Film Review: Ghostbusters (PG) (USA, 2016)

The 2016 return of Ghostbusters has been copping almost non-stop criticism from the moment it was announced, from its first trailer drop, right up to its theatrical release. Because of this, it’s hard to escape any negative or foreshadowing thought going into this. But upon stepping out of the cinema after the screening finished, I definitely came away thinking the film didn’t quite deserve the vitriol it got.

Now, if you hadn’t read into the synopsis beforehand for this film, Ghostbusters (2016) is a completely new story, with new characters. So it’s less remake and more of a reboot as director Paul Feig and screenwriter Kate Dippold bring the story into the 21st century. We meet Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) who is desperately trying to score a tenure at her college. But her promising teaching career ends up ruined when a friend from her past Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) drags her back into the crazy realm of the paranormal and searching for ghosts. Soon though, a couple of seemingly random encounters with spiritual beings leads them into a dastardly supernatural plan to release all the trapped ghosts and bring on the destruction of New York.

Butler and Yates have a more developed relationship with their characters in this film, so it feels like there’s more history and depth to their relationship; in comparison to that of Stantz and Venkman in the original. Then there’s the character of Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) who unlike Spengler comes packed to the brim with a manic energy and charm and way more gadgets to play with. Some of the criticism I’ve read has been about the stereotypical loud mouthy African-American Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and the dumb-as-a-post Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). I felt like Patty was a bit of a token character but Kevin was a great addition to the lineup of women who are all much smarter than he is.

The story is decent, and so is the pacing albeit we are given an typical Hollywood happy ending. The fact that they came up with an entirely new plot line is refreshing rather than rehashing the old one and it’s simpler to understand (so the kids will get it). But on occasion it feels like our characters are more like OTT caricatures rather than people worth empathising with. Wiig and McCarthy endeavour to make us care about the friendship between them but it just feels a little forced. So even though the key relationship feels a little lacking, it’s McKinnon’s Holtzmann and in particular Hemsworth’s Kevin who bring almost all the laughs to make up for it and to me steal the spotlight away a little. For me, I was laughing so much at Hemsworth that I didn’t really feel like I needed much else. Can he please play more comedic roles?

Now if you really want to rip apart this film, you could say that it lacks substance and depth. That it places too much emphasis on this notion of wanting to be accepted and a people pleaser. That Patty and Jones’ portrayal of her is the epitome of racial stereotyping. That the sexual objectification of Hemsworth is just as hypocritical as when they flip the genders. Or the fact that they make Kevin stupid to make the women empowered. That it detracts from the magic of the first film. That it encourages the idea of bullying the weirdos.

But to those people I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here and ask, is it really necessary for our films to have substance? Why can’t we just go see a movie that’s entertaining and fun and a bit of a romp? Racial stereotyping is never a good thing but could it possibly be its own self-awareness coming in to play? And even though we might sexually objectify Chris Hemsworth (admit it, we all do) it’s still less creepy than Bill Murray sexually harassing Sigourney Weaver from the original film? And really the whole bullying and ostracising that happens in the movie, although cruel is also something that is brought to attention and makes you realise that there are not so good consequences when you pick on the little guy.

As with any special effects heavy movie, we’re given the usual pomp and flair with our ghouly apparations. Fans of 3D will enjoy the slime effects that appear to projectile all over you too. The music has some fun moments, but the soundtrack would never be able to supercede the catchiness of the original ear-worm theme tune. Fans of the original film will either love or hate the cameos and some of the very on-the-nose puns and moments. Whether you see those as being a loving homage or a blatant rip-off is up to you. But be sure you stay to watch the credits, they’re absolutely hilarious and there’s also an end-credit scene after the credits have rolled too.

I can see where a lot of the criticism and hate would stem from for this film, and I appreciate that some people could be offended by parts of it too. At the end of the day it’s subjective, and dependent on your own standpoint and how you see things. If you’re happy to just go into this film expecting something fun, fluffy and ridiculous, then this will work for you. Also Chris Hemsworth is the real MVP of this film.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 116 minutes

Ghostbusters is screening in Australian cinemas now through Sony Pictures Australia