‘Ghostbusters’ Fun Despite Many Flaws

by Tim English on July 15, 2016

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Up] 

Let’s just clear the air. Ghostbusters isn’t nearly as bad as you thought it was going to be. Does that mean it’s good? Meh, almost, not quite. Yes, it’s just as pointless as you figured, but it certainly isn’t the train wreck you’ve been led to believe it will be.

Relax — it’s not going to ruin your childhood. (P.S. stop letting Hollywood ruin your childhood.)

Writer and director Paul Feig brings his brand of childish lady-centric humor to the goofy paranormal universe we all fell in love with thirty years ago. Yes — 30 years ago. Keep that in mind. Sometimes we just have to learn to let things go. Besides, this Ghostbusters incarnation wants to be its own thing, except for when it doesn’t.

Here’s the thing, Ghostbusters, as far as reboots go, it….almost works. It’s actually fairly entertaining and fun when it tries to stand on it’s own. And it’s funny. Dumb at times, really dumb; even when it doesn’t need to be — but still funny. The cast is obviously having a good time, and they’re enough to save it from the hole the script digs for it.

No surprise, the reboot doesn’t stray too far from the 1984 original’s concept. Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is laughed out of her teaching job at Columbia University when an old book she wrote resurfaces. When she confronts her former writing partner and fellow paranormal investigator, Abby (Melissa McCarthy), they stumble on evidence of a real haunting, which leads them going into business as metaphysical examiners, or something. Their goal is to capture a ghost and prove they’re not crazy.

Lucky for the Ghostbusters, this dude, Rowan (Neil Casey), who is sick of being bullied has the plan to build these machines that amplify ghost activity so he can use spirits of the dead to wreak havoc and revenge on New York and — look, I’m not going to lie, the whole villain-plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. It makes for some pretty sweet ghost special effects (even in 3D, and I won’t say that often), but it’s still pretty lame.

Complain all you want about Feig’s decision to go with all-female leads, but within context of the story, it feels natural. And they’re all pretty great-ish. Kate McKinnon will be the hot name on everyone’s lips coming out of this movie. She pretty much steals the show as Holtzmann. Love or hate this movie, you’re not likely to find anyone who is going to argue this. She’s the weird, quirky, unpredictable tech geek who creates some reliable and not so safe weapons, traps, etc. to use against the ghosts.

Worst of the bunch? Surprisingly, it was Wiig, who is the smartest person in the movie when it begins, but for some reason seems to get dumber and more obnoxious in each scene. As the pseudo leader of the bunch, she is all over the place. Early on, she’s smart and serious, then she’s drooling and salivating all over the new beefcake secretary, then she’s all panic when the you-know-what hits the fan.

McCarthy is in sidekick mode and Leslie Jones isn’t nearly as obnoxious as you think she might be based on the billions of trailers and TV spots. Don’t get me wrong. She still yells all of her lines but she’s actually pretty solid and becomes surprisingly useful.

Chris Hemsworth plays Keith, the dumb blonde secretary, because apparently we can’t have an empowering movie featuring women without having an airhead guy in there. Thor has some pretty solid comic chops, but sometimes his character is just too dumb and some unfortunate plot development that all feels a little too contrived.

All that matters is you’ll laugh. Oh, you’ll laugh. You may not want to, but most of the jokes are flying at the screen so fast, it’s hard not to. Some of the jokes miss and miss badly. There are a few plot developments make zero sense. It’s like there were two different scripts and they just shuffled them together like cards. Then again, it’s a pretty goofy concept to begin with.

Ghostbusters main problem? For all the time Feig spends forging a new path, with new and (for the most part) memorable, albeit one-dimensional characters, it feels like he undoes it all by constantly reminding the audience of its predecessor. Then, he goes and parades pretty much the entire cast of the original on screen in forced, walk-on cameos. Some of them work, others not so much, but each of them feel like a distraction from this new universe.

Despite all of these flaws, Ghostbusters somehow manages to entertain. Let’s be honest here. I love the original. I saw it in theatres when I was 9 — one of my favorite movies ever. But come on, it’s not exactly masterpiece of filmmaking. It was a gimmick comedy that succeeded no doubt because of its powerhouse cast and because it was funny.

Guess what? This is funny, too. Yes, it’s sloppy and most of the time it doesn’t seem like Feig is trying very hard to make sense — why they go struggling to catch a ghost to suddenly being able to kill a ghost with proton stream is never really explained. (I’ve actually found the more I think about any of this, the more it makes my brain hurt just a bit.)

And yet — I still enjoyed it.

The good news is this movie isn’t the abomination the prognosticators predicted. It’s funny, which is all that matters and yes, it’s pretty dumb. No, it’s not destined for instant classic status, but it doesn’t tarnish the Ghostbusters name — Ghostbusters II already did that years ago.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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