Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
2016. Directed by Paul Feig.
One of the year's most debated films, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is a lighthearted comedy that offers a menagerie of visual effects and a terrific, but ultimately underwhelming story about friendship and female empowerment.
Abby Yates is a physicist who abandoned her long time friend after the two authored a book on the supernatural. The book is republished by her friend, Erin Gilbert, which prompts Abby to reconnect, if only to get the book removed from the public eye as it threatens her credibility. This leads to the friends, along with an eccentric engineer Holtzmann, to encounter a ghostly apparition. Soon, the trio are joined by a tough New York transit worker named Tolan, and together they form a team of ghost hunting professionals. Their efforts are resisted by an insane occultist who desires power from beyond the grave, leading to a climatic showdown in the heart of the Big Apple.
The aspect that immediately comes to mind is the art direction. Beat Frutiger's intelligent compositions convey a New York that moves to its own beat, filled with urban myths, haunted hotels, and grimy Chinese take out restaurants. The colors are so pronounced that they overwhelm every scene with a sense of comic book mania that is infused throughout the film's shaky narrative. Robert Yeoman's cinematography is surprisingly clean, despite the gallons of slime that explode in every paranormal confrontation. The ghosts are presented as neon wraiths whom, like the spirits in the original film are frightening and humorous in equal amounts.
Everything (even the dead) is alive in Feig's vision. Its clear he was going for an epic story about friendship and acceptance. Sadly, the film devolves into a CGI bonanza of tired tropes and pointless (mostly) cameos. Feig's script is stale and the humor is restrained and awkward at times. Rather than shining, Ghostbusters dimly glows in a sea of toilet humor that is lacking in Feig's trademark adult hysterics. The best part, aside from Andy Weder's outstanding special effects, is the bonding of the central quartet. Whenever the story sits still long enough for the hilarious interplay between the women, it's excellent. The biggest flaw is that whenever the film hints at being interesting, it immediately switches directions, opting to stay with its lukewarm antics rather than hone any type of edge. Had Feig focused harder on the horror angle, the social issues he is trying to comment on might have resonated more.
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones do adequate jobs with the material, but Kate McKinnon's scene stealing Holtzmann is the whole show. I cannot stress how essential her performance is to making Ghostbusters work. She's nerdy and sexy, while also brilliant and dangerous. While the rest of the cast sleepwalk through their roles, McKinnon abandons any sense of hesitation and dives head first into the action, bringing her intelligence and charisma to the fore.
Available now for digital purchase, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is a film that is bound to divide. Fans of the original will see not so subtle nods to the source material, but ultimately will be left wondering why this was even attempted. However, Feig's sheer amount of world building and the decision to use a stellar female cast shows that he was making his own film, and fans of his work will find what they're looking for in a PG-13 skin.
There's a great undercurrent in the film which involves the government saying "We know this is an issue. We'll privately support you, but publicly defraud you". Combine this theme with the "Answer the Call" portion of the title, and Feig's ultimate message is revealed. The failure is in its presentation. The social issues are brashly worn on the Ghostbusters's ectoplasm soaked sleeves, rather than eloquently woven into the heart of the story.
Despite this flaw, Ghostbusters mostly delivers. If you're looking for a two hour ride filled with amazing visuals, a one of kind performance by McKinnon, and a straightforward story about the power of friendship, then this is the film for you.