Published Jul 13, 2016Ever since Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters was introduced to the internet, the polarizing reactions have been exhausting. People complaining about the film's updated gender roles have revealed themselves as mouth-breathing misogynist man-babies, while those who see its cast as some sort of civil rights triumph, rather than a gentle nudge in the right direction, are most likely falling prey to the pandering of a savvy marketing team. If you claim this reboot ruined your childhood, you're merely admitting that your childhood was a disappointment to begin with.
Any discussion of Ghostbusters is a punishment, no matter which angle you take. Fortunately, no matter where you stand on the spectrum of social progress, there's a great uniter about Ghostbusters that every side should be able to agree on: the movie fucking sucks.
It'll be tempting for YouTube-commenting badmen to blame Ghostbusters' all-female cast for its many flaws — which include its plot, dialogue, "jokes," direction, editing and special effects — but the real culprit here, as is often the case, is the man behind the scenes.
Sure, he's the creator of Freaks & Geeks and the guy behind the camera on Bridesmaids, but there's perhaps a good reason that Paul Feig was overshadowed by Judd Apatow on both of those projects. He's simply not that great of a director, and his post-Bridesmaids flicks like The Heat and Spy have been big on box office but short on taste; they're movies tailor-made for watching on airplanes. With Ghostbusters, he's attempted to capture the spirit of the National Lampoon, but has instead stumbled upon the zany kitsch of the Spy Kids franchise with the odd jump scare comparable to those of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
That said, the leads don't help matters much. In fact, their roles are symptomatic of a larger problem in Hollywood comedies. While the loose, improv-heavy feel of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and its many subsequent Apatow outings once felt fresh and hilarious, that form of comedic acting has become too much of a crutch in the last decade. Ghostbusters boasts three SNL veterans and an SNL regular in Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy, so they're naturally adept improvisers. Unfortunately, that means the bulk of the movie's dialogue is a meandering mess of pseudo-science bullshitting and "yes and" improv banter.
Normally a loud, unhinged ball of energy on SNL, Leslie Jones is fairly restrained here as Patty Tolan, while Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert and Melissa McCarthy's Abby Yates both mine more of their Bridesmaids dorkiness, with diminishing returns. Kate McKinnon's Jillian Holtzman is a disastrous character, spouting random catchphrases and bouncing around each scene with manic energy before dropping "cool" one-liners. She's part Poochie the Rockin' Dog, part Jar Jar Binks.
One doesn't need to read the leaked email hacks to know that this film is ultimately a cynical cash grab dreamed up by an email chain of executives — it's all on the screen. The film has product placement for various Sony products, along with a prominent Papa John's box or two, and it takes the laziest route possible to exploring the characters' femininity. This is, after all, a film that contains no potty humour. (There's one queef joke in its first 10 minutes, but while queef jokes are long overdue for their moment in the sun, this one doesn't fit even remotely with the film's otherwise PG tone.)
Then there are its many god-awful attempts at being "modern." The Ghostbusters logo, it turns out, is conceived by a Banksy-esque graffiti artist (played with terminal uncoolness by Nate Corddry). There's also a scene where Melissa McCarthy crowd surfs to a "metal" band that was clearly assembled by an extras agency. By the time you hear the nasal botch of the original Ghostbusters theme from Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott, you'll feel like you're sitting in a special circle of hell designed by a marketing agency.
Despite the three or so laughs produced throughout the film, it often feels like Ghostbusters' plot is moving forward without its dialogue. You won't know what the hell anyone's talking about, but you'll notice that all of a sudden some dumpstered pipe fittings have evolved into proton packs. Then you'll notice that the ghosts have taken over the city and there's a big bright vortex in the middle of the street that probably needs to be blown up or something. Then you'll notice that you're sitting here watching this happen while your adult life is slipping you by.
For a movie ostensibly about ghosts, Ghostbusters is devoid of all spirit or soul. While it's an extreme disappointment, that hopefully means it won't haunt pop culture for too much longer. (Sony/Reitman)