The all-female led, 2016 version of the 1984 classic, ‘Ghostbusters,’ benefits from a very funny cast of comedians and state-of-the-art effects (particularly the proton packs and new weaponry), yet suffers under the specter of nostalgia that it insists on forcing to evoke. When director Paul Feig (‘Bridesmaids’) allows the four hilarious ladies (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and especially Kate McKinnon) to let loose, the movie moves briskly and keeps the audience chuckling. Whenever he shoehorns in a nod to the original, whether explaining the genesis of the name, logo, etc. or worse, including pointless cameos, the movie bogs down under the weight of its’ own looming legacy.
Following an almost slavish devotion to the first film’s plot and story structure, the new ‘Ghostbusters’ starts with three scientists getting kicked out of their universities following a paranormal encounter, causing them to venture out on their own. In this film, there is an attempt at adding an emotional beat by setting up a childhood outcast connection between Wiig’s reluctant, uptight Erin Gilbert and McCarthy’s gung-ho, amiable Abby Yates that only sort-of works. As the movie progresses, it hits all of the main marks of the ’84 classic – setting up an HQ, hiring an assistant, getting a vehicle, busting their first ghost, etc. The biggest differences here are McKinnon’s live-wire Jillian Holtzmann and Leslie Jones’ NYC expert MTA worker, Patty Tolan – their interactions with the principals and supporting cast of familiar faces keep the script from being totally rote and make the proceedings energetic fun. McKinnon especially, injects an aloof, mischievous, and slightly deranged angle to her character, a physics wiz with a penchant for fabricating dangerous hardware.
‘Ghostbusters’ threatens to go off the rails at times and tends to drag instead of zinging along as it desires, particularly when paying homage to set-pieces, props, characters, and actors from the 1984 version. It is certainly understandable that the filmmakers would want to allude to the comedy staple, but most of the gags and cameos fall flat. Since the film is filled with so many that are unsuccessful, it has a hard time juggling these nods and integrating them into this new creation in any way that provides enjoyment beyond a recognizable thrill. Most encouraging is that when the movie veers away from nostalgia (the easy bond between the women, their interactions with a lunk-headed receptionist in the form of the inspired casting of Chris Hemsworth) it works best, so perhaps an original sequel unburdened by set-up could provide some continued and more consistent fun. While far from the horrible destruction of childhood memories the trolls on the internet would like it to be, this film has a difficult time standing on its’ own two feet . . .
Directed By: Paul Feig
Written By: Katie Dippold & Paul Feig
Running Time: 116 min.
* * (out of 4 stars) -OR- C