There has been a LOT of controversy surrounding the latest Ghostbusters film. Let me get that out of the way right off the bat, because it’s going to be relevant to what I have to say about the film in general. The basic thing is this- there was a lot of flak from people regarding the “all female” cast of the new Ghostbusters. To some, it felt like “stunt” casting- to others, it felt like a long overdue recognition of female empowerment. The honest truth is that this pretty much felt a little “in the middle” for me- it felt like a stunt, it could have been decent, but I was incredibly skeptical with hope for a good feature. And then the trailer hit- and the backlash was almost immediate and it was brutal. Let me say that I think it’s a poor trailer at best- it kills the comedy, highlights poor special effects, and it relied too much on familiar iconography to sell something that was supposedly moving away from the original source material.
But all of that would be almost meaningless if not for the backlash from Sony and, specifically, Kevin Feig. They decided that the best way possible to spin all of this controversy would be to attack anyone with an accusation of sexism- and they proceeded to unleash one of the most bizarre instances of “shaming” an audience into attendance. Seriously?
Well, my son is a big Ghostbusters fan. My wife was interested in seeing the movie as well. And I had nothing better to do than to make certain my family spent some time together at the cinema…
And it wasn’t awful.
It was a fairly standard film utilizing the best elements of CGI in order to create some truly awful looking effects that we could ultimately dismiss as being far too colorful, goofy, and cartoonish than it was frightening. It introduces a villain that is, quite frankly, one of the most boring representations of male ego and rage. This is, literally, a basement dwelling troll who hates the world above him- and he has no real personality, no real identity, and nothing all that impressive in his performance. His interest in the paranormal is barely scratched, his ability to create the technology is dismissed and never addressed, and whole of the plot seems lost with an inability to actually tell a story arc with any real beginning, middle, or end. The film, largely, manages to exist and does little more than that.
Actresses Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are school friends grown apart in recent years. A recent resurgence of an earlier book published by the two scientists provokes their reunion when the uptight Wiig finds herself up for tenure. Supernatural stuff, they’re both humiliated, they both decide to start investigating the paranormal once again, and so they do. And while McCarthy is an interesting character to follow, Wiig seems largely over directed with only a few moments of pure comedic brilliance. Her scenes with Chris Hemsworth and a few other moments with the ensemble allow her to shine, but she seems largely pulled back from any real reactions in a number of scenes. Actress Leslie Jones seems to be a little lost in the mix- a character searching for her voice and relegated to screaming, yelling, and over-acting in a number of scenes. She’s somewhat shoe-horned into the group as their resident Local Expert.
Now, I know it seems I’ve been real negative till now- but here is the kicker: The first two women are joined by Kate McKinnon in what has to be one of THE best comedic and iconic performances I’ve seen in years. She absolutely owns her scenes, owns her character, and delivers in each and every moment that she is on screen. Whether she is delivering her lines or just reacting to the situation, this is a fully realized performance and it deserves some serious praise. What’s more, I want to see more movies with this character- and there’s enough in her performance to make me want to see her interact with the other characters in the film, as well.
And that brings me to the weird crux of the film- this is largely a Jeckyl and Hyde kind of film- when it works, it’s really good. Moments between the four leads are fairly well done and establish their characters, interaction, and relationships with one another. There are moments caught on film where the four women seem to be having some genuine fun with the script and their story; interviewing for a secretary, challenging a hoax debunker, and some of the earlier “investigation” scenes work to their strengths. Their eventual confrontation with a series of ghostly creatures is excitingly cut. But all of this is cut with a poor script, a terrible story, and a lackluster villain- a number of plot contrivances pull the characters toward one scene after another and many jokes are left dangling or fail to hit.
The film itself is actually about a 6 out of 10- EXCEPT for the performance from Kate McKinnon, whose presence alone elevates the film a whole two stars. So 8 out of 10.