It’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Paul Feig may well disagree. Since his version of Ghostbusters was announced in 2014, the sentiments of bad will being bashed into internet comment sections has been unprecedented — the first trailer even gained the dubious distinction of being the most disliked trailer on YouTube. It couldn’t be simply because the film has the temerity to feature four women as its ghostbusting quartet, could it? Not in 2016?
This gender-focused trolling is something the movie plays on. Our new team of Ghostbusters post video evidence of one of the first ghosts they encounter, and the disbelieving comments (“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”) mirror the real life ones the filmmaking team were besieged with. When Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates tells Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, “You shouldn’t be reading this stuff, it’s just a list of what crazy people write in the middle of the night online,” it’s difficult to disagree. That they manage to wring a knowing chuckle out of the situation is a testament to them. If the film’s funny and successful, they’ll have the last laugh.
After an effectively scary opening, the film does prove to be funny (as Feig and McCarthy collaborations tend to be). It aims for a broader humour than the original films, which is most obvious with Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, the team’s impossibly stupid receptionist who enjoys far more of a central role than Annie Potts ever did as Janine Melnitz. He’s responsible for many of the film’s biggest laughs as he struggles with simple tasks such as answering the phone or making coffee. Asked whether he’s remembered to add sugar, he drinks it, then spits it back out into the cup in disgust, before handing it back to her — “I hate coffee, but yeah, there’s sugar in it.”
The gender-focused trolling is something the movie plays on.
McCarthy and Wiig — two of the finest comedy actors currently working — are on good form as usual, but Leslie Jones also snags some of the best lines as Patty Tolan, the subway worker-turned-fourth member of the team. “I guess he’s going to Queens,” she says of a ghost that escapes into a subway carriage, “he’s going to be the third scariest thing on that train.” But unlike Winston Zeddmore’s non-scientist, who was just in it for “a steady paycheck”, Patty’s knowledge of the city and its history makes her a key member of the group — she’s the one who confirms Erin’s theories of where the city’s spiritual hub will be with some real knowledge of previous goings on.
Not everything hits though — most notably Kate McKinnon as mad scientist Jillian Holtzmann, whose wacky antics prompt few laughs. And the ever-growing number of cameos are wasted opportunities, while the final battle is oddly tension free, despite the stakes, as the group mow down ghost after CG ghost with their various toys.
Still, the film works for the most part, and even though the laughs notably dry up as the CGI spectacular kicks into gear, its feelgood vibes will most likely have already won you over. The online haters didn’t have unparalleled insight about a film they hadn’t seen, then. Who’d have thought it?