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Nimble little minxes*
The 1984 Ghostbusters has acquired a classic status and there are a lot of people out there in webland who think misogyny is an Irish girl who lives in a lamp. Camus, like director Paul Feig, is stunned that we are even having this conversation. Funny is funny. Right?
 
  "Some people accused it of kind of being a gimmick and it's like, it would be a gimmick if I wasn't somebody whose brain doesn't automatically go to 'I want to just do more stuff with women.' I just find funny women so great. For me it's just more of a no-brainer. I just go, what would make me excited to do it? I go: four female Ghostbusters to me is really fun."
 
Director Paul Feig**

 

After reading a quietly and carefully crafted piece on racism by physicist Neil De Grasse Tyson***, I discovered something called 'The National Society of Black Physicists'. Part of me hoped this was a gag. If it is a gag, the gag has a very official website. To join, you pay but there doesn't seem to be a checkbox to confirm the shade of your dermis. The world seems to need a niche physicists' society in which membership is based on skin colour. I really don't know how I feel about that but I am tending towards the 'very sad'. Is American culture (or any reasonably civilised culture in 2016) really so polarised and sensitive towards race that this society is necessary? That's a horribly rhetorical question to which the uncomfortable and unwanted answer is probably "Damn right..." Yes, I can understand very smart people getting together to fight the preconception that skin colour is a sign of intelligence or lack thereof. Even that thought is depressing. If it weren't for the Welsh national football side's semi-final appearance in the recent but otherwise rather dull FIFA European Football Championship, I'd say that the Welsh need some sort of PR too to bolster their equality of membership of the human race. Speaking as a Cardiff born native, I am less likely to reveal my roots to strangers simply due to the unmistakable Welshist slant in the UK. The Welsh are the butt (that would be a sheep's butt of course) of many jokes and because most Welsh people are light skinned (thin too, by some accounts), it seems perfectly OK for my countrymen and women to be at the arse end of many remarks that in the context of skin colour would be simply unacceptable. Punishable even. I'm not complaining about this state of affairs (as long as the jokes are funny) but since when did our world decide that women were so different than men that they couldn't deliver comedy smarts? I'm dismissing the trolls by dint of the understanding that to generate laughs you do not need a penis or perhaps a very small one.

The reboot of Ghostbusters will stand or fall on whether it's funny and scary, less so the latter. Early reviews, like my own, have dismissed the women argument and have been in general positive. The trailer strayed too far into slapstick and broad humour for my taste but what about the movie as a whole? Insert sexist joke here. Slarek reminded me that it wasn't the gender issue that gave him pause but the terrible cynicism of spending a fortune on something derivative while we are starved for originality in mainstream cinema. While I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, I was very curious. I adore Kristen Wiig (that's a good start) and think Chris Hemsworth should not be confined to hammer duty in Marvel world but I have to admit not knowing the rest of the cast apart from the obligatory cameos that pop up, well timed and generally well executed. I have Paul Feig's Spy and The Heat lined up as tonight's double bill, research after the event so to speak. To get the full set of cameos, you'll have to stay for the end credits most of which are played over the gyrating form of Mr. Hemsworth leading the military a merry dance. So what's the story? Assuming you've not seen the original, the reboot may seem fresh and dare I say executed with some flair. If you're familiar with the line "Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown," then you may be struck by how similar the basic plot is to the 1984 version. But this should come as no surprise and as a fan of Murray and company, you will have to let that association go and only be reminded it's a reboot by the steady stream of old Ghostbusters cameos. Four girls team up with advanced weaponry to do battle with a nerd who is unleashing the undead (ghosts and demons etc.) because he was ignored in life. There's not too much more to it than that but that's more than enough for a fun night out.

So taken as a movie on its own merits, there is a great deal to enjoy. The cast is a dream. Wiig as Erin Gilbert grounds everyone to a semblance of normality. As a physics professor, she a gnat's hair away from tenure until her past catches up with her in the form of a book she co-wrote on the paranormal with Abby (a confident and effortlessly funny Melissa McCarthy). Abby is still delving into the paranormal with her research partner, the practical genius of the group, Gillian played with a kooky, pansexual relish by Kate McKinnon. I would be prepared to pass the laurels to the latter but I think that's the love of a character who, by rights, should have started to grate. But McKinnon pulls it off with not so much flair but honesty. She doesn't appear to be acting and her humour stems from the 'live-for-now and appreciate everything' attitude crossed with a surreal sense of the absurd. She's the only American I know who can whoop and not have it feel cringe worthy. The New York expert Patty (Leslie Jones on fine, if broad form) joins the Ghostbusters with the force of her personality making up the foursome. Whenever the film is focused on the team, Ghostbusters is a delight. The humour always flows from the characters and it's their interaction that is ninety per cent of the comedy DNA. Dare I say it, the special effects, now almost a legal requirement for a big summer film, are certainly fit for purpose but when the pixels are flying, the movie is almost asking "Happy now?"

What gave me the most pleasure is a tried and trusted comedy persona, the resident idiot. Chris Hemsworth's Kevin takes idiocy to new depths. I read that the interview scene took ages to shoot because Hemsworth's ad-libs kept on causing the girls to crack up. It's not hard to see why. Here is a man with a god-like physique whose absurd lack of intelligence makes him almost too much (or too little) to accept. I do not think there is a person on this planet with or without the biceps, who is as clueless as Kevin. He could not function in 2016 unless cosseted and protected by friends and relatives. Wiig has a major crush from moment one, drinking from a coffee cup in which Kevin has regurgitated as a sign of her infatuation. As sweet as he is, he's also so dumb you keep waiting to see what he comes up with next. Standing next to an aquarium in the office he announces "It's a submarine for fish," which is beautiful, dumb as dumb can be and more importantly laugh out loud funny. In the promotional puff piece interviews, Leslie Jones says "When I watch the movie, I just want more Kevin." Amen to that. As soon as the lead ghost bad guy possesses Kevin, the movie is robbed of a very peculiar but sublime pleasure. Happy now?

Ghostbusters

And so to the ghosts... The bad guy is a nerd with the common fantasy of desiring revenge on the human race because it's been so awful to him, indifferent and disrespectful. So for his plan to work he has to die and take on a powerful supernatural form. He also delivers many varieties of ghost to the stricken Manhattan. I didn't understand the logic of the many kinds of ghost at all and I particularly didn't understand why a whole parade of them had to be inflatables (apart from having a previously set up joke work). But am I deliberately missing the point? The demons, ghosts, monsters and ghouls are just things for the girls to toast. I got the impression during the climactic battle (yes, that's hardly a spoiler) that the team were not achieving anything with their proton packs, just wrapping ribbons of red around their targets and moving them from in front of them to a little bit further away. I guess the word 'Ghostmovers!' didn't have the same ring to it. But again, it is pointless to imagine what logic lies in the apparitions themselves. The logic in the original movie was spot on, absurd but spot on. You needed to get two possessed humans together (gate keeper and the key master) to unleash Zuul, an ancient supernatural force that invites the Ghostbusters to imagine the bringer of their own destruction. Hullo, the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. There's no such logic in the reboot but it hardly matters.

I'm straining to think of anything truly negative to say. When the famous music starts up at the front, it's mixed very oddly by having the first line only just audible as it fades out completely over Wiig prepping her physics lesson. Surely just the electronic intro and no lyrics was necessary? The line of a cable seems to be unfeasibly long when making a late movie rescue but these are nit-picks. There's never a sense of jeopardy in the movie but then neither was there one in the original so that's hardly a valid carp. Dare I suggest, with no stuffed envelopes from Sony or Columbia in my possession, that Ghostbusters is a funny and respectful reboot of a beloved original and unless your heart is hardened ('haters gonna hate' as the saying goes) you will laugh and have a very entertaining night out. Give it a whirl.

 


*That's not me being wilfully sexist. It's a slight alteration of a Bill Murray line from the climax of the original.

**http://www.ew.com/article/2014/10/08/paul-feig-ghostbusters-female

***https://www.facebook.com/notes/neil-degrasse-tyson/dark-matters/10154327926476613

Ghostbusters (2016) poster
Ghostbusters

USA 2016
116 mins
directed by
Paul Feig
produced by
Amy Pascal
Ivan Reitman
written by
Katie Dippold
Paul Feig
cinematography
Robert D. Yeoman
editing
Melissa Bretherton
Brent White
music
Theodore Shapiro
production design
Jefferson Sage
starring
Kristen Wiig
Melissa McCarthy
Leslie Jones
Katie McKinnon
Chris Hemsworth
Andy Garcia
Neil Casey
distributor
Columbia Pictures Corporation Ltd.
UK release date
11 July 2016
review posted
14 July 2016

See all of Camus's reviews