When director Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids fame) said yes to a girl-powered version of Ghostbusters, the Internet cried out in virtual pain.
All of a sudden, the series became more than two good-to-solid action-comedies that spawned a few cartoons and a sugary drink. It was now a sacrosanct work of art, and a bunch of sad men loudly explained that ladies should not be allowed on the premises.
This never made any sense, and we'll never know how much it contributed to the final product. What we do know is the problems with Ghostbusters have nothing to do with a very talented, female-led cast; instead, its dragged down by a decision on the part of Sony (or writers Feig and Katie Dippold, I guess, but come on) to reboot the entire universe.
I'm not saying the four girls had to be Ghostbuster kin (though Ernie Hudson's cameo does lean that way) or their proteges. But to take over 30 minutes reintroducing the world of ghosts, explaining why Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) have beef, and dancing around the very idea of the Ghostbusters is the kind of slow burn that this movie did not need.
I understand that they're trying to create a new franchise (hence directing the blame at Sony) but there are ways to catch up new fans while also using the existing movies as a springboard to the comedy. Instead, Feig goes the long route while still packing in the references; what we ultimately get is a painful slog to an obvious destination, and less chances for all the funny women (and men) to do their jobs.
There are still some high points, including literally everything Kate McKinnon does. Her performance as Dr. Jillian Holtzmann is one of the highlights of not only the movie but recent comedy history; from hilarious glances and wacky faces to random occurrences like reaching out and touching Matt Walsh's special agent for no reason, she makes everything into gold.
That’s not even emphasizing her role in the movie’s major action sequence, where the four Ghostbusters take on a bunch of big scary ghosts and save the city. It’s been oft-derided by both critics and fans, for mediocre special effects and for forcing Wiig to pretend like she’s an action hero, but Holtzmann’s big moment almost brought me to tears of joy. It’s the kind of scene that you could see actually inspiring young girls in the audience: the best character in the movie, kicking ass like guys always do, in a well-shot, truly wonderful sequence.
If only the rest of the movie followed suit. Wiig and McCarthy, for all their comedy skills, mostly play straight women for McKinnon and Leslie Jones (and Chris Hemsworth, who more than holds his own). Neil Casey wrote for Kroll Show and is therefore immune to criticism, but his villainous turn will not go down in cinematic history. And cameos from all the ex-Ghostbusters fall flat, especially whatever the hell Bill Murray was going for. He’s the only one to get multiple scenes, and I’ve never seen an actor appear to care less. It drags everything else down around it to boot; the excitement of seeing Murray is almost instantly extinguished by how dull he is, and the script never really find its steam again.
Ghostbusters deserves barely a centimeter of the million-mile list of disparaging words written about it; unfortunately, that’s because— while the women are great—the movie isn’t.