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  Ghostbusters Ain't Afraid
Year: 2016
Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong, Neil Casey, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr, Michael K. Williams, Matt Walsh, Bill Murray, Toby Huss, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver
Genre: Comedy, Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Just recently in the historical Aldridge house in New York City, there has been a strange occurrence. The current owner (Ed Begley Jr) went to the police about it, but since he was complaining a ghost had haunted the place, they did not take him seriously, so he has had to try further afield for a remedy, and that has brought him to see scientist and now university lecturer Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig). However, she is perturbed that he was brought to her thanks to a book on the supernatural she wrote with an ex-friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) - Erin is positing herself as a serious academic, not some fluffy woo-woo, and marches over to Abby's offices in a small college to have it out with her. There's no way there are ghosts in NYC...

If ever there was a case of a film getting lost in a shitstorm of heated debate, it was this 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. Many were offended that the eighties classic would be remade at all, and still more that women were to star in it rather than four blokes taking the lead, which led others to be offended that the offended were offended, and the movie was eventually released with an almost embarrassed shrug that it was not really worth the controversy, and that was that: basically it was complainers on one side, complainers on the other, and complainers all the way down, all of them getting disproportionately furious over a silly special effects comedy that if it had been called anything else would not have attracted the wrath of the internet.

So after all that, what was the movie like? Paul Feig, a frequent collaborator with McCarthy, was at the helm, and the jokes were very much in the style of his improvised technique, with various riffs among the dialogue that had to keep the plot moving. A few of the gags hit their target, a few sounded too vague to be of use, but there were worse comedies out there and the cast were game for kidding on themselves and the audience, yet for the first hour it was essentially a mild return to the beats of the original. That had been a design classic, but proved difficult to replicate both financially and artistically, never mind comedically, no matter how Hollywood and other markets tried, with even the actual sequel Ghostbusters II underwhelming in its lack of originality.

You might have thought that casting women might have given the concept a shot in the arm: there were other variations, such as having Chris Hemsworth as the himbo secretary, not that Annie Potts was a dummy in the first one mind you, but he was aware he was present as eye candy and played along with good humour. On the other hand, the film meandered when it should have been punchy, and the camaraderie between the ‘busters consisted of them bouncing quips off each other which was no substitute for the ingenious ideas that were concocted in a source that everyone was comparing it to, willingly or not. Yet just as you settled down and thought you had the measure of this, it implemented its effects extravaganza, and a curious thing happened: the casting began to come together in the second hour, probably because the heroines were their own personalities and not slavish feminizations of Murray, Aykroyd, et al.

One element that was lacking was the weak villain (Neil Casey), basically an angry nerd of the sort (coincidentally?) stereotyped as the anti-feminist "men's rights" brigade, but as the mayhem was unleashed, he was ditched in person and became a demonic possessor, which turned out to be more fruitful as far as the possibilities went. But what was strongest was the way the four Ghostbusters, McCarthy and Wiig joined by fellow comediennes Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon (deserving a spin-off), drew together in the spirit of teamwork, and the novelty of seeing a quartet of decidedly non-superhero heroines clicked with some satisfaction. Most of the surviving, main cast members of the original showed up for cameos (Bill Murray did have more to do), but they were hardly necessary, as the new incarnation displayed enough sisterhood to endorse that Feig's faith in them, their faith in themselves, was well-founded, and placing them amongst the CGI was a lot more interesting than, say, seeing Hemsworth hitting baddies with a hammer in a Thor movie. There was a coda that suggested they had a sequel in mind themselves, but it was not to be, a pity when this got better the further it progressed. Music by Theodore Shapiro (and multiple reprises of that theme).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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