FILM REVIEW – GHOSTBUSTERS. With Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth. Written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. Directed by Paul Feig. Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor. 116 minutes.
Why are we getting a GHOSTBUSTERS remake (or “reboot” if you prefer)? For no good reason except the studio owned the rights and they could do it. It beats coming up with something original, right?
The movie is a mess from start to finish, not counting the green slime. From the opening jokes that fall flat in quick succession to an incoherent third act that has so many loose threads that a musical production number gets dumped into the closing credits, it’s clear that the people in charge had no idea what they were doing. Putting director Paul Feig in charge, perpetrator of “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” and “Spy,” guarantees that the comedy will be heavy-handed and often tasteless.
For those just coming in who are unfamiliar with the 1984 original, New York is under increasing attacks by ghosts. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (a relatively subdued Melissa McCarthy) are one-time friends who are reunited when they discover the ghosts are real. Abby has been working with zany inventor Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). They are soon joined by subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who is attacked by a ghost in a subway tunnel. Where the original Ghostbusters were male, now they’re all female. Naturally the female receptionist of the first film is replaced by the vapid but buff Kevin (Chris Hemsworth).
While the new movie ups the ante on the special effects, there’s no getting around how inadequate Wiig and McCarthy are. The original boasted Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and the late Harold Ramis. (Murray and Aykroyd join several other members of the original cast for cameos here.) Wiig and McCarthy strain for laughs, but they’re few and far between. The breakout here is breakout “SNL” star McKinnon, who needs co-stars who could keep up with her. (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, perhaps?)
Which brings us to the third act. One of the demons has possessed Kevin, who freezes a batallion of police in a choreographed pose, which the film does nothing more with until the closing credits. Those paying attention to the details will note the movie marquees advertising films of the ’70s like “Taxi Driver” and “Willard,” while signs for Broadway shows are from the ’60s. There was obviously some plan for some sort of time warp plot with Wiig asking at one point the now out of context question “What year is this?”
This amply demonstrates the problem of the film. It was made not because they put a lot of work into telling an entertaining and well-thought out story. It was made because they could. This “Ghostbusters” proves, once again, that that’s not a good enough reason to remake a movie, but Hollywood never learns.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.