are familiar to US viewers from the long-running cult comedy show Saturday Night Live, whence originally came Murray, Aykroyd et al.

So Feig is ostensibly preserving a comic heritage with his Ghostbusters, and certainly the first half of the film has an enjoyable freshness to it. The women are invariably patronised by a succession of half-witted male characters, such as the dean, the Mayor of New York (Andy Garcia) and Charles Dance, who dismisses Erin – you can see some kind of theme emerging.

But the girls also hire a beefcake secretary, dimly played by Chris Hemsworth, whose hitherto hidden gift for comedy ought to have remained that way. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help thinking that despite her correlation to Ernie Hudson in the original, the casting of the African-American Jones as the menial, wise-cracking Big Momma among the clever white ladies is racially insensitive to say the least.

In its own universe, this Ghostbusters doesn’t follow on from the previous ones. Metatextually, however, it is hobbled by them, lumbered with unfunny cameo appearances from Murray as a ‘famed debunker’, Aykroyd as a grumpy cabbie and Hudson as a funeral-parlour director who loans out the hearse our girls use for their ghost-busting vehicle. Sigourney Weaver pops up too, and it certainly isn’t her finest moment.

And then there’s the plot, which is simultaneously so ridiculous and so illogical that it has to be painstakingly explained at every step just to make sure we’re still following. We’re not. All of this irons out the shoddy, baggy simplicity of the original in favour of a very modern, overproduced studio project, where even the improvised zingers feel precisiontooled by committee.

Nor are 30 years of advances in digital effects any improvement, merely leading to an overextended and loud climax – de rigueur in all blockbusters these days – involving Times Square, dancing zombies and tiresome overacting from performers not used to working with green screens while operating proton guns.

I wanted to laugh and I wanted to like it, but in the end I found it a total fun vacuum, a pile-up of slime and simpering, thrown-away half-gags with very little charm and an obnoxious, rotten rehash of the famous theme tune. Who you gonna call? Not me, thanks.



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