Paul Feig’s much discussed remake of Ghostbusters comes with more baggage than any summer movie this year. The online and real-world animosity towards the project sprung mostly from a rotten early trailer. There was also the bigger question: since the original came out in 1984, is one of the best comedies of its decade and established the bar so high for every subsequent f/x-driven comedy, why try to reinvent an already perfect wheel? Was the insistence from Sony Pictures to make this truly justified beyond franchise dollars? After all, do we really need another subpar remake?
The original and pivotal lead Bill Murray was famously unwilling to make an official Ghostbusters III. His equally essential co-star, Harold Ramis, is no longer among us. What Feig and his talented collaborators have come up with is no disaster, entertaining in parts but still an interesting failure.
Kristin Wiig stars as Erin Gilbert, a university scientist, longing for professional acknowledgement, whose book on the paranormal has “literally and figuratively” come back to haunt her. Gilbert teams with a former colleague (Melissa McCarthy), a wacked out techno genius (Kate McKinnon) and a subway worker (Leslie Jones) to investigate a string of ghost sightings throughout the Big Apple.
The lingering controversy surrounding the decision to cast four women in the leads is sexist and stupid. Feig’s movies (as well as decades of cinema and television) have proven female leads, comedic training or not, are more than capable at carrying a film without the help of male co-stars. The problem here isn’t the sex change of the four central characters but an uneven ensemble and a screenplay that flat lines when it should be funny.
McCarthy is strangely subdued here (this is hardly the movie to keep it reigned in) and Wiig’s one-note, whispered line readings were fine for Bridesmaids but render her bland here. The lesser known SNL vets, Mckinnon and Jones, are far better and should have been in the foreground more. Placing former Ghostbusters stars (including a wasted Murray) in tiny, thankless roles was a big mistake.
The plot mostly recreates every scene from the original but to lesser effect. Having Chris Hemsworth in a comedic role, so soon after his appearance in the disastrous Vacation remake, does him no favors. Once again, the joke is how attractive he is. Somebody stop him before he appears in another ’80s era remake.
In addition to a forced concept (will two former best friends reconcile? Will bustin’ make me feel good?), the villain on hand is awful, both in concept and the way he’s played. Master character actor Charles Dance is in the cast and, strangely, not playing the bad guy.
The gags are light, obvious and lazy but the special effects are impressive. Questioning plausibility in a movie like this is pointless but the logic of the big finale is lost on me. Why is Times Square full of signs and landmarks from every decade of the 20th century? Has the whole movie fallen into a scrambled dimension with no discernible past or present? Oh well, at least this lively spectacle has lots of great ghost bustin’ action and some wild visuals.
I enjoyed the return of Slimer but the more-is-more problem with most summer movies is present here. There are no less than four versions of the classic title song and only Ray Parker Jr.’s original is any good. As for the moments that cheekily address the online hatred towards the movie, reference the original and push female empowerment, it’s all too soft.
Feig’s Bridesmaids and Spy didn’t have McKinnon lustily licking a proton gun but both were constantly hilarious and felt like radical examples of female-led comedies. His Ghostbusters has some creative juice but is a better toy commercial than a comedy. The preferred follow-up to the first ‘bust is still Ghostbusters II.