“Ghostbusters” Movie Review


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     No film set for release in the Summer of 2016 endured more negative buzz than director Paul Feig’s (“Bridesmaids”) revival of “Ghostbusters”, which features Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones taking over for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson in the signature roles that made the 1984 original a classic. It’s important to point out these four ladies give every bit of their comedic all from the first scene to the last, but the script, written by Feig and Katie Dippold (“The Heat”) brings nothing new to the table for these talented actresses to work with.  Instead, this quasi remake of the original (The story doesn’t refer back to the events of the 1984 film as having happened.) relies on the same framework and character development while only offering the latest in visual effects as the primary upgrade.

     Much has been made lately about the apparent need for gender role reversal in which the women take the lead in stories that were traditionally designed for men.  You could say Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig have led this charge solely based on their recent offerings which include “The Hangover” style gender reversal “Bridesmaids” (2011), the buddy cop reversal “The Heat” (2013), the spy genre reversal “Spy” (2015), and now the latest being “Ghostbusters”.  The reality is, these supposed gender barriers were broken long ago with 1979’s “Alien” ushering in one of the most notable gender switches of all time.  No one thought Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (and her cat) would be the only survivors of the seven person crew that was mercilessly stalked by the most horrific monster creation in all of cinema.  And yet, moviegoers embraced the idea, allowing for the story to continue via several sequels and thus creating the most badass heroine in film history.  If you ask me McCarthy and Feig came late to the party.  Not to mention Tarantino did the exact same thing with Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo in his “Kill Bill” films (2003, 2004), creating a character who sliced and diced 88 hitmen in one scene!

     All of this begs the question, why are filmmakers so focused on remaking familiar and overused concepts over and over again in order to put women in the lead roles?  Why not steal a page from the Ridley Scott or Quentin Tarantino playbook and create something original for these ladies and their abundant talent?  Instead, Feig goes with what he thinks will work, which is to say a basic re-creation of Ivan Reitman’s original.  McCarthy’s Abby Yates spouts off the same over your head scientific garble that Dan Aykroyd’s Dr. Raymond Stantz was so memorable for.  Wiig’s Erin Gilbert flaunts herself to the opposite sex in much the same way Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman did with the various women in his sights.  And even Jones’ Patty Tolan, a New York subway teller who joins the team midway through, channels the same no nonsense, streetwise attitude of her apparent predecessor, Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore.  The only character who feels fresh and therefore is a true bright spot within this foursome is the performance turned in by Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon who obviously had a ball playing Jillian Holtzman, the physicist sidekick of Abby who invents all of the cool gadgets.  While the others are whining, giggling, or spouting off one liners, McKinnon infuses the film with the only truly funny personality. Chris Hemsworth’s inclusion as the receptionist hired for his looks, adds little more than a character for Wiig to swoon over as he zings us with lines designed to portray him as utterly stupid.

     As far as the plot goes, you’ve already seen it at least once.  There is an opening scene much like the library scene in the original, which is designed to call your attention to the looming threat, though you don’t actually see it yet.  From there, the familiar Ray Parker Jr. tune takes over and we are introduced scene by scene to each of the four main characters.  As all of this transpires, Feig inserts several well timed cameos into the proceedings which will likely have the opposite effect of what the filmmakers were actually going for.  When I saw Bill Murray appear as a scholar who specializes in debunking ghost sightings as being hoaxes, all I could think about is how effective he was in the original, rather than seeing him as a new character in this update/reboot/remake or whatever they are calling it.  The same goes for the other cameos as well, which are evenly spread out through the story, and each giving you the same thought.

     With the exception of McKinnon, there’s nothing here that will remain memorable beyond next week when you trek to the theater once again for the latest theatrical offering.  Some nifty casting that includes Zach Woods (“Silicon Valley”), Matt Walsh and Sam Richardson (“Veep”), and Michael Kenneth Williams (“The Wire”) yields nothing close to the supporting character created by Rick Moranis in the original and that’s a shame since those who watch each of those shows knows the talent involved.  Perhaps the biggest hole in the script is the lack of a love interest for any of the characters.  In the first film, the crew had tremendously higher stakes with Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett falling prey to evil ghosts and Murray’s Peter Venkman leading the charge to both save the city and his new love.  This updated version lacks the emotion necessary for the audience to become invested in what they do and when the climactic third act arrives, they are saving what might as well be a faceless city filled with an endless array of CGI ghosts.  As the tagline famously says, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts”, but I am afraid of the obligatory sequel we’ll be seeing in two or three years that will represent money which could’ve been spent on something original instead.  GRADE: D