Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot has already suffered from a pre-release backlash in certain corners of the internet as fans debated whether it could live up to the 1984 original. For many, the idea of meddling with a film so fondly remembered from childhood by a generation who grew up in the 1980s is tantamount to heresy, even if Feig’s previous features Spy, The Heat and Bridesmaids were standout comedy hits in their own right. Arguments have also raged online among a subsection of die-hard fans over the fact that four women, all of whom have their own weighty comedy credentials, would be taking the lead roles.
Thankfully, fears both rational and irrational can be happily laid to rest with the latest iteration proving to be a quick-witted and visually spectacular bonanza. Feig’s greatest trick is that while he pays homage to the original (with mixed success) he and the lead cast (which includes his frequent collaborator Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones) have put their own distinctive stamp on the film. While we have to put up with some creaky cameos from the original cast, there are subtle, touching nods that show Feig’s clear appreciation of the film. Like those who complained that The Force Awakens aped the structure of A New Hope, it’s likely that many will make the same complaint of Feig’s take on this franchise.
Sequels and remakes always have directors and writers in a bind – giving audiences enough of what they want, but not too much. Arguably, Feig is in the shadow of the first film, yet it’s the way he resolves the problems of the original that makes this version so much fun. Despite being the lesser-known film actor, SNL comedian McKinnon steals the show with her unique brand of off-beat comedy. She plays the cracked inventor Holtzmann, who equips the quartet with an increasingly elaborate array of ghost-zapping gizmos and is given a thrilling action montage backed by a revamped version of the classic theme tune from Fall Out Boy. Fellow SNL alumni, Leslie Jones equally entertains as a subway worker with a fascination for the city’s history. Time and time again, she never misses a comic beat.
McCarthy and Wiig are in full-throttle, playing characters who have known each other since high school and share a passion for the paranormal. They bounce off one another, all the while delivering lines about Internet trolls with knowing nods and winks. Wiig as a tweed-wearing academic desperate for tenure is superb, especially when objectifying dim-witted receptionist Kevin, played by Chris Hemsworth. Overall, it’s the cast that makes this reboot such a success. The finer details of why exactly the city has been overrun by ghosts are by the by. It’s little more than a thin but functional foil for the antagonist, the bullied and derided scientific genius-come-hotel-janitor Rowan North (Neil Casey).
Some jokes fall flat, the cameos wear thin and the final act, which is a CGI-heavy showdown, steals some of the buzz. Feig has undoubtedly pulled off a challenging project and given audiences a fresh-faced reboot to the franchise. There’s also little doubt that those who wanted to decry Feig’s endeavours will fail to be convinced. And yes, the cynical argument that Sony needed a franchise to hold its own against the might of Marvel may have something in it. But but the cynicism aside and what you have is a hilarious update that puts four great comedic women front and centre, while Feig dexterously balances homage with originality.
Joe Walsh | @JosephDAWalsh