Movie Review: 2016's 'Ghostbusters' Fizzles Out
This female-led Ghostbusters remake turned into the most talked-about blockbuster of the summer for all the wrong reasons, but it was all for naught: this is neither total disaster nor terribly good, instead a fitfully fun assembly-line style piece of Hollywood summer entertainment.
But for the first 80 or so minutes, it’s kind of a blast, with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) and his cast in fine comic form. This is a more broadly comedic version than the 1984 original, but that’s fine, and for most of the running time we’re going with it.
And then there’s a punishing, and entirely laughless, 25-minute Man of Steel-style climax with endless waves of ho-hum CGI ghosts, a pillar of light shooting up into the sky, and destructive 9/11 imagery flooding the screen; at one point, an entire skyscraper explodes from the inside, killing tens of thousands who don’t warrant consideration by the filmmakers.
This… doesn’t belong. It wouldn’t fit in the more-serious original film, it doesn’t fit in this otherwise lighter, goofier remake, and it’s a stain upon the modern blockbuster. In a year when the big comic book movies (Captain America: Civil War, Batman v Superman) are finally addressing this kind of wanton destruction, here’s a silly comedy that appropriates it without a second thought.
It’s a shame: this unusually female-heavy, liberal-minded summer tentpole could have subverted all that destructo-porn imagery that plagues the modern action movie, and instead it falls victim to it.
But until the finale, stars Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and (especially) Kate McKinnon are pretty great: Wiig and McCarthy are known quantities doing their schtick, but Jones is more grounded and relatable than expected, and McKinnon gives off something like a 90s Jim Carrey vibe. She’s the breakout star here.
Imagine the male-led version of this remake – starring, let’s say, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, and Craig Robinson – and it’s clear that the producers were right to try something new here. If only that line of thinking had been extended to the screenplay.
This isn’t a straight-up remake of the 1984 film, but it hits a lot of familiar notes in its story of a trio a paranormal investigators (Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon) and a tagalong everywoman (Jones) starting up a ghost-hunting business to combat New York City’s rising paranormal threat.
That threat is on the rise due to a human baddie (Neil Casey) who wants to raise the dead spirits to create a Hell on Earth for some reason of supposed importance. We know he’s a really bad guy when he directs some sexist taunts at our heroines (“you shoot like girls!”)
Then there’s Thor himself, hunky Chris Hemsworth, replacing Annie Potts as the Ghostbusters’ absent-minded secretary. Hemsworth serves as the butt of a whole new variety of dumb blonde jokes, but the actor approaches the role with gleeful abandon.
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver, surviving stars of the original movies (the movie is dedicated to Harold Ramis, who passed away a couple years back) show up in cameos, but only Murray has a role of any relevance.
A slew of other cameos fill the screen in lieu of fully-developed characters, but Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr., Cecily Strong, and (especially) Andy Garcia (“don’t call me the Jaws mayor!”) are fun in limited screen time.
This Ghostbusters movie was never going to re-invent the franchise, but it’s a fun comic ride on par with director Feig’s previous movies for most of the running time. The assaultive CGI climax would have drained the fun out of most flicks, but it’s especially disappointing to see here.