Film review – Ghostbusters (Paul Feig, 2016)

Coming off the back of the unprecidented success of Bridesmaids, Feig looked to have carved a path as the director of female-led lighthearted comedies, following as he did with The Heat and Spy (both of which were well-received by both audiences and critics).  The safe move would have been to deliver more of the same until either the audiences or the actresses got bored, cashing the cheques as they exited stage right.

Rebooting the Ghostbusters franchise with women taking the lead roles, therefore, seemed like an unnecessarily bold move. Taking on the beloved franchise of an entire generation of cult film cinephiles has fallen flat many, many times recently. Total Recall. Robocop. the Terminator sequels. Vacation. The Karate Kid. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Conan the Barbarian. Oldboy. Please stop ruining our childhoods!

Fortunately, this time there’s enough talent involved to ensure that Ghostbusters is a success. It isn’t a remake so much as a reboot. There are some knowing nods back to the originals, but this is a film that stands on its own two feet and comes out with its head held high.

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Busting makes ’em feel good!

Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are both on fine form as the childhood friends turned ghost-hunters Dr. Erin Gilbert and Dr. Abby Yates, but it is Kate McKinnon as scientist and pyrotechnics enthusiast Dr. Jillian Holtzmann that is the real success story here. This should serve as a starting point for her career to truly take off. Another SNL-favourite, Leslie Jones, completes the cast as Patty Tolan, a New York subway clerk who knows her way around the city.

Sadly, it doesn’t sail through without disappointing from time to time. The ham-fisted cameos of the original actors were completely unnecessary and would have meant nothing to newcomers to the story. They just weren’t worked well and I can imagine younger audience members wondering why so much attention was given to the taxi driver as the pace of the film took a minor detour.

The casting of Leslie Jones attracted criticism in the run up to the release of the film from some who suggested that the portrayal of a street-smart African-American amongst three white scientists bordered on racism. This wasn’t something I particularly picked up on during the film – she was well cast in a role that suited her and had good chemistry with her SNL cohorts.

Fortunately, the ones most disappointed with this film will be the ones who had written it off before it had even started. The trailer was one of the most disliked in YouTube history, which serves only to underline how collectively vindictive some sections of the Internet can be. The only shame is that they probably won’t give this film a chance and as a result they will be missing one of the funniest summer blockbusters of the year.

Spy (Paul Feig, 2015)

Earlier today, my wife and I found ourselves walking on the red carpet, alongside Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz, for the UK premiere of new film Spy. It was at the ODEON on Leicester Square. Here’s a photo of me on the red carpet.

I’ve been on the red carpet a couple of times before and it’s always a lovely experience. Of course, nobody cares who we are, though that doesn’t mean we didn’t ham it up a little. [1]

There’s been quite bit of interest for the film over the last few weeks and the anticipation was well justified. We laughed so much our faces hurt.

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McCarthy and Law are hilarious throughout.

Spy is an action comedy about office-based CIA data analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy), who is forced to go out onto the field when her partner Bradley Fine (Law) disappears and the identities of other top field agents – including Rick Ford (Statham) – are compromised. Going undercover to attempt to infiltrate arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) with the help of her office friend (Hart), the story is the perfect platform for some caper-based hilarity.

I was a little apprehensive going into it as the premise is quite familiar and hasn’t been done well for a long time. I was immediately pleasantly surprised, with an opening scene that sets the story up well, falsely draws us in to a serious film, then slaps us in the face with a huge laugh.

Jason Statham has never been so likeable. His character can best be described as Jay from the Inbetweeners if he somehow became a CIA agent. You can see he’s flexing his comedy muscles and really trying hard to make his co-stars laugh whilst holding back himself. His character is a highlight.

The real star, of course, is Melissa McCarthy. Her comic timing is impeccable and it’s easy to see this film becoming a critical and commercial success with her out front. She has had several opportunities to show us what she’s got, but she has fallen slightly short on several occasions (see Identity Thief). This is a comic actor at the top of her game.

The rest of the cast are excellent, especially Serafinowicz, and you can see they’re enjoying such a fun script. I can’t recommend it enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the start of a franchise.

[1] About a month ago I speculatively tweeted a review of Furious 7 as an entry to a competition run by Stella Artois and Film4. Actually, it was a review of the trailer. I’ve not seen the film, nor have i seen the trailer. Indeed, of all the films in the series I’ve only seen Tokyo Drift. I didn’t think much of it. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I’ve included the review here, in case you’re interested.