This film does not fail because of the women, it fails, as with other bad remakes from past years because the director has not taken risks.
I really thought that seeing four awesome women chasing down ghosts would make for a pretty new Ghostbusters this summer. I was wrong. Despite my adoration of some of Paul Feig’s former productions like the hilarious, totally tongue-in-cheek Spy from 2015 (previously reviewed in this column), which also stars Melissa McCarthy, and was both written and directed by Feig, this new venture is a bit of a sorry spectacle.
Ghostbusters the reboot, starring the great comediennes Kristen Wiig, McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, starts off promisingly, with some hilarity, and a few promising zingers that give false hope. Kristen Wiig, a great and versatilecomic performer, unfortunately, is given a pretty terrible character as Dr. Erin Gilbert, a physicist who was haunted as a child, and her progression over the course of the film as a clumsy, socially awkward professorial type who appears not to be that bright is nothing short of painful.
It is the writing that is at fault here. Paul Feig and Katie Dippold who collaborated previously in the sharp, funny script for The Heat (with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a classic odd couple team in a female re-imagining of the buddy cop genre) have failed to come up with a story that also successfully re-imagines the beloved Ghostbusters classic from 1984. Instead, afraid to stray too far, Feig and Dippold have created a hackneyed pastiche of the original, starring characters that are versions and not originals.
The plot is incredibly facile, the jokes are not good enough, and the dénouement is so silly that I actually had to pause and roll my eyes before having the stomach to continue. As an unabashed feminist who had no reservations about an all female Ghostbusters cast, this film does not fail because of the women, it fails, as with other bad remakes from past years because the director has not taken risks. Sticking too close to the original has handicapped Paul Feig and his talented cast.
Chris Hemsworth brings some much needed levity as Kevin Beckman, the male version of the ditsy blonde stereotype that he plays with so much cheeky glee that it almost makes up for the lack of other really funny jokes in a film that is much too self-conscious that all its leads are women.
The Ghostbusters film should have been pure fun. So much of it has lived on in the minds of the people who grew up with the characters in the eighties, that it is indeed a heavy burden to re-make. Unfortunately, aside from the zany theme song that has barely been changed, everything else could really have done with a massive overhaul; after all, if you’re gonna remake it, then go for it, don’t pull your punches like a scaredy cat.