I hate myself. That’s right. I tried so bloody hard to convince myself I would watch the new Ghostbusters without being that guy who compares it ham-fistedly to the original, and then within 5 minutes became that guy. That being said I still really enjoyed Ghostbusters (2016).
There is so much that works in this new version of our beloved classic. The four leads are fantastic, not only in the performances of McCarthy, Wiig, Jones and McKinnon, but the drawing of the 4 Ghostbusters by screenwriters Katie Dippold and Paul Feig; which gives each character a huge reason to standout from her counterparts, whilst also making their close-knit relationships to one another believable and powerful.
The design of the ghosts is really great too. They have a kind of Haunted Mansion feel, with a blue glowing aura surrounding them. But they’re also genuinely scary in places, and I’m certain that the first ghost we see terrorising an old mansion, and another that calls back to Ghostbusters 2’s Scoleri brothers, will have several small children soiling themselves.
What director Paul Feig really excels at, though, is the intimate moments between people, where characters are built and comedy comes thick and fast. Feig has proven himself a master of such human moments, and it’s this very talent that mean the big action set pieces feel almost like hurdles we must overcome to get to more of the good stuff: the people talking stuff.
So with all this great work going on, why did I have to become That Guy? The answer is that the original Ghostbusters is such a classic, with so many things that came together in the perfect way at the perfect time, that no film, even one bearing its own name, is likely to come close to it. From the off it’s obvious Paul Feig and company felt that great weight too, because they pay so much homage to the 1984 film (cameos from almost every original cast member, references to Mr Stay Puft, Slimer, the firehouse, there’s even a moment in which Kristen Wiig’s Erin mirrors the moment Rick Moranis’ Louis desperately tried to get into a posh restaurant and couldn’t find the door), that they risk losing their own identity by trying too hard to appease the fans of the original.
And I get it. There is so much pressure to try and emulate not just the success and comic genius of Ghostbusters (1984), but to nail the tone and capture the same magic that made it such a timeless work. But honestly, Feig’s film is at its best when it ignores the old and runs with the new. This, I hope, will be the mission statement for the surely inevitable sequel.
Another flaw in the film is its over commitment to being funny. That sounds stupid I know, after all it is a comedy. But whereas in the 1984 film much of the humour came organically from the story and what was happening in the scene around the actors, this new iteration seems to want to force gags in because it knows it should be funny, and tries a little too hard to do so. Many of the jokes fall flat or only warrant a small exhale through the nose in recognition of a punchline. Make no mistake this cast is funny, and not just the leads. They are the SNL stars of today, just as Aykroyd and Murray were the SNL stars of their day, so it might have paid off to give them greater wiggle room to improvise.
But it’s a really great summer film. That’s the long and short of it. For young kids who have never seen a Ghostbusters movie, this will be a shining light in a fairly bland sea of 2016 summer blockbusters, and it will no doubt inspire a new generation of kids the same way the original did for my generation. For that we should say a huge thank you to the cast and crew.
It’s not the 1984 Ghostbusters, but for me there are only around 10 films in the history of cinema that can be counted as coming close to that level of greatness. So go and watch Ghostbusters, give it the shot it deserves and even though you won’t be able to help comparing, know that is its own thing, and that’s a good thing.