Phenom(enal) Visuals, Unfunny Bustin’
By: Anthony Zangrillo
Following a horrid marketing campaign, filled with a record number of dislikes and a spoiler-heavy parade of trailers, the all-female Ghostbusters attempts to reboot the beloved franchise with a new take on the 80s classic. While the ghostly apparitions beautifully haunt viewers with spectacular CGI, the movie’s script lacks any semblance of a well-thought out joke. Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth are strong in their respective performances, but the rest of the cast is diminished by campy acting, which ruins the spectacle for audiences.
For a little background, I am a Ghostbusters fanatic. I consistently hail the original film as one of the greatest comedies of the 1980s. As more information on this reboot surfaced, I firmly believed that it would be a good comedy, due to the pedigree of talent involved with the project, but that the film would miss the mark in capturing the special Ghostbuster magic that permeated pop culture so many years ago. To my surprise, this movie is not that funny. Most of the ill-thought out humor is groan-worthy and made for cheap laughs, that barely elicit audience response. However, Ghostbusters lore is still mostly intact. With a few modifications here and there, the reboot manages to not completely tarnish the original comedy gem. Furthermore, words can not fully express the astonishing CGI ghosts that appear on screen.
I hate 3D. Over and over again, I have professed my disdain for the cheap gimmick that mitigates the dying box office revenues of this generation’s movies. However, Ghostbusters seems to actually understand the purpose of 3D visuals. Instead of just adding another artistic layer to the cinematic presentation, the 3D enables the ghostly specters to interact with the audience and fully engage even the harshest of skeptics.
In spite of the visuals, Ghostbusters flounders in what should be an easy home-run of a reboot. Instead of expanding the treasured lexicon, the film aims to build new ground by refusing to acknowledge anything close to the presence of a previous Ghostbuster. Even though most of the original cast make small (yet funny) cameos, they play different and largely inconsequential roles. The biggest Achilles heel of the new film is likely Paul Feig’s direction. While I normally love his films, it appears he instructed the actors to embrace the campiness of the ghostbusting premise. That approach could work, but I believe it presents a significant obstacle for audiences to fully enjoy the comedic nature of having such ludicrous events happen to normal people.
Some not too subtle references are made to historic Ghostbuster icons, but these references either sully the original’s use or fail to make any lasting comedic impact. While Stay Puft is ruined, the return of Slimer is welcomed and I was amused by his limited antics (which ended up being important to the plot). Additionally, there is no mention of the dire consequences of crossing the streams, because this new team steals a page out of Draymond Green’s book, when they are faced with a big threat. Overall, many of the jokes take the shape of running gags or references (including one very well timed Jaws reference with Andy Garcia). After the tenth time that Melissa McCarthy’s character makes a joke about Chinese takeout soup, you will never want to have Wonton Soup again.
The strongest performance is undoubtedly Kate McKinnon. The SNL actress shines in her eccentric, mad scientist role. While the script makes her expertise in gadgetry a little too convenient for generating a massive amount of equipment, Kate fully embraces the utter wackiness of the role. For example, early on, her character creates a laboratory fire due to her crazy dance moves. Without going into spoilers, Kate has a Wonder Woman like scene that will easily be the moment of the film for most audiences. However, the other current SNL actress Leslie Jones was miscast. She brings her usual, high level of energy and excitement to the role, but it doesn’t really fit with her character. All too often, I felt that she was reduced to a stereotypical New Yorker, with the added caveat of being a historical expert of the city (groan).
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast fails to live up to the fans’ lofty expectations. Kristen Wiig shows promise, but many will find it hard to explain the character’s qualities and motivations. The initial turmoil in her process of receiving tenure from Columbia is quickly resolved, as well as anything unique about the character (other than her obsession with Chris Hemsworth). Melissa McCarthy is fine, but her zaniness is usually outdone by her slapstick behavior that grows tiresome quickly. Her best part is the possession scene that allows the actress to showcase a more killer side of her character. It originally appears that Wiig and McCarthy will have a complex relationship for the film to explore, but as soon as the ghosts arrive, any misgivings are immediately forgiven in order to chase ghosts (and of course, make more pop culture references). The lack of consequences to these character’s actions significantly harms the film, leaving me utterly apathetic to a significant hardship towards the end of the film. To make matters worse, the Ghostbusters have become a toned down version of the Avengers, throwing unnecessary action into a franchise not accustomed to this sort of violence. This is very frustrating when the proton packs are destroying ghosts, even though the lasers are only supposed to be used as a lasso, under the film’s own rules. Furthermore, the trailer reveals the big “monster” at the end, which is an unfortunate visual effect, collaterally resulting from the film’s need to top itself with a gargantuan threat.
A surprising bright spot for a portion of the film is Chris Hemsworth. Understanding the campiness of the film, Chris really exaggerates the incompetent, yet handsome secretary. His lack of knowledge will steal a good amount of laughs, but a certain event (spoiled in the trailers) should’ve occurred much earlier, in order to aid Chris’s performance. Additionally, the villain is absolutely awful. In some misguided attempt to match comedy with a serious, apocalyptic villain, the character’s archaic soliloquies are ridiculous and become an out-right joke once you realize he’s not even being possessed by a ghost. In that vein, do not even attempt to piece together his master plan or the entire film will crumble before you.
One of my biggest gripes with the film is the new soundtrack that replaces the iconic Ghostbuster theme. Fall Out Boy’s new version is far inferior to its predecessor. It totally misses the fun and wacky style given to the original’s sound. Still, at times, the score correctly remixes elements of the old song in a booming tone in order to give the film an epic scope of conflict.
Overall, I would recommend this film for the amazing 3D visuals, and to indulge the curiosity of the rabid Ghostbuster fans. In all honesty, the movie shows potential for the future of this franchise. Yet the current incarnation has failed to live up to the original Ghostbusters film.