Ghostbusters Review #2: It's Not a Trainwreck
Paul Feig's remake of Ghostbusters isn't a disaster. It's mediocre at best; not remotely on par with the original, but by no means a terrible film. It took the source material and updated it into a gal buddy comedy. No issues there, the all female cast are comedy veterans. They have a modicum of chemistry and fit their niche perfectly. Feig's script is vanilla with a sprinkling of hilarity. The biggest surprise is that Chris Hemsworth steals the film completely. I'm pretty sure the filmmakers weren't going for that, but he's much funnier than the lead actresses. Diehard fans of the classic Ghostbusters will find many faults. If you watch with an open mind and zero expectations, then it's an average film with better than average visual effects.
Kristen Wiig stars as Erin, a Columbia physics professor about to achieve tenure. A paranormal disturbance brings a museum curator to her office. She's horrified to learn a book she wrote with her high school bestie, Abby (Melissa McCarthy), is available online. When she confronts Abby, they decide to investigate the disturbance with her brilliant and goofy colleague, Jillian (Kate McKinnon). The trio is attacked by a slime-spewing apparition. They decide to go public to prove that ghosts exist. Meanwhile, a history buff subway token clerk, Patty (Leslie Jones), encounters a sketchy guy (Neil Casey) and a ghost attack. She quickly joins the others. As incidents spike, the team realizes that the city may be on the verge of a ghostly apocalypse.
Ghostbusters follows the same plot beats as the original. They recreate the gear, the hearse, and the logo with new back stories. There are also several nods and winks to the original, with the entire classic cast making cameos at some point during the film. These were a nice touch and done well in the context of the story. They pay homage to the source material with gusto.
The gender reversal of the leads isn't the issue with Ghostbusters. The film drags considerably at times. It gets too bogged down in trying to explain the mumbo jumbo science behind the equipment. The original was ingenious in this regard. It dropped some terms here and there, but just enough to make you believe they could build laser throwing proton packs. The remake goes overboard, then has scene after scene where they break in and test new gadgets. They also have several repeating gags involving Chinese food that isn't funny at all. Feig lets each of his female leads have their moment. It's best described as, it's now your turn to be funny moment of filmmaking. This is where the remake comes up woefully short in comparison. The original's characters were not only better defined; they were in lockstep sync as an ensemble with the source material.
Chris Hemsworth has the standout performance. He has a much bigger role than expected. He plays Kevin the receptionist, who is insanely handsome but a total buffoon. Feig's gender reversal take on the office administrator is quite humorous. Kevin is a much more memorable character than anyone in this film times ten. He's responsible for all the good comedy bits. I have a feeling he'll get equal screen time if the film warrants a sequel.
The 3D visual effects add to the experience. The lasers fire towards you, as well as the slime and ghosts. It's got a theme park type vibe. The climactic showdown is an effects bonanza that's worth shelling out extra. A major detractor is the hideous new Ghostbusters theme song. Ray Parker Jr. must have thrown up when he heard it. I can't imagine why they didn't just use the same theme.
Ghostbusters has a few moments, but is a mediocre film. It's worth seeing for the 3D spectacle. It doesn't come close to the original in any meaningful way, but that would have been an incredible achievement. The trailers were horrible and really soured the early buzz. We should just be happy its not god awful.