“The first sentence is: ‘This is not a joke’”
The remake of ‘Ghostbusters’ is not a bad film. It’s not a good film. It’s just a film, produced by cash-hungry Sony to make a quick buck off a beloved franchise. Typical of Paul Feig comedies, it misses more than it hits. But it’s not the car crash of the film I believed it would be. It’s a decent dollop of harmless entertainment. However, it falls into the traps that many modern remakes fall into repeatedly. A far too high reverence to the original, coupled with CGI splurges that dull the senses, damage the film’s individual identity. We’ve seen it all before…
Do I even need to go over the plot? It treads similar lines to the original. Four people get together to hunt ghosts with proton packs. They uncover a plot to unleash supernatural forces on the city of Manhattan. Along the way, they joke about, catch a ghost, and make subtle and unsubtle references to the original. There are cameos from the original cast. The special effects are better and there are more of them. Basically, it bears all the hallmarks of any remake. If you’ve seen the original, then you’ll be in for few surprises.
“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”
At best, the film passes the time. The first third of the film is full to the brim with awkward exposition and introducing the characters. It is fun to guess who the new female characters are based on, but they are also a comfortable distance away from their 1984 counterparts. Kristen Wiig is Erin Gilbert, Melissa McCarthy is Abby Yates, Kate McKinnon plays Jillian Holtzmann and Leslie Jones plays Patty Tolan. You could say that Tolan is the stand-in for Zeddmore, the token black character who joins the team after their formation. However, Tolan actually has a backstory, rather than Zeddmore’s desire to believe in anything for a steady paycheck. And she has more to do than Zeddmore throughout the film. McCarthy actually plays against type as the sensible one (and, whisper it, she pulls it off!).
However, as a unit, they lack charisma, especially the central relationship between Gilbert and Yates. They are, apparently, childhood friends who fell out over the publication of their book about ghosts. Apart from a reminiscence on the part of Gilbert about how their friendship came about, there is never a sense of their previous friendship. They just seem to get over their differences and get on with the job. It’s especially harmful to the climax, where their friendship should increase the emotional stakes. Instead, the action feels shoehorned in.
“This world cannot be cleansed fast enough”
‘Ghostbusters’ is strongest in its second act, where the four woman unit are together and attempting to bust ghosts. There’s still awkward exposition, but the rate of jokes hitting the screens means that at least one in five (maybe) raises a smile. But that is a low ratio. I’ve watched ‘Spy,’ ‘Bridesmaids,’ and ‘The Heat,’ and my biggest problems with Feig comedies is that they try too hard to raise a laugh. A ‘funny’ line or sight gag is never more than a few seconds away. Of course, comedies should always be eager to raise a smile, but it should be in a measured, considered way. Less and more funnier jokes makes a funnier film. Most of the jokes in Ghostbusters flop. However, when it does hit home, you’ll strain not to raise a smile. I belly laughed once, but I chuckled more than a few times.
As there is an over-reliance on attempted comedy, there is an over-reliance on (surprise, surprise!) CGI. The hallmark of any modern reboot is the prominence of CGI. Whilst it is used minimally in the first two thirds of the film, it becomes abundant is the third act. There’s a ghost balloon parade, the Busters fighting off hordes of pilgrim ghosts, and a Stay Puft replacement that gets busted in the crotch by the females. There’s no menace or tension, and the women play second fiddle to the CGI around them.
My other main problem with the film is the reverence to the first film. The cameos from the original cast are, on the whole, unfunny. They take away from the focus on the new characters. Why do that? Most of the original cast look like they can’t be bothered. Their dialogue is awful as well. The cameos don’t add anything to the film. A few references here and there are appreciated, but, just like with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too many references to a long time ago soon begin to grate (Oh, and also, do we need to know where the Ghostbusters got their logo from? Or their attire?)
“Boy, have mercy. This is just wrong”
I think a perfect metaphor for this film happens towards the end of the film. A balloon version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow falls on top of the Ghostbusters. Not only was the film already crushed by rabid fans of the first film, but the weight of the first film lies heavily on the remake. The constant need to reference the old one deducts from the promising characters of the remake. Why not have something standalone, with the occasional nod to the audience?
‘Ghostbusters’ (2016) fails to break away from its precursor and become its own entity. Yes, it’s occasionally funny. There are a few convincing scares. Yes, it could have been a lot worse. But it could also have been a lot better. It suffers from the pitfalls of most remakes. It doesn’t further the concept of the original. There have been worse remakes of 80s classics, such as ‘Total Recall’ (okay, that’s a 90s film, but you get my point!), ‘The Evil Dead’ and ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ (make that pretty much any horror film ever remade). Take 1986’s ‘The Fly,’ for example. It took the basic plot and concept of the original ‘The Fly’ and expanded on it to create something unique and brilliant. Why can’t more modern remakes do that? I came away from the film relatively entertained, but never with a view to re-watch it.
VERDICT: 4/10. Painfully average at best, ‘Ghostbusters’ is a by the numbers remake that entertains intermittently whilst failing to find an identity of its own. Not the car crash I imagined it to be, but just another example of a remake that adds little to the original.
What did you think about the Ghostbusters remake? Leave your comments below!