There haven’t been a lot of movies in the last decade that have been forced to deal with outright hatred long before they were released, and the unique difficulties of such a situation made for some odd moves when it came to the marketing for Ghostbusters.
While the fact that the film was remade with a set of female Ghostbusters obviously got most of the attention, the internet was also buzzing with the ire of those who weren’t thrilled that the thing was being remade at all.
When the first trailer hit, and quickly became one of the most “disliked” videos in the history of YouTube, director Paul Feig, some of the cast, and anyone else with a dog in the fight, quickly decided that it might be possible to make lemonade out of the situation, and tried to create a misogyny PC shield out of the firestorm that was the internet’s reaction to the film. If you didn’t like the trailer, it was clearly because you didn’t like women… or, whatever.
The actual film makes that a theory that’s hard to deliver with a straight face though, not just because it has odd things to put forward about women itself, but also because it’s absolutely convinced that you’re an idiot.
The story kicks off as Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) learns that a book she co-wrote long ago has resurfaced, and because of the conflict posed by the book’s “ghosts are real” theories, and her career as physics professor, she wants to get it pulled as soon as she can.
That means finding her old friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who is still researching the existence of ghosts, though now she does so at a community college. This naturally leads to “hilarity” not simply at the expense of community colleges because “they” are ridiculous enough to let someone… well, basically “Dr. Brown” in a funded lab, and suggest ghosts exist (which is apparently how you get fired as a physics professor at a real University, but are also ridiculous enough not to realize she’s still around doing it. Because, what’s funny is community colleges.
Abby comes with Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in tow, because she’s handy with tools.
Meanwhile, the universe has serendipitously chosen just this moment to start releasing some serious hauntings, and ghosts are appearing around the city. Once we get a couple of sightings under our belt, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who witnessed one of the ghosts, joins the team as “the person who knows New York,” which is ludicrous in itself.
The Erin/Abby reunion goes about as you’d expect any meeting between a reserved, perhaps overly shy professor and Bluto from Animal House to go, but then Erin lets slip that someone mentioned a ghost sighting, and we’re off to the races.
The film drags us through the standard paces we’d expect from Feig/McCarthy comedies, with ghosts in tow, but what we’re supposed to find humorous either isn’t funny in the first place, and then is overdone to the point of irritation, or is apparently some manner of broad, theoretical comedy. Sometimes, it’s both, and most of it reeks of repeating jokes (or “million dollar ideas”) the day after a wicked bender.
Whether it’s the Won Ton Soup delivery that never ends, or the “higher comedy” of the “villain” who is the world’s biggest shlub (sorry Neil Casey), none of the antics here manage even a slight laugh.
Mangling a classic, and delivering a decidedly unamusing trip with somewhat depressing-looking special effects would be bad enough, but what really pushes Ghostbusters into the realm of the worst of the worst is that its effort is so counter to that of Bridesmaids. None of the women play actual characters, with the possible exception of Leslie Jones, whose Patty at least stays true to the film’s earlier delivery. The rest of them simply latch onto the needs of the “comedy” moment, and are largely interchangeable.
Worst of all, while the original Ghostbusters managed bumbling antics, and semi-ludicrous, comedic situations, it got there by way of its characters being understandably out of their depths. Sure, they weren’t all the brightest, and Venkman’s “ehh whatever,” attitude drove most of the plot, but the “gag” was, “Shit! Ghosts!” as opposed to…, “Eeek!” Holtzmann may show off her guns, but this is a film that thinks a “riding a hose” bit still has some play left in it, and while the movie spends a lot of time saying that women can be Ghostbusters… sort of, most of what it makes fun of is women trying to be Ghostbusters.