‘Ghostbusters’ Entertains, But Lacks the Paul Feig Edge

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO –Throughout the reboot of “Ghostbusters,” it becomes obvious that co-writer/director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “The Heat”) is just going to do a straight re-do of the 1984 film, because the film lacks his sardonic touch, even though it does entertain and has the requisite big special effects.

The film amuses, but is rarely laugh-out-loud funny. It chooses to focus on ghost busting itself, which means lots of running towards the next adventure, an over-analyzing on what the ghosts are or mean, and less commentary on the absurdity of it all. Except for Kate McKinnon – and maybe Kristen Wiig – the all female G-busters are stripped of any character or personality, and could have been played by anybody. Why cast Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones (of “Saturday Night Live”) if you can’t let them loose? There are great special effects, the film used amazing modern techniques that weren’t available in 1984, but the humans and their jokes take a backseat to that overindulgence.

Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a professor on the fast track at a prestigious New York City university, until her past starts to catch up with her. Early in her career, she paired with Abby (Melissa McCarthy) to write a book on the paranormal and ghosts, and Abby has re-issued the book to fund her work at a lesser college. When Erin visits the lab, she meets Jillian (Kate McKinnon), Abby’s partner in ghost research.

Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon are the ‘Ghostbusters’
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

When the three investigate a haunting at an old New York City mansion, the publicity gets Erin fired. Undeterred, the newly formed Ghostbusters find space on top of a Chinese restaurant, and add a “himbo” receptionist named Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) and a subway worker named Patty (Leslie Jones) as the fourth ‘buster, after she sees some spooky apparitions on the underground tracks. It turns out that these spirits are part of an opening of a vortex between the real and ghost worlds. Who ya gonna call?

The story has too much of a plot, but that becomes secondary once the effects kick in – I suspect that’s what the production thought the audience wanted, as evidenced by the film itself. There was a lot of backlash to this reboot, mostly having to do with an all-female cast, but really the humans in the film are secondary to the computer generated ghosts, which are more elaborate and animated than the ghosts in the previous films.

What was lost was the hilarious edge that writer/director Paul Feig brings to his movies. By taking on “Ghostbusters,” Feig had to give up his trademark sarcasm, that usually comments upon and is part of the action – think his interpretation of “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” – and concentrate on not screwing up the legacy of the previous “Ghostbusters” film. It’s as if he read the internet backlash before even approaching the film. It just didn’t seem like a Paul Feig movie.

The main cast does its best, but Melissa McCarthy, and especially Leslie Jones – with her manic and funnier “SNL” persona – were sorely underutilized. That gave Kate McKinnon (also of “SNL”) the opportunity to steal the picture, as a sort of socially challenged scientist nerd with punk rock hair. Even ordinary dialogue were pushed through this filter, and McKinnon brought some much needed weirdness to the proceedings.

Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) is the Beefcake in ‘Ghostbusters’
Photo credit: Columbia Pictures

The supporting cast and cameos from the former “Ghostbusters” cast were the laziest part of the story. Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”) was obvious as a one-joke character, but managed some heavy lifting toward the end. Neil Casey was the “villain,” but had less personality than a comic book bad guy. The cameos were bland, and should have been more clever – it’s interesting that the less showy members of the first film cast, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson, gave the standout re-appearances.

However, this is Ghostbusters, dammit, and there is enough here to provide what was necessary. This won’t make anyone forget the beloved 1984 version, and it doesn’t break any new ground. It will be up to the ghosts of the box office receipts to determine whether further adventures will be necessary.

“Ghostbusters” opens everywhere on July 15th, in regular, 3D and IMAX showings. See local listings for 3D and IMAX theaters and show times. Featuring Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson. Written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold. Directed by Paul Feig. Rated “PG-13.”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2016 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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