Ghostbusters (2016) Review – A Comedy that Deserved Better

After years of Dan Akroyd attempting and failing at making a second sequel to Ghostbusters, after all of the vitrol and awful misogyny said about the recently released remake, after all the conjecture and lies and idiocy, the great Paul Feig’s remake of the 1984 classic Ghostbusters has been released, and it’s not bad.  Is it funny? Mostly.  Does it have some fun ghost action?  Yes.  Is the cast amazing?  YES!  It is a great movie? Nope.

The bottom line is this rebooted Ghostbusters is definitely not a great film and should be a lot funnier.  Which is a shame because it has an incredible cast led by four incredibly funny and talented actresses: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.  I am a fan of all four actresses and love watching them perform together in this movie, but even with all of their talent, they can’t elevate what is essentially an okay script without enough jokes and the film relies on too many summer blockbuster tropes and too many callbacks to the original film.

The four main actresses play the new team of Ghostbusters who must battle the ghastly spirits to save New York City.  Although the film takes place in an entirely new continuity, the film has essentially the same plot of the first two Ghostbusters movies.  Ghosts start appearing in NYC, four people team up to fight the increasing number of ghosts, are ridiculed and don’t have the full support of the mayor, and then battle a giant ghost entity that is destroying NYC.  There are some differences in the story like some of the character dynamics, the fact that the four leads are played by women (and to all the assholes out there, there’s no reason why women can’t be ghostbusters, absolutely none), and the villain is an actual human this time, but a lot of the movie just recreates a lot of familiar beats from the original films.

And that is the main problem with the film: this remake doesn’t stand out or try something different.  There are too many unfunny callbacks and cameos and story beat recreations from the original films.  At a certain point, it stops being cute and just becomes boring.  It’s repetitive and adds nothing to the film outside of saying to yourself, “hey look, another cast member from the original film, too bad Rick Moranis doesn’t act anymore.  Man, I should really watch Spaceballs again, Moranis was great in that movie.”

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There are a lot of great scenes and characters that made me really laugh.  Chris Hemsworth who plays the idiot assistant has some great bits, Kate McKinnon (when not being way over the top) was at times magical and has a very good action hero moment during the climax, and the opening scene had a lot of fun playing with horror genre conventions and was legitimately funny and intelligently well executed.  And I wish I could say that was true for the rest of the film.  Because this remake really isn’t all that bad and it’s a hell of a lot better than Ghostbusters II, it’s just inconsistent when it came to making me laugh.

During that aforementioned McKinnon action scene, I felt for the first time the creators of this film actually create.  It wasn’t a retread or a callback, it was McKinnon’s crazy character using new gadgets and weapons to fight ghosts and it was funny, exciting and awesome.  Her character is the inventor of the group and she used so many of her new tools during that sequence, and that one sequence only.  All the other ghostbusting scenes just involved the proton packs.  I wish the movie had more of those fun action moments, because that is when it felt truly original and not beholden to the first Ghostbusters.

This movie had the potential to be something special.  It has a very smart comedic director in Paul Feig, who has created one of the best television series ever with Freaks and Geeks; it has a strong cast led by four unbelievably talented and funny actresses, it has some very good CGI and visuals; the basic idea behind the villain, a man who was bullied all his life seeks revenge by bullying the world back with ghosts, is an intriguing premise but has very little development unfortunately; and it’s based on a beloved movie that is itself very funny.  Yet a weak script, too many cameos and callbacks to the original, a very simple plot, and not enough development for the characters or story, at times makes the film feel like an lazy reimagining of an older film that relied on the chemistry of the cast to make it funny, when it should have been bolder and more original.  Because that boldness did appear from time to time.

Whenever the movie was different and new, it was funny and entertaining.  Whenever McKinnon introduced a new gadget, I laughed.  Whenever the movie parodied a horror trope, I laughed.  Whenever McCarthy and Wiig were able to play actual characters and get a little wild and not just spew exposition, I enjoyed the film.  This film has its moments and overall I enjoyed the film, I just can’t move past the potential this movie had.  I was worried about the film ever since I saw the unfunny and messy first trailer.  I thought that the entire finished film would be one big boring mess, especially if the trailer couldn’t show a couple hysterical scenes.  Thankfully I was proven wrong because it is funny, but I can’t help but be slightly disappointed with a film containing this talent behind and in front of the camera.  Hopefully the impending sequel will be something truly original, instead of just trying to be the original.

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