Ever since the female Ghostbusters reboot was conceived, Internet haters have railed against the idea. Unfair, I say. Sure, the original 1984 classic starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and the late great Harold Ramis was a comic classic, and its 1989 sequel was pretty good too. But it has been 27 years since we had a Ghostbusters feature, and times have changed.
Female power is at an all-time high. Britain is about to have only its second woman Prime Minister, and Hillary Clinton is poised to become the first woman ever nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. So why do some guys say women can’t also hunt ghosts on the big screen, especially with comedic talent of the likes of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones? That’s not to mention director and co-writer Paul Feig (who scripted with Katie Dippold), who is responsible for Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy? As I say in my video review above, they all prove they are up to the task, delivering a slick, sublimely slimy update just as expected, even daring to use the 1984 original’s title with no apology — though Ghostbusters 2.0 might have been more appropriate.
The good news is this: Ghostbusters is fun stuff and perfectly suited summer entertainment. The not-so-good news is, considering the level of talent involved, it is not nearly as funny as you might hope it would be. Yes, it is a daunting task to match the laughs and character development of the original, but it seems Feig and company might have been a little intimidated to even try.
The CGI effects and all the trappings are there, but some level of genuine original humor and writing that might have put its own stamp on the concept has been lost in the sausage-making process. McCarthy, so good in Feig’s other films including her Oscar-nominated turn in Bridesmaids, not only doesn’t have the chemistry she had with Wiig in that film, she seems unduly restrained as this group’s leader, the nerdy Abby. This is McCarthy in a lower key — perfectly fine but not swinging for the fences in comedy terms. Wiig also seems to be flailing around for laughs as Erin, a smart woman reduced to pining for their sexy but none-too-bright assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). SNL‘s McKinnon and Jones fare best, especially McKinnon, who, as the gadget-getter Jillian, does more with a look and a line reading than anyone in the cast. She’s a scene stealer. Another SNL‘er, Cecily Strong, also is on board as a city official trying to denigrate the ladies.
Ironically, I have to say it was the guy who made me laugh the most, with Hemsworth showing surprising chops in the comedy department and definitely livening up these proceedings, which remain faithful to the basic concept of these films. Some of the plot turns are dopey, and the villain — a bullied guy named Rowan (Neil Casey) — is a washout. It’s nice to see cameos from the likes of Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson and Sigourney Weaver (whose brief appearance at the end signals a possible sequel), and the film is dedicated to Ramis, whose comic touch as co-star and co-writer on the original films definitely is missed.
I also was thrilled to see Slimer and of course the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man back in action. And hey, if you take the movie on its own terms — admittedly hard to do considering its lineage — it’s a nice romp. There is even an acknowledgement of some of the haters with one of the comments on an Internet story about the female team writing, “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.” These “bitches” do just fine, buddy. I just wish they were allowed to be funnier. Still, I will settle for what we have and hope for even better the next time.
Producers are original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal, her first producing credit since exiting as chief of Sony Pictures. Village Roadshow was behind the production in association with Columbia Pictures. Sony is hoping slime is in for a big comeback when the film is released Friday.
Do you plan to see Ghostbusters? Let us know what you think.