If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you going to call? We all know exactly who we’d call. Ghostbusters has been a household name since it’s original release in 1984 and a staple in movie collections for millions of fans. Why? The cast, the effects, the story, and the clever humor keeps us watching it over and over. Writer/director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Walk Hard, The Heat) has taken on the challenge of reviving this classic for a new audience. With some excellent comedies under his belt, it seems Ghostbusters 2016 (G16) would be in good hands. However, what we are given is a dumbed-down reboot that only connects itself to long-time fans and the original film through lazy cameos.
Ghostbusters makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of hilarious new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original franchise took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today–Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This summer, they’re here to save the world! ~ Sony Pictures
I hate to burst Sony’s bubble, but there are a few adjectives in that description I wouldn’t use to describe G16. However, the extremely blase nature of that blurb may actually portray the film to a tee.
Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is a professor at a prestigious New York university who is nearing tenure. Unbeknownst to her, her former friend Abby (McCarthy) has published a book they co-wrote together several years ago on the paranormal. When Erin discovers that her name is now connected to her less-than-reputable past via Amazon and Google, she tracks down Abby to try and shut it down and save her career. Antics ensue, more characters are introduced, and the supernatural is suddenly everywhere to be found and documented. Unlike its predecessor, the story of G16 is terribly unoriginal and full of plot-holes, and solutions to problems are incredibly convenient.
Obvious tactics are used to mask the boring storyline, such as over the-top-special effects and sad little cameos from the original cast. There is nothing remotely scary about the ghosts – they look like they came out of Eddie Murphy’s Haunted Mansion and took a pitstop in Neverland before appearing in G16. I attended the 3D version of the film, and if you’ve read any of my past reviews you know I am critical of the use of 3D. I prefer for it to be used to enhance incredible graphics and give them a sense of realism. This is not the case here…it’s a gimmick used to entice more people to spend the extra cash on their ticket. If you like the tired application of objects flying at you while you are watching a film, you will enjoy seeing this in 3D. If you require a bit more out of your cinematography (but still feel like you must see G16 in the theater) there is no reason to purchase the more expensive tickets.
If there is anything that Ghostbusters gets right, its the casting. All the actors here are tried and true comedians with excellent timing. Wiig and McCarthy play off each other beautifully, though they have limited material to work with. However, it’s sad when more laughs have to come from Chris Hemsworth’s ditsy secretary character thanks to unimaginative writing. Leslie Jones plays Patty Tolan, and her character interjects a little blue collar relief in a movie full of big words, but it’s Kate McKinnon who really steals the show in this ghost-catching quartet. Her character, Jillian, is quirky and dark – but even those aspects become tiresome after an hour of relying on them for a laugh. I think with better writing these actresses could have fully realized the potential of their characters which lies just below the surface of what we are actually given. These gals are funny, but it’s the material that’s beneath our expectations of this franchise. It’s like Feig is trying to convince everyone – including himself – that he knows his science jargon. Most of the dialog comes out in strings of nearly unpronounceable word that sounds very smart – but without a ‘Peter Venkman’ to keep the audience connected with humorous layman explanations it just becomes filler noise between ridiculous ghost fights.
Yes, you heard me – ghost fights. The plot finally devolves into a final battle in which somehow ghosts are reduced to glowy, whispy puddles of goo. Why, you may ask? Seems like Feig’s answer is, “Why not?” When you have clever comedic material to work with but you reduce it to a huge, cartoon-y, special effects popcorn-movie, I suppose you just have to grip the reigns and go for it. There are two other aspects to Ghostbusters that really twist the knife – Dan Aykroyd is an executive producer and the ending sets us up for a sequel.
Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t clever, doesn’t have the heart that the original had, and verges on being boring most of the time. If you absolutely have to see it in theaters, at least save a few dollars and see it in 2D – you won’t miss out on anything. The 1984 version had special effects that were incredible for its time, but Ramos and Aykroyd were confident enough in their writing and comedic chemistry that they didn’t overshadow the all-important dialog and character interactions with wacky ghost fights and silly gadgets. It was the implausible interjections in a plausible world that made the original so successful. Feig throws that method out the window and opts to please with low hanging fruit.