Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
In cinemas now
I’ve never subscribed to the “all publicity is good publicity” theory but somewhere in the middle of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, a cynical little voice popped into my head. One that wondered if all the negative publicity had been part of a very smart marketing plan. And very risky one.
The original trailer was voted the most unpopular ever on YouTube and, as I write, the negative reviews are flooding onto IMDb, so that its rating is currently less than 4/10. This isn’t one of them.
The ghosts are back, trying to take over Manhattan, this time at the behest of downtrodden janitor Rowan (Neil Casey) whose contraption in a hotel basement harnesses their energy and the power of the city’s lay lines. At the same time, paranormal enthusiasts Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) set themselves up as present day ghost busters, along with subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones) and dim-witted receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). Despite saving the city from a couple of attacks, the team are branded as frauds by the Mayor’s office – until Rowan unleashes the full power of the ghosts on the city. It’s down to them to save the day.
It’s 30 years since the much-loved original and, even though Feig’s given his film an all-female team, he’s all too aware of the story’s heritage – and all the fans out there with their precious memories. So Dan Aykroyd is listed as an Executive Producer and makes a cameo appearance as a taxi driver who “ain’t afraid of no ghosts”. Bill Murray pops up, laden with irony as an expert who doesn’t believe in the paranormal. There’s a visual reference to the late Harold Ramis and, if you stay for the credits, you’ll spot Sigourney Weaver, together with the acknowledgement that it’s based on the original from 1984. It can’t be accused of disrespect.
Part of the pre-launch publicity – and resulting kerfuffle – was all to do with that all-female line-up. Lip service? Gimmick? Maybe. But the interesting thing is that, once the action gets going and they’re battling the ghosts, the fact that they’re all women is pretty much incidental. They’re the film’s heroes and we want them to win. Pure and simple. The gender stereotypes are further sent up by their receptionist Chris Hemsworth, who’s all brawn and very little brain, and gets the job mainly for decorative reasons. Now where have we heard that before?
The film, as far as I’m concerned, is a big, loud piece of rollocking entertainment. True, the ghostbusters themselves are more types than characters – the timid academic (Wiig), the whacky eccentric scientist (McKinnon), the mouthy leader (McCarthy) and the resourceful one (Jones) – but they all give it plenty of welly. McKinnon, in particular, is a real find: she has great presence on screen and the comic timing to go with it. There’s lots of laughs – giggles and roars – and, coupled with all those malevolent ghosts and their goo, the whole thing is an exciting, fun ride.
If you don’t agree with that cynical little voice of mine – and I’m not sure that I do either! – then it’s pretty obvious that Feig has had the last laugh. Chances are he’ll be rolling on the floor when the box office takings are revealed.
Wotcha gonna see? GHOSTBUSTERS!
Ghostbusters is in cinemas now and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 14 July.