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Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)

Directed by: Paul Feig

Premise: A remake of the 1984 film. A group of female paranormal investigators (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones) develop technology to capture ghosts while supernatural activity mysteriously spikes throughout New York City.

What Works: Ghostbusters is an enjoyable reworking of the 1984 motion picture. This is primarily a comedy and the film is consistently funny. While there aren’t many big laughs the movie does deliver one joke after another at a steady clip. Ghostbusters benefits the most from its core cast.  Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones play the paranormal investigators and each of these women is a distinct character. The story primarily centers on McCarthy and Wiig’s characters, as these two have a shared history. Wiig’s character wants to be taken seriously by the scientific establishment while McCarthy is more concerned with her own work. That allows for some tension between the characters. Kate McKinnon punches up virtually every scene she is in with the wacky energy of a mad scientist while Leslie Jones brings her own flamboyant delivery to the movie. Also notable is Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters’ lazy and dimwitted receptionist; Hemsworth gets several of the best laughs in the movie. Each actor plays to his or her strengths but their different comic styles coalesce into a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts and gives the movie an identity of its own. And that is one of the most admirable aspects of this film. Ghostbusters is a remake that mostly shows good judgement as to what elements of the original to duplicate and what it ought to innovate. The general conceit of the original Ghostbusters remains: three scientists and a blue collar worker go into business while a major paranormal event threatens New York City. Of the many reboots and remakes of the past decade, 2016’s Ghostbusters most closely resembles 2009’s Star Trek. There is enough fan service in the form of cameos and familiar dialogue but the new Ghostbusters isn’t obnoxious about it. The overall plot is similar but it doesn’t feel as though the movie is going through the motions or that it was written by committee. There’s enough new ideas here to keep it interesting while retaining the core appeal of the Ghostbusters property.

What Doesn’t: Ghostbusters was directed by Paul Feig, who has made some very good comedies including Spy and Bridesmaids. However, his movies often lack storytelling economy. The new Ghostbusters is too baggy, especially in the middle. The film doesn’t have a concrete sense of purpose. Throughout this film a disillusioned citizen (Neil Casey) amplifies supernatural activity in the hope of bringing about the apocalypse. The filmmakers don’t adequately develop this plotline, instead dwelling on banter between the main cast that doesn’t advance the story. In a related problem, Ghostbusters isn’t edited very well. Some of the action sequences don’t quite cut together and even the non-action scenes are clumsy. Ghostbusters delivers in its climax but the finale is very familiar from other tent pole movies like The Avengers. The new movie never escapes the shadow of the original Ghostbusters and because it hews closely to the premise and plot of the original, the remake begs for comparison. There are several elements that this remake does less well than the 1984 picture. The original Ghostbusters was a going-into-business story. That grounded the Ghostbusters conceit in something tangible. This isn’t done so well in the remake. There’s less comedy in the capitalistic elements and it’s unclear how these women are paying for their new business or if they are even charging for their services. As a result, the film lacks the blue collar appeal of the original Ghostbusters and doesn’t substitute it with anything.

Bottom Line: The specter of the original Ghostbusters haunts this remake and the new film isn’t an instant classic. However, the new Ghostbusters does accomplish what it set out to do: concoct a fun mix of comedy and supernatural action that reintroduces the series to a younger generation.

Episode: #604 (July 24, 2016)