(PG) Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Chris Hemsworth
Even if you have not seen the original Ghostbusters (1984), all of the hype around the new version is difficult to miss. The explosion of feedback for this new Ghostbusters was unprecedented and potentially unwarranted for Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. His choice to have an all-female cast must have seemed like a winner at the production meeting, especially with the inclusion of Melissa McCarthy (Spy) and Kristen Wiig (The Martian), who both have proven to be cinematic gold. But within moments of announcing this project, the social-media fire storm. Ever since, the Ghostbusters reboot has been a public relations challenge. All the online attention proves that a thirty-year-old property can be deeply loved by a multitude of fans, but the question still remains: will this new version live up to the hype?
The answer is “Almost, but not quite there.”
The story is similar to the original with a few key twists. Physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is trying to get respect within the academic community, but her history with the paranormal keeps haunting her. Just as she is about to be promoted at a prestigious university, Erin’s book about the paranormal — co-written by fellow researcher and friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) — reappears and threatens her future in the scientific community. Even with many attempts to hide this part of her life, Erin gets pulled back into this world when ghosts are spotted throughout Manhattan. With the aid of engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and a motivated subway worker, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), this team want to work out what has started this spiritual activity. Not to mention how to contain these beings before they take over New York City.
This chapter of Ghostbusters gives a nod to its historical roots, but does provide a fresh take on this hauntingly humorous concept. It stands on its own merits and does not rely on audiences having seen the previous films to understand or appreciate what is happening on screen. Seasoned director Feig provides enough of a nostalgic touch to keep fans of the original connected to this new team. Also, brief cameos by the original cast members were well placed and keep viewers searching for their favourite characters from the past. Along with these sentimental components, most loyal groupies of the ’80s version will have to admit that the special effects are an improvement and support the story well. In this era of groundbreaking computer-generated imagery (CGI), Ghostbusters does benefit from an upgrade.
The key difficulty with the film is the humour. It is evident that this is supposed to be comedy, but Feig relies on the wrong players to deliver the funnier components. McCarthy and Wiig are relegated to be the “straight men” of the gags and the more comedic elements are given over to McKinnon and Jones. These lesser-known comedians have proven their skills on Saturday Night Live, but do not have the polish or well-honed timing to carry the weight of the jokes. Their lines seem to be forced and read from cue cards, which works on SNL, but not on the big screen. However, the oddest element of the new Ghostbusters mixture is that the biggest laughs are left to be carried by Chris Hemsworth (Thor). The favoured Australian son proves he can deliver a well-timed gaffe, but unlike Thor’s hammer, he should not have been expected to bare the weight of the film’s comedy. Overall, then, most of the jokes fail to land on their target and the few bits that do work come along too infrequently to move this film above the ordinary.
The media attention may draw people into theatres out of curiosity or it may keep them away out of protest. Regardless of what comes in your Facebook or Twitter feeds, though, you should allow Ghostbusters to stand on its own merits. It will satisfy some and disappoint others, but it is an admirable attempt at a reboot of a classic comedy. A franchise is unlikely to be fully resurrected, but the new Ghostbusters is a harmless apparition to consider at cinemas.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Do you believe in ghosts? It is the question at the heart of Ghostbusters and one that people have been trying to answer throughout the ages. Considering the spiritual realm is a topic that is something that everyone must address at different times in their lives. Ghostbusters should challenge us all to search for the answer. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God gives answers to the notion of the celestial beings on the side of good and bad. Angels, demons and the Holy Spirit (or by another name, The Holy Ghost) provide an alternative view to much of Hollywood’s expression of spirits.
Where do you go in the Bible?
Romans 12:2, 20:1-15
1 Corinthians 15:24
Colossians 1:16, 2:10-15,
1 Peter 3:22
Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger
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