Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Supernatural Action and some Crude Humor
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold & Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey & Charles Dance
I wasn’t looking forward to 2016’s GHOSTBUSTERS. It’s not that the 1984 classic was a huge part of my childhood (it wasn’t) or that I’m a sexist chauvinistic jerk who bashes anything with female leads (I’m not). It’s just that the film’s marketing was piss-poor. This is especially true of the painfully bad trailers, with every joke falling flat and the overall film looking terrible. Sony’s response to claim that every outspoken critic was an automatic “sexist” or “immature man-child” was also infuriating and ridiculous. I was not up for seeing or reviewing this film, until I received impromptu free movie tickets. Suddenly, my curiosity was ignited enough to give this GHOSTBUSTERS remake/reboot (whatever the hell you want to call it) a shot. Having finally seen one of the most talked about movies of 2016, I feel this new GHOSTBUSTERS is not good or bad…or worthy of its already established controversy. This horror-comedy is a middle-of-the-road experience with positive qualities and an equal amount of negative qualities.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a college professor on the verge of getting tenure, but the resurgence of a paranormal book she co-authored with her ex-best-friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) threatens her livelihood. Through a strange set of circumstances, Erin and Abby become besties again…along with quirky inventor Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). The trio discover an actual ghost and decide to become professional paranormal researchers. However, their newly chosen career is met with understandable skepticism. The ghost-busting business starts booming when strange supernatural entities pop up around New York City. Evil genius Rowan (Neil Casey) is trying to unleash a ghostly apocalypse. With the help of streetwise Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), the four women unite to become the Ghostbusters and try to stop Rowan’s evil plans of paranormal pandemonium.
The GHOSTBUSTERS reboot/remake is a mixed bag through and through. This is especially evident in the main performances. Kristen Wiig has been funny in the past and so has Melissa McCarthy (SPY was one of the best comedies I saw last year), but both play serious straight-women to the wacky Kate McKinnon and loud-mouthed Leslie Jones. As a result, Wiig and McCarthy didn’t really deliver any jokes that worked. All the laughs I got out of the main cast actually came Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann and Leslie Jones’ Patty, two characters that looked annoying in the previews. Though McKinnon and Jones have their share of wooden moments, they mostly succeed as their colorful characters.
The new GHOSTBUSTERS really drops the ball in its side characters. Besides a few show-stopping cameos from original cast members (one of which was hilarious and contributed to the main plot), the only notable supporting roles are Chris Hemsworth as a dim-witted receptionist (receiving big laughs) and forgettable bad guy Rowan. Neil Casey’s villain is a bland antagonist, who’s only motivation is that he was bullied in school. I know this because he wouldn’t stop monologuing about it. Rowan is boring and his final showdown is eye-rollingly obnoxious (repeating a tired trope that was seen in the other two GHOSTBUSTERS films). Though they only make up a combined screen time of five minutes, Charles Dance got some chuckles as an uptight college professor and Andy Garcia is slightly wacky as the nervous mayor.
For a movie that clocks in at just under two hours, 2016’s GHOSTBUSTERS feels like it’s constantly going to get fun and exciting, but never kicks off into fully being either of those things. Aside from one sequence at a concert and another moment in which the crew test out newly invented equipment, the ghostbusting is sparse in this reboot. The effects-heavy climax is a bit of a mess with a repetitive blaster battle between the Ghostbusters and a never-ending horde of apparitions. While one moment was distinctly cut due to studio meddling and can be seen as a deleted scene in the credits, turning a goofy plot point into a gaping plot hole.
Concerning the ghosts themselves, the film’s effects resemble the campy, cartoony animation from last year’s highly enjoyable GOOSEBUMPS. There are a couple of creature cameos from 1984’s GHOSTBUSTERS, with Slimer being a huge plus, but the apparitions mostly consist of generic pilgrims, pirates, and a giant monster that was eye-rollingly stupid. There’s also a dragon in this movie. Though it’s in one of the film’s best moments, I was really curious as to why this monster was considered to be a ghost…because it’s a friggin’ dragon. Maybe, I’m just nitpicking, but this supernatural creature really bothered me as its presence is never commented on for, you know, being a mythical creature and not strictly a ghost.
2016’s GHOSTBUSTERS is watchable and has a few legitimately good moments worth mentioning. Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth are standouts, while one particular cameo is great. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and the lame villain are dull and the movie never fully kicks off into the fun ghost-hunting adventure that it should be. Half of the jokes hit (one running gag kept me laughing) and the other half miss (did we really need a queef comment or a “kick him in the balls” scene?). In the end, 2016’s GHOSTBUSTERS is a thoroughly middle-of-the-road experience.