|'None of the four leads are terrible, but none are anywhere near strong enough to lift Ghostbusters out of its real problems'.|
Whilst I refuse to make it the main focus of my review, the torrent of vitriol that has cascaded around Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot ever since it was first announced has to be addressed in some manner. So I'm getting it out of the way early on: the female quartet leading the film as the new version of the eponymous team are not the source of the film's problems.
That's not to say they shine either: Kristen Wiig is entirely forgettable, and whilst Melissa McCarthy delivers a far more understated and palatable performance than in her previous collaborations with Feig, she's still not great. Leslie Jones is okay, but isn't strong enough to break free from the occasions (of which there are too many) where Feig attempts to derive humour from her character her being a loud black woman. Which leaves Kate McKinnon to deliver the only successful comedy performance through a character made up of wild idiosyncrasies and cultural references which, when stripped away, leave nothing at the core.
That might sound like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm not: none of the four leads are terrible, but none are anywhere near strong enough to lift Ghostbusters out of its real problem, namely that Feig's film is a structural and narrative mess. After rushing to bring his new team together in the first act, the director then allows matters to drag during the middle section for no reason, before delivering a finale heavy on CGI and light on everything else. There's an attempt to conclude a story arc between Erin Gilbert (Wiig) and Abby Yates (McCarthy), but when it's been forgotten since the start of the film with zero development in between, this of course feels entirely artificial.
Outside of the Ghostbusters team, Feig's characters comprehensively fall flat. Chris Hemsworth has shown he can make comedy work from time to time in the MCU, but here as idiot receptionist Kevin every joke fails. One-dimensional antagonist Rowan's (Neil Casey) trite backstory feels as though it probably took Feig and his writing partner Kate Dippold approximately five seconds to think up, and is dismissed by the film's heroes just as quickly. The cameos by several 1984 cast members are a mixed bag: Dan Aykroyd's is brief but successful, Bill Murray's is unnecessarily drawn out and self-indulgent, the rest fall somewhere in the middle.
Add to this the fact that Feig clearly doesn't know what he wants his Ghostbusters to be. There's an awkward mismatch between the elements clearly aimed at children and those that could only appeal to older members of the audience. An early fart joke (such is the level Feig generally aims for) is a prime example, starting out as a childish giggle before ill-advisedly transforming into something much more adult. As a filmmaker, Feig is simply not accomplished enough to make Ghostbusters work as something which appeals to both kids and grown-ups, ultimately presenting a film haphazardly directed from a script which simply isn't funny enough.