Reviews

JUMPSCARECUT: Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2016)

Year: 2016
Directed by: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

Written by Chris Gelderd

When unexplained sightings of ghosts start to come to light in New York City, former authors and scientists Erin Gilbert (Wiig) and Abby Yates (McCarthy) come together after being distant for many years to investigate the sightings.

With help from nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Jones), the quartet form a business that aim to research and prove the existence of ghosts whilst keeping people safe. They hire dim-witted receptionist Kevin (Hemsworth) and form the ‘Ghostbusters’, kitted out with Holtzmann’s equipment, a new car provided by Patty’s uncle and Erin and Abby’s knowledge of the paranormal.

They discover that a seemingly normal man, Rowan North (Casey), is behind the spooky goings-on as he uses devices to amplify paranormal activity in a wider plan to destroy Manhattan to satisfy his own deranged hatred of humanity. Only the Ghostbusters can stop him before it is too late, and also before they are deemed frauds by the Mayor (Garcia)…

Never has a remake of an 80s classic gained so much fear, scrutiny, and doubt than ‘Ghostbusters’. We’ve had ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘RoboCop’, ‘Conan The Barbarian’ and even ‘Annie’ but this is off the chart. It’s not surprising given the cultural significance of the family-friendly 1984 original populated with now iconic genre moments, characters and showcasing the talent of actors at the top of their game. Films like the original come along once in a generation, such as ‘Back To The Future’ and even ‘The Terminator’. They are a product that just should not be touched.

And this effort by Paul Feig shows why.

Firstly, to not like this film doesn’t make me racist, sexist or any other ‘–ist’ you can think of. If anything, I’m a Paul-Feig-Comedy-ist. Populated with actors with little acting experience bar work on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and those who are Paul Feig’s usual suspects, this feels like a film where Feig and crew have a goal to reach but can be silly and stupid along the way as long as they reach the end credits. It’s that untouchable bond between cast and crew that doesn’t always work in delivering something worthy to stand by its predecessor.

Melissa McCarthy, surprisingly, is probably least irritating out of the 4 leading ladies and she comes across as most humane of them all. Kristen Wiig continues her style of comedy where she narrates and makes overly unnecessary comments and quips about people or situations which gets old very quick. Kate McKinnon, whom I thought would be the best, turns out to be the worst with an annoying amount of over-played “wacky scientist” characterisation that comes across as nothing but childish. And Leslie Jones, while thankfully not as loud and in your face as the trailers made out, has her moments to shine but still plays a very uninspiring character. In fact, all characters are what you get initially on introductions; they don’t change, develop or progress from start to end. You have to take two acceptable characters to follow at the same time as following two irritating ones, which never makes for total satisfaction in viewing.

It’s actually Chris Hemsworth who comes off ok here, granted he’s playing a man who is dense to the point it’s too OTT at times, but I was chuckling along the lines of how absurd his character Kevin was and what his role was even relevant for except more silly gags, a point of lust for Erin and to use in the finale.

And the actors are fuelled by one thing I don’t sit well with – the comedy. Modern comedy, or that comedy that Paul Feig injected into work like ‘Bridesmaids’ or ‘Spy’, is evident here. The film sucker punches you in the opening spooky 5 minutes where you have some wit in the script and you think you’re on safe ground; we even have the classic opening theme in short bursts, but then the “crude humour” that gained the film’s certification hits you.

Jokes and gags about wee and poo and sex and parts of the female anatomy. That’s when my expectations crashed and burned. If that sort of thing amuses you, along with characters who throw in racial quips, shout and do silly gurning and pratfalls in what I consider amateurish, lazy comedy, then you’ll be ok. If you prefer more discreet comedy and humour coming from character chemistry, serious delivery and an time when being crude wasn’t needed, then you’ll struggle to find this amusing.

Production-wise, it’s decent enough. It delivers a few moments that make you jump but if you’ve seen the trailers, you know when to expect them, and it’s always moments when the music goes quiet and then the sound is cranked up with loud piercing scream and exclamation. It’s not exactly discreet, but it’s there. And we have a wealth of locations across Manhatten to explore and plenty of energy from the leads to carry us through the 2hr story. The Ghostbusters certainly kick ghostly ass with a variety of gadgets and gizmos to add more action and excitement to the demand for bigger and better action scenes.

Nods to the 1984 original come thick and fast, and it shows that even though this is a reboot of the franchise, it can’t help remake the original bar a few character replacements. It shows to me there is no confidence in rebooting a series to be more original and just serves as a silly love-letter to the original from shoe-horning in short but amusing cameos from nearly all the main cast, showing us the firehouse, revamping ECTO-1, introducing Slimer and his girlfriend (ugh), keeping the proton packs and traps, and pretty much doing the same story but tweaked. From the opening pre-titles to the large, white monster in the finale, it’s a checklist of “spot the homage” in a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

But where the film most is the CGI. All the ghosts look like something from a computer game or an episode of Scooby-Doo. Colourful, crisp and cartoonish. A few work, most not and there is very little realism to them if anything. At least the original had effective model work and make-up on actors to give us something that resembled a human or monster, rather than just a colourful CGI creature. And it’s over-used in the finale where again, Feig abuses what he can do with CGI and delivers a tension free, action-heavy battle in front of green-screen that goes for excess rather than simplicity. No model/actor-in-costume/camera manipulation here like the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – we have a CGI Godzilla style creature destroying the CGI city like all modern blockbuster films have their villain doing now. Yawn.

If I’d have known the humour would be this crass and lazy, I’d have not watched it but I did, as many will, out of curiosity on how a classic film is re-imagined for a modern generation. With another final moment after the credits that once more shows a lack of originality in setting up a sequel, I left feeling disappointed. That’s all. I wanted to enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me. Had I known there would be so much nostalgia over originality, I’d have just watched the original at home and seen it done properly.

I will say one thing, I think it’s clear that a quarter of the budget went to the designing the closing credits; very visually appealing right to the end I have to say. Good job!

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