Thursday 22 February 2018

Film review - Ghostbusters: Girl power reboot slays naysayers

There's nothing much wrong with this quick-witted comedy remake

Reboot: The all-female 'Ghostbusters' cast have proved naysayers wrong. From left: Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon.
Reboot: The all-female 'Ghostbusters' cast have proved naysayers wrong. From left: Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon.

Paul Whitington

Thanks to the gift of social media, outrage now has a 24/7 global platform, and apoplexy levels were off the charts two summers ago when plans were revealed to remake Ghostbusters with an all-female leading cast. How the f*** dare they, lots of people tweeted, posted and blogged, and even the noted film academic Donald Trump got in on the act, saying "and now they're remaking 'Ghostbusters' with all women - what's going on?".

I find all this kerfuffle perplexing, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the outraged speak as though the 1984 original were something perfect and therefore sacrosanct, like 'Battleship Potemkin' or 'Citizen Kane'. It isn't.

Secondly, if a remake or reboot is happening, what possible difference does it make whether the ghostbusters are female or male? And thirdly, and I want to underline this point, who cares?

I remember seeing the original in the cinema, and being underwhelmed by a trashy and (thanks mainly to Bill Murray) mildly amusing comedy that failed to justify the deafening hype that had preceded it. This new version, directed by Paul Feig and starring Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, is at least as good and possibly a little funnier, especially early on, when a handy script and a fine ensemble cast produce some very amusing moments.

It's New York, it's now, and physics professional Erin Gilbert (Ms Wiig) is just about to get tenure at Columbia University when an embarrassing episode from her past returns to haunt her. As a young woman, Erin engaged in psychic research and wrote an impassioned book on the subject with her best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). She thought all copies had been destroyed, but when Abby emerges online selling it, Erin goes to find her before she destroys her academic career.

Instead, however, Erin gets dragged into investigating a puzzling epidemic of ghost sightings across the city. Abby's new partner is an eccentric tech wizard called Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and after an unfortunate incident on the subway, they're joined by a former ticket-booth lady (Leslie Jones) who's definitely up for the fight.

After the ghostbusters become celebrities, Erin loses her job, but has bigger things to worry about when she and the team discover that a deranged villain is planning to unleash an army of evil spirits.

When the original film worked, it found humour in undercutting the innate pomposity of ghost stories and horror films. This one does the same, and no spook the team encounter is ever given the satisfaction of being taken seriously. Instead, for the first hour or so, Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones argue their way around the beleaguered city, and vie for the attention of their infeasibly handsome receptionist, Kevin.

He's played with a commendably straight face by Chris Hemsworth, who gently inverts classic sexual stereotyping by misunderstanding everything that's said to him - he's blonde, and rather dumb. Melissa McCarthy seems to behave herself when Kristen Wiig is around: the pair do a very good funny man/straight man routine, and McCarthy is less loud, and consequently more amusing, than she has been of late.

Wiig gets great mileage out of her character's schoolgirl crush on Kevin, and 'Saturday Night Live' regulars McKinnon and Jones do very well in supporting roles, particularly Jones, who brings a welcome touch of anarchy to the proceedings.

In fact for the first hour or so, I found it all very entertaining in a silly and entirely un-threatening sort of way. There are some nice cameos, and Andy Garcia hams it up nicely playing Manhattan's histrionic, image-conscious mayor. Things were bound to get duller once the cgi fireworks kick in, and so they do, though some of the giant ghosts concocted for the film's action-packed climax are very handsome.

It's the fine script that runs out of steam, though by the time it does, Wiig and co have won you over and left you thinking that a sequel to this thing might not be entirely offensive.

Films coming soon...

Star Trek Beyond (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba); The BFG (Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Penelope WIlton); Chevalier (Makis Papadimitriou, Vanelis Mourikis, Sakis Rouvas).


(12A, 116mins)

3 Stars

Irish Independent

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