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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

DVD Of The Week: Ghostbusters - Extended Edition (2016)


Like many, the original Ghostbusters has always been a part of my comedy DNA (Nick and I bunked off school when it opened in 1984 to see it on the big screen). So I approached the prospect of a modern remake/retelling with a mixture of enthusiasm at 'more Ghostbusters' and trepidation about "messing with a classic".

I didn't catch this new version at the cinema, so can't say what was added in this "extended, two-and-a-quarter hours, cut", but what I can tell you is this Ghostbusters is as funny as anything.

There's enough that feels familiar to realise they didn't intend to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but enough difference to reassure you that this was never going to be a slavish, shot-for-shot retreading.

And even in 2D it brilliantly busts out of the windscreen format in ways I don't recall seeing before.

Which isn't to say everything works. The first two-thirds of the movie are fantastic, but when it gets to its third act climax it dissolves into a quite ugly surfeit of garish CGI and Prequels-level green screen.

Up until this point, most of the ghosts have been akin to those seen in Disney's Haunted Mansion attraction (with a few variations of mixed quality), but the ending just goes all-out and is too much. I'd echo a problem I had with Doctor Strange: there were special effects here purely for show that serve no story purpose.

There's also a rather peculiar 'dance number' orchestrated by the main ghost that makes you wonder if it can take over a large crowd like that, why can't it just mind-control the Ghostbusters and prevent them from thwarting his apocalyptic scheme?

It's a shame that the film goes a bit off the rails here as it is a funny, very modern, alternate universe, take on the Ghostbusters franchise, delivered by one of the great comedy directors, Paul Fieg, and four of America's funniest ladies: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.

If I had a criticism of the casting it would have been that - given these characters are most definitely not simply female versions of the original Ghostbusters - I'd have swapped Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy's roles, as having the black person play the non-scientist in the group (again!) was distractingly close to the Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore.

Even Thor's Chris Hemsworth as gormless Kevin, the team's receptionist, was surprisingly funny, but McKinnon's non-sequitur-spouting engineer, Holtzmann, was the stand-out character here.

The film famously features a lot of cameos by cast - and characters and, even, locations - from the original film.

I can kinda understand why they did this, as a nice hat tip, but it doesn't always work and can be quite distracting (I could have done without Slimer and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; Dan Aykroyd's taxi driver is a bit too forced and Bill Murray's extended cameo as ghost debunker Martin Heiss really didn't work at all for me... and I say that as a long-time Bill Murray fan).

Revisiting the old firehouse - although not as much as the trailers might have suggested - muddies the waters a bit as well, as to whether this is (maybe) a sequel to the originals (which I, personally, feel it isn't).

Overall, I found this a wildly amusing, engaging, and interesting addition to the oeuvre, that doesn't detract from the original (and even shares some themes with the less successful, but still great, Ghostbusters II from 1989), gave us more neat merchandise, and sparked a short-lived - but welcome - resurgence of interest in the Ghostbusters roleplaying game.

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