Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Ectoplasmic Force Awakens

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaidsand co-writer Katie Dippold, who gave us Parks and Recreation on TV, deliver another sparkly script which is different and also more self-aware. "There's no such thing as bad publicity", Paul Feig may well disagree, since his all-female version of Ghostbusters trailer was the first to ever gained the arguable distinction of being, the most disliked trailer on YouTube. It couldn't be simply because the film has the temerity to feature four women as its ghostbusting quartet, could it? Not in 2016? 

What made the original Ghostbusters an instant classic in summer 1984 was the instant chemistry between Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson; plus, this combination of high-IQ smart and dumb silliness. This time around, McCarthy and Wiig: two of the finest comedy actresses currently working, are on good form as usual. Though, Melissa McCarthy only gets to unleash her talent for physical comedy in a demonic possession and then you're starting to wish guiltily McCarthy had taken centre stage, using the crazy vitality and improvisation skills that made The Heat and Spy hits. This film also aims for broader humour, which is most obvious with Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, he's responsible for many of the film's biggest laughs as he struggles with simple tasks such as answering the phone or making coffee. It's one of the movie's more inspired gags to flip the sexual harassment in the other direction, offering up Thor hunk as the group's straight man, an assistant too dumb to realise he's being objectified. 

In a way, the breakout star turn is McKinnon - a graduate of TV's SNL. She has a kind of resilient improvisation eccentricity and natural comedy that is closest in spirit to Bill Murray from the first film. Not that such comparisons are necessary or desirable. She makes for a sublime nerd goddess and she embodies the new Ghostbusters at its best: girl rules, women are funny. Get over it. Though it would have been nice if Ms Jones had been given more to do. If this were a radical reboot, she would have played a scientist. 

After an effective opening scene, the film does prove to be funny, as Feig and McCarthy's collaboration tend to be. Plus, as it is often the case with a big-budget feature, it grows progressively louder and bigger, climaxing in an overlong battle. Part of what makes this reboot enjoyable is that it allows women to be as simply and uncomplicatedly funny as men. Moreover, this movie is also a female friendship movie, but without the usual jealousies and boyfriends. It took someone like Paul Feig to redefine who gets to be funny in movies. And it's what makes him a thoughtful successor to Mr Ramis, who made a series of memorable, soulful comedies about what it means to be a man such as Groundhog Day or Multiplicity. Finally, this film is at once satisfyingly familiar and satisfyingly different, kind of like a new production of Macbeth or a Christopher Nolan rethink of Batman. Now if we could just get women and men to be funny together, that would be revolutionary.       

Overall, this film just feels funny, a novelty to those who believe that being funny is an XY chromosome thing. It pays tribute to the 80s blockbuster with in-jokes and cameos. Delivering a really funny and spectacular action comedy while producing a brand new work. 

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