Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Though there have been rumours of a new ‘Busters movie for years I never really thought it would happen.  When it was announced that a new movie was not actually happening, like really happening, but that the cast would be all women, I was really looking forward to it. Despite the poor first trailer I stuck by it and stuck up for it, largely on the basis that it was another Melissa McCartney/Kristen Wiig/Paul Feig vehicle. I’ve been a big fan of McCartney and Wiig since Bridesmaids and a fan of Feig ever since he helped Sabrina with science in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

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As I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty excited when I finally got to see it at the cinema. We paid our money and purchased overprice yet oddly plastic tasting snacks and made our way into the cinema.

It’s at this point that I want to tell you that I had the single greatest cinema experience of my entire life. Sadly, as a purveyor of truth, I cannot.

I had heard from reliable sources that the opening sequence was awe inspiring and simply perfect, maybe it was these high expectations I felt like I was waiting for the life changing moment to begin. It revolves around a tour guide at a ‘haunted house’ that turns out to be really haunted. I’m not trying to say that it was bad, it was pretty good  actually and kinda creepy. I just wanted more from it, it didn’t blow me away.

Next we get introduced to Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr Erin Gilbert. A rather straight laced professor of physics who gets fired from here job at Columbia University. Consequently she has to visit her old schoolyard chum, Dr Abby Yates, an eccentric person who loves Chinese food, played by Melissa McCarthy. Unlike Erin, Abby did not give up on her search for ghosts and proof of life after death. In her search she recruited Dr Jillian Holtzman, (Kate McKinnen) who is pure eccentricity and my favourite of all the characters. The last ‘buster to be recruited is  Patty Tolan, a sassy black lady played by Leslie Jones.

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I must admit that my inner feminist loved seeing a group of four women doing some pretty kick ass moves, and investigating the various strange going on in New York without having a man to lead them in some way (it should come as no surprise that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours) . The only man to really be a part of the gang is Chris Emsworth as Kevin Beckman, the well meaning, but somewhat simple and misguided secretary. I loved the role reversal of that character, and I must admit that Emsworth plays it brilliantly, often stealing the scene. I hope that this film helps to inspire young women and know that they too can be doctors of science and fight the bad guy without needing a man, and most importantly that she can be a complicated character that is worth so much more than window dressing for the men to stare at (Michael Bay, take note!)

That being said, the main plot involving a loner trying to bring about the end of New York with some kind of strange machines that bring ghosts out of… Ghost… world? failed to draw me in the way I would have liked. It works, I was interested as to what this strange chap was up to, and it kept my attention throughout, I never got bored. I just felt that the plot could sometimes be thrown out of the window in  favour of a neato set piece, and overall could have done with a bit of tightening. I felt at times as I was watching it that it needed more of a world building mythology, as we had with the original.

holtzmanThough the acting standard was good throughout, I felt that Wiig didn’t really give her all, she could have really sunk her teeth into the character and gone all out, and it fell just short of that, with McCartney occasionally joining her. Perhaps it was the requirement of a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate that meant their performances were toned down a little. Though it must be said, again, that it was really refreshing to have strong female characters with a complicated past and feelings. Holtzman was my favourite character, she was just the right amount of weird with a slight tinge of creepiness dashed in for good measure, she is the archetypal mad scientist and I loved her.

pattyThere are laughs to be had here, and I did titter throughout. for me though there were just not enough belly laughs, not enough smart insightful jokes peppered through to make me really think, it at times could be a little silly and puerile. Patty brings most of the good laughs and has some of the best lines. I did find Patty a little problematic at times, for a film full of individual women kicking ass, I felt that she could sometimes slip into a little of a black stereotype, luckily Jones brings lot of intelligence and brilliant humour to the character so they just about get away with it. If there were to be a sequel, I would like there to be a little more development of Patty.

One thing that was no lacking are the effects, they are perfect and manage to bring about a creepy and grossness without going too overboard. I also really liked how they seemed to invoke the style of the original, but they have taken it and improved upon it to make some truly stunning scenes. The end scenes where all hell breaks loose are so well done and the proton beams really look amazing.

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There are many references to the original, some that work well, like the effects, and others not so well. I’m sure others may disagree, but I felt that some certain cameos did not work for me. In a film about kick ass women these moments almost felt like they were getting permission from the men to make this movie, permission they do not need. The film works best when it stands on it’s own two feet and travels down it’s own path, to create something new and original, not just raking over old ground they desperately need to get away from.

This reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise has courted controversy from the moment it was announced, there has been a tirade of abuse from online trolls and misogynists who are under the misguided impression that women are incapable of being Ghostbusters. Whilst I do not believe this to  be a perfect film, I am pleased to say that it at least manages to put those notions to bed.

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The plot needed to be a little tighter, the comedy needed to be funnier and there needs to be less references to the 1984 classic.There are still great things here, the characters are kick ass, intelligent, individual and not dressed up in ridiculous, impracticable outfits, the effects are brilliant and you’ll have a rip roaring good time. It might not have blown me away the way I would have liked, but I still had a good time and you will too.

★★★☆☆

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Vacation (2015) Review

In 1983 Clark Griswold took his family on a road trip they would never forget, and they were going to enjoy it. Whether they liked it or not. Clark’s desperation to provide an unforgettable experience for his kid and bring the family together provided many laughs and many sequels.

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Hello Griswolds!

The movie was a bit of a hit and there is a sense of fond memories surrounding it. So naturally it needed to be remade for a whole new generation to enjoy it, because as we all know you need to re-make it or it ceases to exist. Or the makers just wanted to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and unnecessarily remake something to make a quick buck. Having watched this failed fart of a movie, I  strongly suspect it was the latter.

This time round it is Rusty (Ed Helm) who is the desperate patriarch trying to provide his family with an unforgettable holiday they’ll fondly remember for years to come. For those of you with keen memories you might remember him as the son from the original round of movies, making this more than just a straight remake. It’s sort of a reboot, or sequel of some sorts. I suspect the term ‘updated for modern audiences’ and ‘edgy’ was used in the pitch.

The story kicks of with Rusty flying a plane for an economy airline. A small child excitedly asks if he is a pilot when on the way to the toilet, which results in Rusty accidentally sexually assaulting the child’s mother during some turbulence. This provides the movies first of many ‘Really?!’ moments. Seriously, this is the 21st Century surly we have moved past the ‘accidentally on purpose feeling a woman’s breasts’. It’s a joke that feels like it belongs in a bawdy 1960s hospital, not in a film released in 2015. This scene pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the movie, and I can promise you it only gets worse from here on in. Better buckle up because the pilot has put on the safety belt sign. 

borhtersAfter his little jaunt Rusty returns home to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James, (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). We see James, the older child being bullied by his younger brother Kevin. A running joke that doesn’t work. The writers were obviously so pleased at coming up with what they thought was a subversive idea of having the younger brother bullying the older one, that they failed to realise they would need to make the jokes funny. Or give it a decent conclusion where they learn to get along or at least have some sort of mutual respect in the end. Instead throughout we get treated to some very dull swearing and highly unimaginative name calling that relies heavily on sexism. As a result of this pathetic bantering neither of the boys feel like real people. In fact none of them feel like they are real people.

Part of the charm of the original was Clark felt like he could be real. Yes he was a bit over the top and on occasion you wondered how social services had never been called to their house. At the end of the day though he was a Dad who just wanted to spend some time with his kids, and even though they were American they all felt they could be your next door neighbours or your school chums or your work mate. This pile of one dimensional caricatures flailing about in poop and vomit are not people you want anywhere near you.

Once Rusty discovers that his family hates the annual vacation a log log cabin in Cheboygan he decides to surprise them all with a road trip to Wally World! Just like he did with his dad. The next day he comes home with a bizarre looking car, (there is a length and unfunny sequence showing just how bizarre it is)  and with trepidation the rest of the family join Rusty on a trip to Wally World.

The only real sequence Christina Applegate gets to try and stretch her comedic wings is the first stop. At her old sorority house. They are doing the annual chug Run for Asperger’s, (which provides at least two jokes around the mis-pronunciation of Ass Burgers, yes it sinks that low) which involves chugging a pitcher of beer and then attempting a Total Wipeout-esque obstacle course. Debbie gets challenged to do the chug run for the first time in twenty years, when the current sisters discover she is the famous Debby Does Anything. She gets knocked off almost immediately and proceeds to  vomit everywhere. It fell as flat as she did. There is no joke here. It’s just a woman vomiting. 

I’m not averse to gross out humour, I was raised on a diet of Farley Brothers and Adam Sandler comedies. I can handle gross humour, but there needs to be a joke to go with it. This appears to be being gross just for the sake of seeing a woman vomiting.

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Raw Sewage is actually a better, and more accurate title for the movie.

After this there are scenes involving them bathing in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth’s enormous penis, Rusty bursting through a cow, and some dangerous rapids. Each and every one more horrible than the next making you slink further and further into your seat in the hope that if you reach the ground it will just stop or turn out to be some kind of hideous dream. 

None of it works, none of it is funny. The gross out humour isn’t humour, it’s just gross. The basic plot sort of works, it’s just a series of skits loosely tied together with the vague premise of a road trip. 

_DSC6085.DNGThe one saving grace that provided a couple of laughs was the cameos. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day from their work in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but their separate cameos were some of the very few times I laughed during the 1hr 35min running time. Though when they’re gone you’re left wondering what they were doing in such a garbage heap of a movie. Maybe they lost a bet or owed a favour, or maybe they just needed the money. 

The other great cameo that provided a much needed comic relief in this festering cesspool of unfunny jokes is the man himself, Clark Griswold! That’s right Chevy chase and Beverly D’Angelo make an appearance to reprise their old roles and show these young whippersnappers how it’s done. Clark and Ellen are living conveniently close to Wally World making a perfect pit stop for Rusty and co to drop by before their final destination.

I know Chevy Chase has courted controversy in the past for his behaviour, and he might not be everyone’s favourite comedian of all time ever, but I have a soft spot for him thanks to his appearances in the video for You can Call Me Al (One of my favourite songs) and as Pierce in the sitcom Community. I got more laughs out of the five or ten minutes he was on screen then I did for the rest of the movie combined.

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What you’ll look like five minutes in.

This is a truly terrible movie filled with ill-timed and disgusting jokes that land as well the pilot from Airplane! There is really very little enjoyment here for anyone, there isn’t even an element of ‘so bad it’s good’ to it. Just avoid it at all costs.

☆☆☆☆