Published on October 8th, 2016 | by Dan Gvozden0
GHOSTBUSTERS – REVIEW
The specter of the original 1984 comedy hit Ghostbusters looms large over the recently released, gender-swapped reboot of the same name. Instead of fighting a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the team readies their proton packs to take down a giant version of their iconic logo. For much of the new film’s padded runtime, writer/director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is so caught up embracing and battling against the original film’s iconography that it never finds time to figure out what to do with all the new elements it brings, specifically its cast of female comedy superstars.
Yes, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are the new female Ghostbusters in a new timeline for the series, one that forgets about Gozer and pink slime that allowed the Statue of Liberty to go on a New York City skyscraper-kicking rampage. Here, in a far friendlier, present-day New York City, Kristen Wiig’s Erin is a fearful academic who worries that her past as a ghost believer and published author on the paranormal might prevent her from attaining tenure at a prestigious university. The biggest threat to her continued career comes in the form of Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates, her former co-author, who has been secretly selling their book on the internet and out of her unorthodox science lab.
Conveniently enough, the two are reunited when they are requested, along with Abby’s ghost-hunting partner Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), to investigate a supposed haunting in a nearby historical building. The threat turns out to be real, Erin loses her job, and the quest to prove and expose the existence of ghosts is on, along with the aid of a loud and New York-savvy MTA worker named Patty (Leslie Jones).
Watching the team come together is mostly a joy and a new wrinkle in the Ghostbusters formula; the first film skipped past this portion to get right to the bustin’ process. With Holtzmann providing gonzo tech for the team, seeing how the various members get it right and wrong while encountering their first ghosts provides a lot of solid laughs and light scares. Audiences will get an immediate feel for this film’s distinct blend of comedy, which is decidedly less dry, sarcastic and blue-collar than the previous series, and is instead goofy, colorful and over-the-top.
With the clear goal of establishing the team and their weaponry, Ghostbusters starts with a carefree attitude and decently paced momentum that allows audiences to forgive its factory-pressed style and plot conveniences. It’s with the introduction of the classic firehouse that Ghostbusters begins to crumble, introducing more and more characters, obsessively referencing the previous films (to its detriment), laboring over its low-reward comedy, and indulging in unbelievable CGI that distracts from the characters and their goals.
The biggest sin of this female-led Ghostbusters is that it isn’t the female characters that even get the biggest laughs. Instead, Chris Hemsworth as their gorgeous but dimwitted secretary steals every scene he’s in, providing a humorous counter to the female eye-candy stereotype that’s commonplace in most male-driven films. There’s a sense that the filmmakers aren’t quite sure what do with each actress’ unique flavor of comedy and instead just settled on letting them improvise with each other to build out the scenes. This relegates Leslie Jones to shouting insanities that often don’t make comedic sense, Kate McKinnon to mug wildly at the camera every time it cuts to her (which is often), and Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, two of the funniest women working in comedy, to just trying to keep things going with a “yes and …” approach.
There are whole sequences where the filmmakers must have set the cameras down and allowed the various actors to just improvise the funniest lines they could for the camera. This is a sin that’s not unique to Ghostbusters, but in a film that’s so dependent on establishing unique characters, it becomes frustrating to watch the actors repeatedly slip out of character in an attempt to be funny.
At least four members of the original cast of Ghostbusters were funny in different ways. Viewers of the original got a sense that these were four actors (plus stupendous supporting cast) working at the top of their games with a script and filmmaking team that knew how to take advantage of their distinct personalities. Surprisingly enough, much of the original cast returns to make their extended cameos here, but even then they halt the film and are distractingly humorless. In the case of Bill Murray, he seems to be barely interested in even getting the paycheck that must have drawn him back to the property.
The Ghostbusters series deserves to continue, especially with a cast as talented as the one in this film. However, the material and filmmaking is lazy and overly reverent to the previous films, enough to cast this film into the growing collection of unnecessary remakes. In the words of Ray Parker, “Bustin’ makes you feel good,” just not in this particular film.