Synopsis: When her boyfriend dumps her, Emily persuades her ultra-cautious mom to accompany her on a vacation to Ecuador.
Release Date: May 12, 2017
Thoughts: 15 years. That’s how long it’s been since Goldie Hawn (Deceived) has been seen on the big screen (not counting midnight screenings of Death Becomes Her at revival houses) and for a Hawn fan like me, that’s far too long. The Goldie drought will end this Mother’s Day as the Oscar winning comedienne teams up with Amy Schumer (Trainwreck) in Snatched, a mother-daughter comedy directed by Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies). While the optimist in me is hoping for the best, Schumer’s ascent to bona-fide leading lady hasn’t been totally proven and I wasn’t a fan of screenwriter Katie Dippold’s previous buddy film The Heat. Also, remember the last time we were excited for a road-trip movie with a star that now makes infrequent appearances in movies? Yeah…we wound up with The Guilt Trip. The humor looks sophomoric and the production a bit on the cheap…but I’m interested to see what silly sparks Hawn and Schumer can make.
Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop an otherworldly threat.
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, , Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams
Review: I feel like every review of this female-led reboot of Ghostbusters should start out with a few honest admissions just to make sure we’re all on a level playing field. To admit a bias or pre-conceived notion is not only helpful in understanding where someone is coming from but it allows readers to trust that their friendly neighborhood movie critic is a straight-shooter. So…here we go.
I’m not a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters from 1985 and even less so of its goofy 1989 sequel. Watching the film again last year for its 30th anniversary, I was struck by how slow the it was. Enlivened by, ahem, spirited performances from Sigourney Weaver (Working Girl) and Rick Moranis (Parenthood), it just didn’t have the same effect on me it did when I first saw it as a five-year old.
I am a huge fan of Kristen Wiig (The Martian) and have even almost forgiven her for that dreadful 2013 entry Girl Most Likely, which happened to land on the top of my Worst of the Year List.
Though she almost lost me for life with Tammy, I’m converting back to being pretty fond of Melissa McCarthy thanks to her stellar turn in Spy and holding back just enough in The Boss.
In my book, Leslie Jones (Trainwreck) can do no wrong and I’m waiting for her to headline of movie of her own.
Kate McKinnon (Sisters) is the unquestionable VIP of the current cast of Saturday Night Live and I perk up every time she appears on that show.
I had zero qualms about this film, its cast, its trailers, or its marketing. I was looking forward to it.
I went in rooting for it, choosing to brush aside the early bad buzz as the slime fueled so-called “Ghost Bros” jumped to tear it down at every turn.
And the most honest admission of all…
This is not a great film or even, sad to say, a very good film. Is it watchable? Yeah, for the most part. Is it funny? Sporadically but it flops more than it flies. It’s not the worst reboot we’ve seen but it may be the most disappointing because the potential was there for something great. How the extremely talented roster of Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon wound up teaming on something so flat, awkward, and stupid is the biggest mystery of the summer.
While a pre-credit opening feels like a nice nod to the original film, it’s saddled with a heap of clunker jokes that don’t inspire any laughter, much less any kind of confidence in what’s to come. Wiig is back to playing her favorite character…Awkward Lady in Heels but this time she’s added a stylishly bad haircut with bangs to cap off the look. Her tenure-seeking professor is reluctantly brought back into the paranormal antics of her former colleague played by McCarthy. McCarthy is eerily restrained here, like she’s been given a tranquilizer that renders her potty mouth squeaky clean and her boisterous comedic timing nonexistent. While she does manage to fit in a few funny bits of physical comedy, this is McCarthy is full pod-person mode. When she stares down a ghost and says “Aw, shoot!” my heart broke a little for the actress I’m positive had a profanity-rific alternate take for the same scene.
McCarthy’s character has teamed up with an eccentric nuclear engineer (McKinnon) to continue her study of the supernatural and drags Wiig back into the mix when they discover a crop of ghost sightings that may be brought on by a sinister force. McKinnon is full-on Looney Tunes and what she’s doing may be just odd enough to distract you from the larger problems of the script from The Heat collaborators Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, it winds up being a performance extracted from another movie all together. It’s a shame because for her first stab at mainstream popularity Feig has allowed McKinnon too much room to play and the movie suffers greatly from it.
By the time Jones shows up as a subway worker with a knack for NYC history, it just seemed too little too late. Even though Jones gets the best moments of the movie (most of which you’ve already seen in the trailer) she, like McCarthy, feels held back by an invisible force field. Perhaps these magnetic ladies just repelled when they were brought together because while the film had some impressively rendered special effects, there’s little magic or chemistry to be had.
Evidently scared of alienating its male ticket-buyers, Sony decided to plop Chris Hemsworth (Vacation) on the poster with the four leads and that’s a bit of a puzzlement. While Hemsworth has a substantial role as the dumber than mud bit of receptionist eye candy, he’s barely required to do more than struggle through a series of painfully unfunny scenes and lead a host of extras to a badly cut dance sequence that plays over the end credits. Hemsworth, bless his Australian heart, has absolutely no comic timing and it left me wondering if the role wasn’t written with Channing Tatum in mind.
It’s no spoiler to say that most of the cast from the ’85 film pop up at some point playing different roles, even the late Harold Ramis makes a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. While these appearances trigger some nostalgia, the actors are plopped into roles that don’t seem respectfully tailored for them in the least. It’s like they told director Feig when they could show up and just took whatever part was available that day. Surprisingly, Annie Potts gets one of the biggest audience reactions while Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson) makes a frightfully terrible presence in his two scenes.
Ghostbusters has taken a lot of early heat for what is perceived as male bashing. True, every male in the film (living or dead) is portrayed as a combination of dumb and misogynistic, morally reprehensible slugs that just get in the way of these female Ghostbusters. Hemsworth is seen as such a piece of meat it’s amazing he wasn’t covered in steak sauce. So yeah, the men aren’t shown in the best of light but who cares? Women are treated far worse in film and I guess some credit should go to Feig for making a career out of putting actresses in the power positions of his movies.
I can only imagine what this could have been had it not been so stripped of the kind of slam-dunk laughs that all parties involved could probably find in their sleep. It was never going to be a profanity laced R-rated wonderment, not when there were kids to pander to and adults to not offend. So instead of Feig and company truly rebooting the franchise and doing something new, this female Ghostbusters has just as many fart jokes, bad humor, and, for those that stay until the very end, a “God I hope they greenlight a sequel” desperation as any other male-driven studio film that gets released.
Synopsis: Thirty years after the original film took the world by storm, Ghostbusters is back and fully rebooted for a new generation.
Release Date: July 15, 2016
Thoughts: When 1989’s Ghostbusters II failed to materialize big bucks like its 1984 predecessor, plans for future Ghostbusters installments were put on hold. An animated series or two and almost two decades later, Ghostbusters is revved up and ready to be rebooted. Though I wasn’t too enamored with The Heat, the last time director Paul Feig, screenwriter Katie Dippold, and star Melissa McCarthy (Spy) teamed up, our first look at the all-female team of Ghostbusters looks fairly fun and quite promising. Enlisting the stellar talents of Kristen Wiig (The Martian), Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones was a smart move so the comedy doesn’t rely solely on McCarthy’s pratfalls. If all goes as planned, rumor has it that a second set of Ghostbusters will be involved in another series of films that run parallel and overlap with the gals…but let’s take one thing at a time, shall we?
Synopsis: Uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn is paired with testy Boston cop Shannon Mullins in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. The hitch: neither woman has ever had a partner — or a friend for that matter
Review: I recall the first time I saw the trailer for The Heat and marveled at how two and a half minutes could go back without a single laugh for a film that was supposedly a comedy. Then positive early buzz had Twentieth Century Fox move it from an early spring opening to a prime June release date, so I was curious to see if the buddy cop film with two proven comedic stars (albeit adept at very different styles of comedy) partnering with the director of the wildly successful Bridesmaids may have just made a bad first impression.
Turns out it pays to trust your gut because The Heat is a barely lukewarm summer bummer, a movie that probably started out with potential but is unfortunately sacked by copious amounts of overstuffing an ungainly turkey of a film. Don’t be fooled by the cleverly cut TV spots and trailers that suggest a laugh a minute comedy awaits all those that shell out their dough because the film itself is a chore to get through.
Perhaps knowing that the movie was rushed into production to accommodate Melissa McCarthy’s other commitments provides some context to why the film feels only half thought out. I’m wondering if the script from television writer Kate Dippold (Parks and Recreation) didn’t start out as something more interesting because the movie seems to have been tailored to cater to McCarthy’s gruff comedic instincts and tweaked to make room for Bullock’s star wattage.
The film wants to have it both ways – it so desperately wants to be a hilarious genre re-defining buddy/cop picture while retaining a gritty edge with bloody violence. The trouble is that it’s not funny enough to stand on its own and not gritty enough to be salvageable as a hybrid comedy-thriller. Instead it’s a middle of the road affair with Bullock and McCarthy lost among the chaos. All the cinematic chefs in the world couldn’t make this oil and water concoction palatable even though the recipe is right in front of them.
Though McCarthy has shown up in several movies where her improv skills have been a highlight, (The Hangover Part III, This is 40) in The Heat she lets her ad-libs get the better of her and the result is akin to the feeling of being at a bad sketch comedy show where the performer can’t right her sinking, laughless ship. Her early scenes are so achingly bad and long that I half wondered if Judd Apatow didn’t direct the film instead of Paul Feig.
Worse is Bullock, so out of her element that she’d need a map to find her way into a joke and a compass to get herself out of it. I like Bullock and probably appreciate her dramatic turns more than anything lately (I’m very much looking forward to Gravity, arriving later this year) but she does herself no favors here, resisting the wise idea to simply play her Special Agent as the straight (wo)man to McCarthy’s foul-mouthed Boston cop.
That’s another thing that bothered me about the film and only goes to show you how many opportunities were missed in the quick shooting schedule. Though McCarthy is supposedly a dyed-in-the-wool Bostonian with a comically stereotypically family, there’s not a hint of an accent on her. So at a dinner scene where her family (including the woefully underused Jane Curtain) is laying the accent on thick, when McCarthy chimes in she sounds like a visitor from Idaho.
The less said about the supporting cast, the better with not one person coming close to anything resembling a committed performance. That’s largely due to the bi-polar script that feels as if it was either entirely made up or written scene-by-scene by different local comedians. Did no one read, really read, this script? It’s so formulaic and obvious that you could watch the first five minutes of the film and probably write verbatim the denouement of the bad guy and also the final scene between McCarthy and Bullock.
The few bright spots in the movie come from McCarthy…because even firing blanks she occasionally hits her target when the movie allows her to infuse the character with a little sensitivity and heart. That’s where McCarthy really gets to shine and come alive…when she’s shown as vulnerable and layered. Bridesmaids was smart in that it allowed this element to come out naturally but in The Heat it’s forced out in a way that’s no lasting fun for anyone.
There’s talk of The Heat 2 being fast tracked by the studio and if that’s the case, I fear what may await us. I can only hope that any further adventures involving McCarthy and Bullock are better crafted than the cheap looking mess masquerading as a summer blockbuster. Both actresses are better than this…you know it, I know it, and (worst of all) they know it.
Synopsis: Uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn is paired with testy Boston cop Shannon Mullins in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. The hitch: neither woman has ever had a partner — or a friend for that matter.
Release Date: April 5, 2013
Thoughts: Since winning her Oscar for The Blind Side in 2009 Sandra Bullock has kept a low profile in Hollywood. With a supporting role in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, she dipped her toe back in the cinema pond to good results and 2013 will bring two high profile projects for her. Gravity, an anticipated collaboration with George Clooney has been delayed to later in the year so that leaves us with The Heat.
Oh boy, this one looks like a rough one.
Reuniting the director of Bridesmaids (Paul Feig) with the true breakout star of that film (Melissa McCarthy) seems like a slam dunk…but if the trailer is any indication we are in for a laughless retread of any number of cop/buddy films. I recall that this film was made in a very short window that McCarthy had between projects and it has the whiff of a harried mess. McCarthy has another wack-o comedy out in February (Identity Thief) so who knows, the final product could play on the comedic strengths of both actresses but right now The Heat gets a cool reception from this reviewer.