By the end credits of this new movie, I felt as though I had eaten an entire box of Twinkies and chugged a gallon of Ecto Cooler. It was an experience that left me nauseous, weary and regretful, asking myself why I ever thought this would be a good idea. Those slime-colored glasses have to come off.
The new Ghostbusters banks hard off its elements of nostalgia and marquee value. The director, Paul Feig, is one of the strongest comedic forces of the decade with his all-female casts that deliver as successes, both critically and financially. He assembles his own female Ghostbuster team composed of comedy familiars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
The key to what made the first Ghostbusters movie a success was the chemistry of the actors in how they played off one another. The problem with Feig’s female Ghostbusters is that they are lacking comradery. Each one of them feels as though they’re struggling to bust out as many one-liners as they can, refusing to let each other step over or play off of their lines.
In trying so hard to be funny, their characters come off as underdeveloped joke vehicles. Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a meek and awkward professor struggling for tenure, but only as timidly as Wiig can play her. Kate McKinnon does her best to steal the show as the eccentric scientist/weapons expert Jillian Holtzman, but she’s not given much to work with being entirely composed of random quirks. Leslie Jones fulfills the familiar everyman (everywoman?) role as MTA worker Patty Tolan, but she is so loud and sassy in her fight to be relevant that she may as well just be another wacky scientist.
As for Melissa McCarthy, arguably the most notable of the primary cast, she isn’t given much of a character at all as Abby Yates. She has a history with Erin in that they both wrote a book on the paranormal, but it’s mostly just a generic McCarthy character, narrowly avoiding the fat jokes of her non-Feig roles. Chris Hemsworth could have been the most pleasant surprise as the inept idiot secretary, but he’s written to be so stupid that he may as well be mentally retarded. I’m surprised they even gave him lines considering he’s mostly only present as beefcake eye-candy for the blushing Wiig to wrap her hands around.
The story is razor thin. Granted, story was never a strong suit of Ghostbusters, merely acting as a platform for the comedic team. But this Ghostbusters refuses to do any of the grunt work in establishing its characters, its antagonist or its paranormal lore. The evil demon Rowan (Neil Casey) is committed to unleashing ghosts on New York City. He’s played so generically to the point where all he needs is a mustache to twirl as he shakes his fist at those darn Ghostbusters.
Not much is known or revealed about this character’s motivations outside of him apparently being bullied and seeking revenge on humanity, a backstory only whispered in passing. Remember all the history and scientific studies the Ghostbusters did to stop the evil forces of Zuul or Vigo? The most you can expect from this group of heroes is drawing a correlation of events on a map and connecting the dots. They don’t have time to know their enemy as they’re too busy testing ghost-zapping shotguns and grenades.
There’s an awful lot of technobabble thrown into the script, shot out at rapid speed to paint these women as smart and innovative. But when the third act arrives for the giant CGI show of invading ghosts, the script has given up explaining any of this and throws any ghost design it wants at the screen. Big-legged giant ghosts? Sure, we don’t need to explain why that’s here. Floating balloon mascot ghosts? Who cares if it doesn’t make any sense – throw it in. A city-destroying bedsheet-ghost? Don’t bother explaining why it had to be so large – we need something massive enough for the Ghostbusters to shoot at.