Can I really hate the new Ghostbusters film? Oh, it sucks for sure! But like anything that's the product of incest and drugs and poor decisions, it can't help how it is. It can't help that Paul Feig only specializes in Bro Shows, and that Sony is famished for its own Marvel Universe franchise, and that it stars Melissa McCarthy! It is in no way cognizant as to how bad it has it! So again, can I really hate something that never really had a chance?
Well, when it takes a shit in my shoe and expects me to walk home with a smile, then yes, I can absolutely hate it.
Ghostbusters (hereafter referred to as Nu-Busters, because I'm clever) is the story of four women who can't decide who's supposed to be the funny one, whose antics are occasionally distracted by plot – essentially, Always Sunny in Philadelphia with none of the charm and a PG rating. Between the wooden improv and Melissa McCarthy being the fusion of Kevin James and a crash test dummy, they gawk at CG that's just shy of Video Game Cut Scene quality and place products shamelessly. Despite catching all of one ghost before the climax, and despite all of the ghost sightings being completely isolated, they warrant enough scrutiny that the Mayor and Homeland Security see fit to gag them lest they incite a panic. They also discover that this entire plot is being caused by a terrorist mad scientist geek with a Rage Against the Muggles motivation, who's using technology to bomb down the barrier between this world and the other.
I repeat: a dude who's famously derided for his creepiness is planting bombs in broad daylight in modern-day New York City. I can suspend disbelief that this is a world where ghosts and spiritual possessions and Kristen Wiig being taken seriously can happen, but THIS? In the nesting ground of Homeland Security?! Despite every other person being either a jabbering idiot or a psychopathic caricature, this movie should've been resolved before the opening credits with a literal bullet!
But like so many other things, Neil Casey's success as a cartoon villain happens because the film needs it to happen. Just like the film needs the ghosts to go from legitimate threat to one-off mooks that our main characters can easily toss aside in a three-minute action scene, and just like the group needs to be simultaneously adored and vilified despite both being completely unfounded. Their recognition never really elevates much beyond the status of Viral Video Famous, and at their greatest triumph, there are no witnesses save to the aftermath; and maybe if there had been any sort of progression of time or some sort of logical escalation towards the climax, we could believe that they'd earned their notoriety.
But no, the whole film happens in a three-week time frame, and is a hop-scotching race to all of the main plot points with ceaselessly useless dialogue to fill the gaps. And I do mean useless! Between Kristen Wiig's so-tragic-that-it-deserves-a-sad-violin-to-let-you-know-how-tragic-it-is back story of being haunted by her dead neighbor for a year (a point which was so excessive, I was positive her neighbor's ghost would show up at some point – otherwise, why make it so excessively melodramatic?) and Kate McKinnon's awkwardly forced sexy-cyberpunk-mad-scientist-pixie, I don't think the characters said anything of character-building relevance. (And no, Leslie Jones explaining the events as they happen doesn't count as dialogue, though it is just as useless.)
The story plays as some guy's interpretation of a movie he's heard his friends talk about constantly but has never actually seen – bullshitting through the vaguer aspects until it got to the parts it knew, which he proceeded to bullshit as well. Which works if you just want something on in the background while you're folding laundry, but when you're sitting in a giant auditorium with a bunch of other people? When you've turned off your cell phone and broke off all human contact, and dedicated two hours of your life because you were promised distraction enough to warrant paying full price plus the cost of snacks?
And when you're expected to walk home with that giant turd working further between your toes and around your heel?
And when you're expected to smile?
The saddest thing is, there are elements to Nu-Busters right there on the surface that could have made this at least an INTERESTING film! Taking the scenic route to the development of the team – testing and improving their equipment; starting out in a dump before getting to their ideal headquarters ; ending the team better off than where they started but leaving plenty of room for upward momentum – is a solid idea, especially if want to tell an organic story! But Feig's talents lie in sitting his camera down and having his actors improvise that they're idiots who think they're interesting, so their implementation is ancillary at best. Everything is done not because it's good story-telling, but because it's necessary if you want a franchise (as if the sequel hook tacked on at the last minute wasn't an obvious give-away) and need to sell merchandise (coughcoughGhostShreddercoughcough!)
Fifteen minutes of plot; an hour-plus of fill. There's a running gag where Melissa McCarthy's character keeps ordering soup, but it's all broth with almost no substance. Kind of poetic that the film would find a way to sum itself up so perfectly.
Shame it couldn’t put any effort into anything else.
XOWIE Scale: -2
Half-Life: 4 months
- So Macy's Day Parade floats have souls? And at some point, there were dragon goats? And there once existed giant Uncle Sam monsters? No offense, Paul Feig, but from now on, just stick to fart and vomit jokes.