For months on end, the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake has had a steady stream of insanity surrounding it. Those that bash it on a 24 hour basis range from crazed fans of the 1984 original to people that don’t want to see women in movies. Those that defend it as if it was an undeniable right do so in outrageously dismissive ways.
Never mind that none of those people have seen “Ghostbusters.” If and when they do, they should feel fairly stupid. At its best, this is a carbon copy of the original smash hit that is only saved, at times, by its stars. When at its worst, it is a garbage summer movie that throws cartoon-like CGI on screen for 45 straight minutes while making these poor actresses waste their comedic talents on shouting overly scientific sounding mumbo jumbo.
One of the biggest mistakes that director-screenwriter Paul Feig, along with fellow writer Katie Dippold, make is there are virtually no changes to the original movie’s story. It even begins with a cold open in which a ghost shows up and sets the entire plot in motion. The only difference is that it occurs at a fictional historic residence-turned-museum and not at the New York Public Library.
The haunting forces Columbia professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) to track down her childhood best friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who co-authored a book with Erin about the supernatural. Abby has not given up on ghost chasing and runs a department at a much less respectable New York college with the help of the off the charts eccentric Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon).
It takes approximately 15 minutes for Erin and Abby to reconcile their past differences and begin, well, ghost busting. Some seriously clumsy story telling thrusts former MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) on the team and the four of them begin getting attention from the citizens of New York, in particular the Mayor and his assistant (Andy Garcia and Cecily Strong).
Most of the big laughs in “Ghostbusters” come at the expense of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the team’s receptionist hired mostly due to his eye candy factor. Naturally, he’s as dumb as a box of rocks and unable to handle the simplest of tasks, such as understanding how to answer a telephone.
The first half moves quickly, but it is reasonably entertaining. There are some forced cameos that bring nothing to the table, other than a head nod to the original movie. If anything, they do a disservice by pandering to the nostalgic base a bit too heavily.
“Ghostbusters” falters in nearly every moment the main villain is on screen (Neil Casey, in an agonizingly irritating performance) and once his big bad plan comes to fruition, it becomes unwatchable. The CGI, while enhanced in 3D, isn’t realistic enough to provide any scares and the sets are so horribly rendered that the only people that would believe these are actual New York streets are those who have never seen a Manhattan street in any way possible.
Thankfully, the poorly conceived and photographed action is broken up by one small sequence involving McKinnon that is destined to be her star making turn.
The actors, required to advance an extremely forced plot, struggle to really let loose. The biggest head scratcher is essentially making Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig the same character. Wiig is shockingly bland and McCarthy’s patented boisterous delivery disappears completely. Their roles are so poorly conceived that there’s little either of them can do to save them, even with their best efforts.
Leslie Jones is funny, even in a stereotypical role. Kate McKinnon, on the other hand, is a revelation. She’s the strange love child of Johnny Depp’s Hunter S. Thompson and Harold Ramis’ Egon Spangler. McKinnon has the only role with any uniqueness or originality and she is by far the highlight of “Ghostbusters.”
The faults of “Ghostbusters” are truly due to a below average script and a poor choice in the director’s chair. Paul Feig’s free flow, improvisational style is ill fitted to a structured action-comedy such as this. Also, he’s hampered by a no doubt required PG-13 rating. At one point, McCarthy’s Abby exclaims “Shoot!” and the only thing funny about it is recognizing the word and/or words she should be saying.
At the end of the day, the hubbub around “Ghostbusters” will end up a tempest in teapot over a below average, run of the mill action-comedy. All those people got mad online for nothing.