Before I begin this review, here’s some full-disclosure – I was a little late to the GHOSTBUSTERS party. No, I’m not speaking about this current reboot that seems to have had fanboys up in arms for the better part of 2 years now; I’m talking about the much-beloved 1984 original classic that saw 4 dorky scientists (or rather, 3 dorky scientists and Ernie Hudson) chase ghosts. While I do have fond childhood memories of watching repeats of THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS cartoon on Saturday mornings in the early ‘90s, the actual film is one that I never truly sat down and watched until I was in my college years (which for those who don’t know, is the time period where I began my fascination with the medium known as film).
Why am I sharing this information? It’s to illustrate the fact that through all of the hype, and through all of the tweets, and the YouTube comments that I’ve sifted through on this subject, I went into this GHOSTBUSTERS reboot as simply a movie fan, not a GHOSTBUSTERS fan. Translation: I wasn’t dreading this film as much as others have been. While the trailers were horrifically clichéd and unfunny, I knew that in the end, like with any film, I was going to give it a chance. I did just that, and the verdict is in: it’s not that bad.
The film opens on the image of a seemingly haunted house attraction in New York City. You know, one of those old-timey historical houses that its inhabitants (and employees) claim to be filled with lots of paranormal activity. After finishing up a tour, the nameless tour guide (played by Zach Woods) encounters one of these ghosts in all its CGI glory. And just like in the 1984 original (after the librarian has a similar encounter), Ray Parker Jr.’s classic theme blazes over the GHOSTBUSTERS logo, and we’re off to the races.
Enter Drs. Abby Yates (played by Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (played by Kristen Wiig). It is revealed that in the past, they had co-authored a book dealing with the existence of ghosts, which has recently been republished by Yates. Gilbert presently tries to downplay her role in the book due to her job as a physics professor at Columbia University. Yates, meanwhile, continues her research at a tech college along with her new partner-in-crime, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (played by Kate McKinnon). When Gilbert is subsequently fired from Columbia (for not renouncing her belief in the existence of ghosts), she reconciles with Yates, and the newly-formed trio dedicate their time to studying anything and everything paranormal. Their first case – the incident at the mansion. Eventually, the trio recruit a fourth member – MTA worker Patty Tolan (played by Leslie Jones) – and a hunky receptionist (played by Chris Hemsworth), and just like that, the Ghostbusters are formed.
When looking at the performances of our four leads, I feel that both Jones and McKinnon are the standouts. As an infrequent viewer of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, I’ve come to enjoy their work on the sketch comedy show, and when their casting was announced for GHOSTBUSTERS, I was happy for them. And alongside comedy powerhouses like McCarthy and Wiig, this was certainly quite the team to portray this new generation of Ghostbusters. But surprisingly, it’s Jones and McKinnon that earned the few laughs out of me that I had while watching this film. I’ve enjoyed many of Melissa McCarthy’s previous films (the most recent one being THE HEAT), but she was the one that did the least out of the four leads. The performance itself was very bland and un-McCarthylike. It’s as if she felt that she couldn’t outperform her much funnier co-stars, so she didn’t even try. She played the character a little too straight for my tastes – even her character’s counterpart from the original film (Dan Aykroyd’s Dr. Ray Stantz) had more charisma and better comic timing that she did. Kristin Wiig also disappointed with her inconsistent performance as Dr. Gilbert. It seemed like she was trying too hard to be the silly character that McCarthy wasn’t. In the end, we have a case where the newcomers outshine the established stars, and honestly, it was pretty cool to witness.
The plot itself is nothing to write home about; it’s essentially the same plot as the original film, only with the volume turned up. It wasn’t boring by any stretch, but for a film that had this amount of attention on it, a film that many were hoping to fail, I was hoping for them to pull out all the stops and give us a story that’ll put a lid on the haters once and for all. While we didn’t get that, we did get a great scene of the Ghostbusters kicking some serious butt. This was also my favorite scene in the entire film, and seeing each character get in on the action in their own way was, I thought, a great crowd pleaser. Sure, it’s silly CGI-driven nonsense, but it was fun! And I can’t possibly complain about that.
As far as the humor/jokes of the film, that left a lot to be desired. A lot of the attempted humor either felt too clichéd (example: Leslie Jones’s character as a stereotypical black woman) or fell flat completely (example: any scene involving Kristen Wiig’s character trying to be funny). Even the cameos from stars of the original film felt forced. The shining exceptions to all of this was McKinnon (who I cannot praise enough here) and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. As silly and over-the-top as his performance was, I couldn’t help but chuckle. He should definitely consider doing more comedy performances in the future, as I felt he hit this one out of the park.
So here we have a film that, ultimately, is nowhere near as bad as many of the fanboys were predicting it to be, yet nowhere near as good to merit any sort of overwhelming praise. The film was just…there. Like much of the summer fare this year, it’s completely harmless, which is probably the perfect word to describe it – harmless. It was interesting reading all of those comments either bashing the film (without seeing it, of course) or predicting it will completely bomb at the box office. Then you have the other end of the spectrum, where you have people who want to sit there and claim that any complaints or criticisms regarding this film are only coming from misogynistic fanboys. While I won’t deny that there have been blatant cases of misogyny involved, it’s not fair to paint all criticism of the film with such a broad brush, considering that the majority of complaints have nothing to do with any of that. But it’s just funny to me that a film that had either super high or super low expectations (depending on who you talked to), it landed square in the middle – decently unspectacular.
So if you’re seriously on the fence about seeing GHOSTBUSTERS, just do your best and ignore all of the online talk, and judge the film on your own tastes. Who knows, you may end up liking it. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to hate here; at the same time, there’s also nothing to love. But the film did enough to keep me entertained, and in the end, that’s all any moviegoer should ask for.
2016 • 116 Minutes • 2.35:1 • United States
Color • English • Columbia Pictures
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth