- Movie Rating -

Ghostbusters (2016)

| July 14, 2016

Well . . . at the very least you can say it’s better than Ghostbusters 2.

Amid all the gnashing and biting over this movie in the past two years, I have tried to remain mum about it.  The movie is unnecessary, for sure, but in the end it isn’t the disaster that the naysayers – or even recent critics – have made it out to be.

Let’s put it this way: There is no way on God’s little green Earth that the new Ghostbusters movie could ever come anywhere near the original.  That 32 year-old classic has become such a fixture of pop culture folklore that anything following in its footsteps could only fall in its shadow.  The original worked because of a simple, brilliant element: underneath all Bill Murray’s wisecracks and Ackroyd’s science-speak and Ramis’ techno-babble Ghostbusters was, ostensibly, a horror movie.  Think about the second act of that movie when Dana Barrett’s apartment blows up and the specters swirl across the New York skyline.  It was a scary movie.  It was shot like a horror movie.  We felt the approaching apocalypse bubbling up from the bowels of Hell.

That said, the new Ghostbusters movie touches a little of that, but it remains a comedy through and through.  Yes, we feel the apocalypse but it doesn’t seem to have the urgency.  The good news is, while it’s has its problems, it’s not a complete washout.  It’s a bright, sometimes funny movie fronted by four of the funniest ladies in the business and the good news is that they really seem invested in this material.  They seem to be having a good time.

The movie, I’m guessing, is a remake.  It doesn’t appear to occupy the same universe as the original nor the sequel.  The relief however is that its not a carbon copy.  There’s no Gozer, there’s no Zuul, there’s no Evo Shandor.  The writers had the sense to at least try something different. The story concerns Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) a Columbia University professor who works hard at her job and even harder at distancing herself from a book she co-authored years ago about the paranormal (which apparently can get you laughed right out of a job).  Meanwhile her long-time BFF Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) has remained in the field of parapsychology and is determined to prove that it isn’t a lot of hooey.  Abby’s research is funded by a cut-rate technical college run by an administrator who wasn’t even aware that their department was still open.

When the book resurfaces Erin is ruined and it is at that point that she and Abby and their engineer buddy Jillian (Kate McKinnon) are called out to a creepy old house to investigate a ghost sighting.  She’s elated to have proven that ghosts are real because now the team can research them on a practical level.  In a diversion from the original movie, they don’t necessarily go into business so much as they want to catch ghosts for research purposes.

The relief is that the script doesn’t follow the original beat for beat.  For example, when they try and rent out the firehouse, they find that they cannot afford it so they end up opening offices above a Chinese restaurant.  When they bring on a new hire, a subway worker named Patty (Leslie Jones), from the outside, she isn’t looking for work.  She knows the city and can help keep the group oriented.  Jones has the funniest line in the movie after a ghost accidentally boards a subway train.  I won’t spoil it.

What you want to know now is the million dollar question: is the movie funny.  Yes, kind of.  I laughed more than I thought I would.  I like the camaraderie between these ladies.  I like the fact that they keep around their beefcake himbo receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) in spite of the fact that he barely knows how to answer the telephone.  I like the running gag involving Abby and a delivery boy who keeps shorting her won tons.  And I liked (SPOILER) that Slimer turns the ECTO-1 into a party bus – seriously, I wanted to follow that plot!

Of the cast, I have no issues.  As I said, these are four of the funniest ladies in the business and they take to this material with a lot of conviction – they seem to want to be here.  I liked them all but the one I responded to the best was Kate McKinnon as Jillian.  She’s not center-stage but always seems to occupy the sides and the backgrounds as the group’s be-goggled engineer.  She has the playful aura of a punk rock girl.  She’s the group’s loose cannon and she’s delightful.


The story is hard to discuss without spoilers suffice to say it doesn’t follow the original.  The trailer kind of gives it away via one repeated line.  I’ll just say, I found it kind of weak.  The villain is interesting but he’s never given enough motivation.  And the third act is just plain stupid.  Yes, it is
another apocalyptic fight to the finish with a giant monster, but when the monster manifests itself it leads to the Ghostbusters fighting (I wish were making this up) the Ghostbusters logo.

The visual effects, it’s odd to say, may be too good here.  Effects can do anything nowadays, but that may be a problem here.  The ghosts themselves often look too CGI and less like specters.  Back in the early 80s with movies like Ghostbusters, Poltergeist and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ghosts were rendered via optical effects which gave them an otherworldy quality.  With CGI, they look like characters in a video game.

I was also put off by the onslaught of cameos which took me out of the movie.  Most of the major players from the original show up here, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson etc., but one in particular really broke my heart.  Bill Murray comes in as a man whose job is to debunk ghosts.  He’s onscreen for five minutes but has nothing funny to do.  That’s criminal.  It’s like throwing Groucho in your movie and giving him nothing funny to say.

Were the naysayers right?  Is this an abomination?  Certainly not.  It is a fun special effects comedy that is problematic from top to bottom but it doesn’t feel lazy.  Director Paul Fieg does a serviceable job with a nearly impossible task, but where is the comic zeal that he brought to Bridesmaids.  After that initial burst of creative inspiration, he seems to be treading safer waters and that includes Ghostbusters.  What he’s missing is a sense of danger, a sense of taking these characters to new extremes and really allowing them to deal with terrors from Hell.  Their adventure here, while not a retread, feels a little safe.  It won’t ruin your childhood, but it won’t make your evening either.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2016) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy