In September of 1986, Filmation premiered an animated version of the ‘70s live-action TV series, “The Ghost Busters.” Just five days after the release of that cartoon, DIC Enterprises, along with Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis brought the animated version of the classic 1984 movie to our TV screens. This competition led to each cartoon series changing its name to differentiate itself. The Ghost Busters became “Filmation’s Ghostbusters,” while Ghostbusters became “The Real Ghostbusters.”
History repeats itself.
Dan Aykroyd has spent the past 20 years trying to get the third Ghostbusters movie made to no avail. Sony went ahead and took the license and gave it to their It director of the moment, Paul Feig. Beyond all the hullabaloo regarding the casting, this movie has chosen to retell the story and eliminate the cinematic continuation of Ray, Egon, Peter and Winston. From this point on, I consider the 1984 classic and its sequel, The Real Ghostbusters.
In this version of Ghostbusters, we meet Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) and Patty (Leslie Jones). Erin is attempting to get tenure as a respected professor, but her ghost hunting history with Abby threatens her credibility. Soon after getting proof of ghosts, Erin, Abby and Holtzman start their business and quickly recruit Patty, a street smart New Yorker who had her own encounter with the paranormal. Together, this team busts ghosts as they try to gain credibility and find the reason for the ghost sightings in New York.
Much ado has been made about the casting. They are all talented comedians in their own right. However, gender has nothing to do with bad writing and chemistry. None of the principal cast gels with each other. Kristen Wiig shows potential in her role, but the second Chris Hemsworth shows up, she is simply relegated to being lovesick. Melissa McCarthy is clearly trying to be the straight character that is into ghost busting for the love of science. Yet, her even keel behavior starts to slip into sleepy (I’m just here for the paycheck) territory. Leslie Jones is serviceable as the outspoken Patty. Granted, her role as the street smart historian adds up to nothing in the end. She’s not half as aggravating as the trailers made her out to be. I was excited to see Kate McKinnon in a big role. Her turn as Holtzman was meant to be the Egon of the group. Yet, she seemed more like Harpo Marx mugging for the camera. Her role went nowhere except to punctuate flat jokes with silly facial expressions or one-liners that have zero chance at being quotable.
Story-wise, this movie follows the original closely enough. Yet, the transitional scenes feel more like forced skits. There’s no rhyme or reason. The trailers sold the movie as it is. The only difference being that there is almost two hours of bottom-feeding jokes in between. This is first, and foremost, a comedy. It has the type of easy humor that keeps CBS sitcoms as popular as they are. The broad comedy will surely work on audiences looking for comfort laughs, but the lack of wit brings on boredom (in my case anyways).
Sadly and ironically, the biggest laughs belong to Chris Hemsworth. His dumb blonde beefcake, Kevin, is hilarious for a few scenes. However, he soon becomes the crutch that the movie rests on. I honestly feel like director Paul Feig, who is normally so used to raunchy comedy, was forced to hold back on this PG-13 summer movie and just overused character quirks for laughs because he couldn’t rely on shock value.
Character quirks do not equal characterization.
So, the story is lackluster. The cast has zero chemistry. The comedy is freezer-burned vanilla. What does work for the new Ghostbusters? The first 15 minutes, actually. The set up leads you to believe that this reboot experiment is going to be great. It’s scary and funny, two elements which the rest of the movie desperately needed.
I didn’t hate this movie until the final 30 minutes. In the ghost street fight, the movie breaks its own rules so many times and creates magical plot devices to hurry the ending along that it leaves its mild comedy behind and becomes laugh out loud funny, for all the wrong reasons. It’s an ending taken straight from any brainless summer flick, all the while the movie pats itself on the back for being self important.
Clearly I don’t recommend this for anyone who holds the original movie to a high standard. If you need a movie with the easy, effortless comedy of Home Improvement, this may be the movie to see. I see it as a failure of an experiment and a hot mess of a stand-alone movie. D+