Posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
Paul Feig‘s Ghostbusters is a moderately entertaining comedy with all of the usual blockbuster trappings, but as a Ghostbusters movie I found it to be disappointing. What follows is my mostly spoiler-free explanation of why I was disappointed with Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.
I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
I’ll be completely upfront about this: It’s hard for me to judge Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters as its own film and not compare it to Ivan Reitman‘s original 1984 classic. I wouldn’t call myself a Ghostbusters fanatic, but like a lot of you I am a fan of the original, and to a much lesser extent, the still-fun-but-in-a-bad-way sequel Ghostbusters II.
But I’m no GhostBro. When it was announced that Paul Feig would be directing a new Ghostbusters film, I was very excited about the idea of a completely different take with an all-female crew, although like many others, I was disappointed that it was a reboot rather than a sequel or spin-off.
I’m a big fan of both Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, and I’ve enjoyed Feig’s work since Freaks & Geeks. My quote is even plastered on the official poster for his film Bridesmaids. And when the trailer for Ghostbusters came out, I was a lot more positive than many (although it felt weird that Sony seemed to be trying to confuse consumers into thinking it was a sequel). I’ve railed against the sexism-laced hatred for this film on podcasts and on the site, and have been waiting for the day the GhostBros to be proven wrong. I even remained hopeful after previewing a scene at CinemaCon that I didn’t love.
I really wanted to love the new Ghostbusters film, but I came away very disappointed. And its not that Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is a bad movie (it isn’t), for me it’s just not a good Ghostbusters film. It’s a funny yet average summer comedy filled with two-dimensional characters and a lazy blockbuster third act we’ve seen many times before. Aside from some of that new ghostbusting tech, nothing in this film is particularly iconic. You will not be quoting any of the lines from this film for years to come. And Fall Out Boy’s remake of the cheesey yet classic Ghostbusters theme song is objectively awful.
The Comedic Tone
Through nostalgia we tend to lose sight of just how farcical the original ’84 movie was, but the new Ghostbusters film often borders on ludicrous. I think the biggest problem for me is the comedic tone, which often comes off as silly and over-the-top, and sometimes even slapstick-y.It’s not that Feig is doing anything different than he does in his other films, but here, in a Ghostbusters film, it feels jarring. Actually, that’s a lie — here Feig is trying to do his brand of R-rated highly-improv-ed comedy under the constraints of of a family film rating. I could have done without the defecation and fart jokes, but in all fairness the original film had a completely unnecessary ghost blowjob dream sequence.
This film is filled with funny people who are having fun being funny. You’ll laugh. I laughed. But tonally the humor didn’t fit for me. The jokes feel like part of some other random comedy film and not a Ghostbusters movie. And don’t get me wrong, I’m under no delusion that the original Ghostbusters film was serious, or anything other than a sci-fi comedy.
In Feig’s Ghostbusters, the comedy rarely comes from the situations and the plot, but instead throwaway gags. At one point a big gag is made about Chris Hemsworth’s character wearing glassless glasses. The way this gag came about was the cinematographer decided he didn’t want a reflection on the character’s glasses, so they removed the lenses from the costume prop. While on set Hemsworth and Feig decided to make it into a joke in the movie and thus a whole comedy sequence is born that has nothing to do with his character, the plot of the movie, or anything really.
I think the comedic tone is indicative of my bigger problem with this film: No one in this film seems to take the plot of the movie seriously. None of the characters. So why should we care about any of it?
Kate McKinnon seems to be delivering a performance that’s not just out of a different movie, but out of another galaxy. She makes faces for the camera in the background of every shot and is constantly doing weird things because, I just have no idea. Other critics have loved this performance, but I just don’t understand it. On one side of the coin I can respect that McKinnon really went for it and tried to do something different. On the other side of the coin, I didn’t get it and often felt annoyed rather than entertained.
The Worst Fan Service Ever
Some of the worst parts of this Ghostbusters film is when it tries to appease fans of the original movie. It’s not unusual for a sequel or reboot to include fan service: references to the original film, Easter eggs, cameos from previous cast members, and even repeats of iconic beats from the earlier movie. There are fun and interesting ways to accomplish all of these things, but unfortunately this Ghostbusters film does all of them in the most obvious and groan-inducing ways possible. And it doesn’t help that there is a lot of it spread throughout the film.
Is this a new Ghostbusters for a new generation? The film seems set up to be its own thing, but somehow it’s trapped in a weird space where it must pay homage to the original film every few scenes. If you haven’t seen the original 1984 film you will not understand a lot of the jokes and references sprinkled throughout the movie. Often these references are not subtle but in-your-face. Almost everyone from the original film makes a cameo in this movie, and most of them feel like fan service taken way too far. And be sure to stay in your seats until after the credits for a facepalm-worthy extra bit possibly foreshadowing the future of this (apparently) regressive franchise.