The Problem With Bored Ghostbusters

Posted by Simon on July 22, 2015
Editorial

There’s a new Ghostbusters movie incoming, one that fills the boots of the titular paranormal exterminators with female ankles and has Bridesmaids and Spy director Paul Feig using his comedy experience to bring it all together. None of this is a problem, of course – anyone who declares that a female-led Ghostbusters won’t work is an idiot – but there could be a tonal issue with the reboot’s approach. The first cast picture from set shows Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones in uniform, lined up, looking bored.

And that could be a problem.

The original Ghostbusters  – played perfectly by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold Ramis, with Ernie Hudson joining part way through – don’t really know what they’re doing. Nursing a belief that they can provide evidence of telekinesis, ghosts, astral projection and so on, they go from experimenting on university students to setting up their apparition eliminator business when New York suddenly gets stuffed full with Gozer the Gozerian’s forerunners. The very living embodiment of Amy Cuddy’s “Fake It Until You Become It” theory (from her wonderful TED talk), they tread water with a mix of verbal reassurance and boyish enthusiasm. It’s wonderful to be in on the joke; to see them bedazzle with bullshit, then be filled with wide-eyed wonder as their outlandish ideas turn out to be real.

It’s one of the main draws of the first film that even the original team couldn’t get right for their own sequel. The boyish charm prevalent in its DNA, turning into barefaced tenacity with The Destroyer is chosen, is the reason why Ghostbusters has remained such a firm favourite all these years. I watched it recently and it really holds up; it’s not just the practical effects once again showing up CG, it’s the banter between the four busters that is constantly slick and downright cheeky.

So, with this first official photo of the new Ghostbusters, there’s already a level of disappointment creeping in to my early expectations. Of course, their story arc could take them from bored to confident, but as a first impression it doesn’t inspire the level of excitement that was surely hoped for. If the cast are going to cocky, or confident, then they’ve missed by some degree. Their body language screams not having a good time, with only Kate McKinnon (on the far right) having anywhere near to the kind of physical attitude that the roles require. Ghostbusters is all about having a good time. It’s important to convey that, and Paul Feig has failed at the first hurdle with this image.

At Fan Expo Vancouver in 2014 I came across a set of Ghostbusters cosplayers that blew me away. My comment on our picture of them is now especially apt:

With Ghostbusters, attitude is everything, and I hope the reboot finds its cocky feet really soon.

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