News broke (okay, a tweet was sent) last night about Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot: the receptionist role originated by Annie Potts will be played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth.
— Paul Feig (@paulfeig) June 10, 2015
Given that Feig is clearly a big fan of SNL, I’d like to think that this sketch drove to him to give Hemsworth a call.
As you can tell from that clip, and from watching the otherwise banal Thor movies or his performance alongside the other Avengers, Hemsworth is funny. If we’re lucky, we might be looking at the kind of acclaim and reputation boost that Melissa McCarthy got from Feig’s Bridesmaids and Jason Statham is getting from his current movie Spy (which is great, according to me and Devin Mitchell on this week’s M&M Report). Coupled with his appearance in another upcoming reboot of a beloved 80s comedy – Vacation – Hemsworth appears to be taking a welcome left turn from the muscular leading man roles he’s been typecast in since Thor.
This news also made me think about Paul Feig’s strengths and weaknesses. Having just seen Spy and already enjoyed The Heat and Bridesmaids, the biggest strength of his movies is in the casting. He knows funny when he sees it, and he can wring funny out of people you wouldn’t otherwise expect to be funny (Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids, Statham in Spy). He’s not a masterful visual stylist or a cutting-edge genre filmmaker, but he has an appealing sense of comic timing and a knack for putting actors in the right places to shine. The prospect of seeing Hemsworth, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones assimilated into his comedy-positive universe, alongside Feig favorites McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, is exciting indeed.
I’d be careful of imagining a Ghostbusters reboot that’s wildly imaginative or narratively ambitious. Those qualities aren’t really in Feig’s wheelhouse. The excitement of seeing a Paul Feig movie is in seeing a promising piece of casting like Hemsworth as the receptionist in practice. In a time when special effects seem to be the highest priority in too many Hollywood movies, Feig’s movies rest on the people in them, a welcome change of pace.