It still surprises me to see 1984’s “Ghostbusters” venerated by so many. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fun movie with good characters, lots of big effects, and some really funny moments. But going back to my first viewing I never considered it to be the great film that others do. Perhaps that’s why I wasn’t up in arms when I heard the announcement of a remake featuring an all-female team. It also may be why I wasn’t excited for the remake. Well, the crummy trailers didn’t help either. Sadly the trailers and the movie have a lot in common.
Now before I’m accused of mean, closed-minded misogyny remember, I’m no Ghostbusters fanboy or apologist. There are certainly those who have instantly dismissed the movie due to its female leads. But there are also those who have lashed out at any criticisms of the film regardless of their validity. The truth is the movie just isn’t that good. Not because women were cast. Not because of sexism.
Paul Feig co-writes and directs what turns out to be run-of-the-mill popcorn movie fare. Pieces were in place for what could have been something fun and original. Instead it follows a fairly traditional summer blockbuster blueprint – (1)origin story, (2)buildup, (3)loud, unwieldy, CGI-heavy finale.
There are moments where this new Ghostbusters shows promise. The first 30 minutes or so does a pretty good job of setting up the characters and showing how they come together. To the credit of the ladies, they do their best with what they are given, some better than others. There is also a really fun performance by Chris Hemsworth. In a funny bit of satirical gender swapping, Hemsworth plays an air-headed but good looking secretary. The film has a lot of fun with that.
As for the new Ghostbusters, Kristen Wiig is particularly good and her quirky self-effacing humor is a perfect fit for her character. Melissa McCarthy is surprisingly dialed-back and I enjoyed the calmer variation of her usual tiresome schtick. Kate McKinnon has some really funny moments but she is also letdown by the script on several occasions. Leslie Jones is dealt the worst hand from the writers. Her character is paper-thin and given some of the worst lines in the entire movie. But again, the ladies give it their all.
Here’s the thing, you can have the most committed cast, but that means nothing without a good script. Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold do a good job of developing the team’s camaraderie but not much past that. For every mildly amusing joke there are five that fall flat and some that are simply cringe-worthy. Storywise there really isn’t much to it once you get past the origin stuff. The Ghostbusters form. Everyone’s skeptical. Ghosts attack. Ghostbusters save the day. Basically everything outlined in the trailer.
Andy Garcia shows up now and then as the New York City mayor, and there is an uninteresting villain (Neil Casey) tossed in to no effect. They offer little to the story which noticeably starts losing steam about halfway through and culminates in a long, effects-heavy ending which looks good but that’s about it.
So what to make of “Ghostbusters”? While it may have been the most unfairly maligned film of the year prior to its release, it may also end up being the most overhyped movie of the year. Some people wanted the film to fail and never gave it a chance from the start. Others want it to succeed so bad that they are impervious to the film’s obvious flaws. But that stuff aside, it really is a shame. Instead of doing something memorable with the great chemistry we see from the cast, “Ghostbusters” settles for being another in a long line of mediocre 80’s movie remakes.
VERDICT – 2 STARS