Ghostbusters

 photo ghostbusters_ver5_zpsuplq07c1.jpg photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgI don’t think I could’ve been more primed to like this film. (1) I adore the classic 1984 comedy and the concept of a distinctly fresh version of Ghostbusters sounded like fun. (2) I am a huge fan of the cast. Melissa McCarthy has the whip-smart comic timing that can shape even a stale bit into a gem. Kristen Wiig is a genius of oft kilter humor. Up-and-comers Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are rising stars whose work on Saturday Night Live is among the most outstanding on that show right now. (3) Bridesmaids was one of the best features of 2011. It made my Top 10 for that year. Reunite the director Paul Feig with two of that picture’s personalities and watch their obvious chemistry unfold again. (4) The pre-release internet hate directed at this production was so unfounded I was tempted to give the movie a pass simply to prove the naysayers wrong.

The good news is that Ghostbusters is not the disaster that the internet predicted. Yet it’s far from the inspired reboot for which I was hoping. The set-up: Many years ago, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) collaborated on an unpopular book about paranormal phenomenon. When Gilbert realizes the book has been republished, she seeks out Yates to undo an embarrassing situation that might damage her tenure at Columbia University. In the ensuing years, Yates has continued to study the supernatural with eccentric engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Yates coaxes Gilbert into joining her on another investigation in exchange for squashing the book’s publication. And so they’re off to fight ghosts.

Joining them are MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who sees a ghost in a subway line and contacts the Department. She joins the team a while later. Jones is normally a uniquely dynamic presence on SNL but here she is given nothing more to do than pedestrian shtick.  Unfortunately the sidekick part fails to highlight the sharp comedic gifts she displays every week.  Shouting your lines doesn’t make them funnier. There’s also Kevin Beckman, a feebleminded but handsome receptionist (Chris Hemsworth). I could easily fault the “himbo” act for being nothing more than a dumb blonde role reversal joke.  The thing is, he’s actually one of the funniest things in the film. Credit his affable charisma for taking a flimsy part and making it funny.

Of the four Ghostbusters, only Kate McKinnon truly elevates her loony scientist into something interesting and original. She interprets lines that would normally fall flat in the hands of a lesser actress. By delivering them with an off beat sensibility, she makes the character her own and not a pale imitation. A relative unknown, she has the most to gain from this exposure. I suspect this credit on her resume will be a nice stepping stone to greater things in her career. However established stars McCarthy and Wiig have been lobotomized. They seriously downplay their normally quirky appeal here. Perhaps that’s admirable. This is an ensemble piece and it allows others like McKinnon and Hemsworth to shine. However, in the process we lose what makes their comedic personas so invigorating.

Ghostbusters is a largely uninspired take on a well known property. The story scores points for changing up the plot at least. Like a remix of a classic song with a new singer and modern production, it entertains based on familiarity but not through excellence or innovation. Ok so Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth are amusing, but the script hangs the rest of the cast out to dry. In lieu of a Sumerian deity from another dimension brought back from the dead, we get a nerdy petulant weirdo (Neil Casey).  He is a weak excuse for the main villain. Humor is subjective, but I rarely laughed and that’s a deal breaker when assessing a comedy. This cacophonous spectacle wants it both ways. Embrace a modern take, while constantly reminding you of nostalgia for the 1984 original. Star cameos abound with Sigourney Weaver, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts all in conspicuous bits that distract from, rather than add to the narrative. The idea of a summer blockbuster that headlines 4 women celebrated for their witty minds, and not their physical attributes, is exciting in theory. I so very wanted this movie to be spectacular. Instead it’s just barely acceptable.

07-14-16

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23 Responses to “Ghostbusters”

  1. Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

    I am not one of the “pre-release hater” crowd who holds the original in such high regard that the mere thought of this film made me want to boycott the large chain theaters running it, nor am I the hugest fan of the original (no, no sir, I think that may be you). I am not Paul Feig’s biggest fan nor the biggest fan of any of the four leading ladies in the film, nor in fact one of those ultra-politically correct feminist types who defends this movie just on principle. No, sir, I am just a filmgoer who occasionally (and not as often as I’d like) writes about what I see in my travels. I have interest in this film and while I knew it was not likely to be the travesty of cinematic justice and artistic expression (or lack thereof) that pre-haters predicted/hoped for (?) I knew it was also not to be a great revolutionary moment in modern blockbuster history. That said, I am willing to see it – but it’s not the highest on my list to see this week (no, that would be the local release of WIENER-DOG, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and even a digital screening of VANYA ON 42ND STREET but this and the documentary LIFE, ANIMATED will likely take up my pre-work Saturday afternoon) 🙂 Sorry for your disappointment

    • Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

      I will add that if this film does add anything of value to the cinematic landscape it would be great if it could spearhead discussion on the issues at the core of the backlash, but I fear it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing (more noise added to the cacophony of internet nuisance)

    • Wiener-Dog is indeed outstanding. Go see it ASAP.

      I’ve heard good things about Captain Fantastic (starring Viggo Mortensen). I *might* see it.

      I just discovered Hunt for the Wilderpeople has finally come to my local theater. Must. See. Immediately.

  2. I actually loved it. I’m glad Wiig and McCarthy’s characters weren’t written in a way that they could steal the movie. It felt like a true ensemble piece where everyone was contributing without stealing the spotlight (I did love McKinnon’s character the most). The callbacks to the original were very nice as well. I found it to be quite humorous (I did laugh a lot). Feig and crew had a very tough job with this film and they succeeded.

  3. Wow we differ quite a lot on this one. My experience with the cast is essentially the opposite to yours — Hemsworth very nearly ruined this thing for me (and I love the reverse sexism on display, way to go Feig . . . ) and I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate Ghostbusters if they had brought in the Melissa McCarthy of Spy/The Heat/Tammy. She can really turn me off a comedy quickly. Wiig was similarly excellent I thought, perfecting the deadpan still. And McKinnon was my favorite actually so we agree there.

    All I wanted was a movie that was decent and gave me some laughs. I needed it. And that’s actually what I got here, though the good laughs that come are desperately inconsistent. And I also thought the overall threat to the city was lame. That was no villain. I wasn’t even sure he was meant to be taken seriously haha

  4. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I thought I had commented on your review. It’s certainly a fair opinion but I really liked the film. I thought it was funny and I enjoyed the women working together. The action I enjoyed and I liked that they played up on a lot of the tropes of action movies. There was some nice moments of satire. The villain was kind of lame but I was charmed by it.

    • This installment wants it both ways. First to be viewed as its own independent entity – a reboot that exists completely separate from the original. Yet they keep referencing the 1984 movie with cameos and jokes. Another Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?! Really?!

      And let me highlight this fact: The failure has everything to do with the writing. It has nothing to do with the sex of the cast. The controversy surrounding this film is ridiculous.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        I went into it asking for 3 things – (1) Would the ladies have chemistry? check. (2) Would it make me laugh? for me check. (3) Would the action be enjoyable? for me check.

        So in a summer of disappointing blockbusters I thought this was B worthy. The women controversy is complete nonsense.

  5. smilingldsgirl Says:

    It really is ridiculous. We definitely agree on that and the 80s fan service was a little much but overall I left feeling entertained. I really did but I liked Central Intelligence a little better and you didnt like that so humor is just very subjective

  6. Benjamin Fastnedge Says:

    It does seem that Ghostbusters is getting rather mixed reviews, the cast are being praised for putting in good efforts but the material is just not getting there. I have not yet seen the film, but your review has certainly got me itching to see it, as I reckon there could be enough interesting things in there to appeal to Ghostbusters fans. Thanks for the review!

    • Pushing aside the “tempest in a teapot” that the casting of this film inspired a on the Internet, critics were kinder than audiences. As the casting is irrelevant to the deficiencies of the film, perhaps the critics were surreptitiously trying to counterbalance that controversy. The movie is acceptable at best – not outstanding.

      The film won’t make more than $120M. An acceptable haul for a live action comedy, but when you consider that $144M price tag, it’s a bit disappointing.

  7. I was also primed for Ghostbusters. I particularly identify with (1), (2) with regard to Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and (4). I was not on board with all the hate. I was bummed that it wasn’t terribly inspired as a reboot because I wanted it to be good. I found McKinnon, Jones (despite her pedestrian bits), and Hemsworth to be quite funny. Although I didn’t laugh much at McCarthy or Wiig, mainly because I didn’t think they were given much to work with. They both played straight characters. I loved the new gadgets the Ghostbusters got. Those were fun to see. The cameos distract like you say, and I thought the villain was weak. I was actually annoyed we got a tangible villain instead of more supernatural forces. Plus, one of my personal gripes is how obvious it is they aren’t in New York. As a Bostonian I think it would have been more interesting if they shifted the movie to take place there. It would have opened up more opportunities to do different things.

  8. I really thought this was fun. I thought the women had great chemistry. Chris was hilarious as a ding bat. I liked that they changed the story a bit, but added new surprises. 3 1/2 stars

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