Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)

Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

Review by Mike DeAngelo:

I, like most of you, love the original Ghostbusters movies. The first movie is iconic. It combined action, comedy, and horror in a way that just hadn’t been done before in its time. On top of the conceptual originality, it had an amazingly charismatic cast that was at the peak of their creativity, it was extremely well-written & directed, and the special effects were actually pretty great, too. The second is admittedly not as good, but I still enjoy going back to it all these years later. I was raised with both of them constantly on cable TV or in the ol’ VHS player, so it’s safe to say that I’ve seen the original two films quite a few times. So, when Sony announced a new Ghostbusters movie, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, more Ghostbusters movies!! On the other hand, they're rebooting Ghostbusters.

Now, I’m not one of those fanboys that was yelling, “They’re ruining my childhood!!” When Paul Feig was announced as the director and the cast was announced to be Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, I didn’t turn up my nose. I liked Bridesmaids enough to have hope for the new direction of the franchise.

Then the trailers came. And, hot damn, were they bad. The acting was wooden, the jokes were stale and predictable, but, hey, it looked expensive. So, that’s nice, right? And, heck, they've made bad trailers for good movies in the past. Regardless, when the chance came to attend an early screening, I couldn’t resist the urge to check out what the new Ghostbusters was going to be like. Sadly, as feared, the previews were fairly spot-on with a few exceptions.

Let’s start with the main cast - Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, & Leslie Jones. Individually, they are all pretty hilarious in their own right. I have issues with Melissa McCarthy’s leading roles, but that’s a rant for another time. The other 3 are SNL alums and know each other fairly well. Yet, surprisingly, their on-screen chemistry is nearly non-existent in this movie. One of the reasons the original Ghostbusters worked so well is because every character was natural, full of originality, and each had their own place in the group. This is not the case here, as the wooden acting from the previews is pretty present throughout and their characters are barely even two-dimensional.  

I’d also heard before seeing this that Kate McKinnon steals the show. This would have been no surprise to me, as she steals every SNL skit she’s in. Sadly, wrong again. Kate plays her character, the kooky brainiac of the group, so over the top and on-the-nose that it’s downright annoying and awkward most of the time. She did elicit a few laughs, as she’s so talented and funny that it’s hard to fail 100% of the time. 

Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy – the biggest stars of the main cast – are totally and utterly wasted in this movie. Somehow, Feig and writer Katie Dippold decided to make two of the funniest women in comedy BOTH take on the "straight man" role of the group, completely ignoring their strengths. Kristin does get to do some of her classic shtick around Hemsworth’s character, but for the most part, is just the classic naysayer of the group. McCarthy is completely cut off at the legs - none of her signature verbal barbs or even much physical comedy are present outside of wrestling with a proton pack in one scene.

Leslie Jones is really the only one that works for me of the main four. She nails every scene she’s in, but really isn’t give much to do in comparison to the other three. Most of her big laughs are already in the previews, but they work a little better in the context of the film.

And, I'm just going to say it, Chris Hemsworth’s idiot receptionist is the best character in the movie. I’m not trying to be sexist by picking out the male of the group over the women, but truth is truth. He steals every scene he’s in and keeps the movie from completely going under, proving not only is he a gorgeous hunk of man that can wield a mighty hammer, he’s got some genuine comedic chops. Is his character two-dimensional like the rest? Absolutely. Yet, unlike McKinnon, he knows not to play to the back row of the SNL audience on a movie set. I’m sure it helps that his character has no responsibility to carry the film, but funny is funny – and Chris Hemsworth is by far the funniest person in this film.

One of the surprises of the first film is that the plot is actually as good as the characters. As for the new movie, it’s almost an afterthought. They needed a villain and a reason to use their effects budget, so they came up with the lamest possible character/villian to drive the plot forward – (minor spoilers) a whiny douche who hates humanity and figured out how to bring ghosts into the world simply by reading the main character’s book. That’s really all of the explanation they give.

Throw in massive expositional scenes, un-needed references to the original movie, un-needed cameos of the original cast, more jokes that fall flat, and a big third act sacrifice with zero stakes and that’s the movie. The cut dance sequence during the credits is probably the most joyous moment of the whole damn thing – again, largely thanks to Hemsworth.

As a whole, the movie just screams “Sony Presents: Our Next Franchise!! AND YOU WILL LIKE IT!” All of the ingredients are there, but they aren’t used right. It’s a movie clearly aimed at the lowest common denominator and children. There’s nothing wrong with that - the original Ghostbusters wasn’t high-brow by any means, but it certainly didn’t lower itself to serve a wider audience, which is part of what made the wider audience love it. It was a smart, funny, and genuinely thrilling movie.  

I’ve enjoyed Feig’s movies in the past, but I’ve got to point to him as the main issue here. He’s just the wrong choice to direct a movie like this. His effects team is great, but the scenes in between are poorly written and just plain awkward at times.

Bottom line, you’ll get a few laughs here and there due to the talent of the cast, but expect more of a bland Scooby-Doo episode with cut-and-paste characters than a proper Ghostbusters movie.

OVERALL SCORE: 5/10 Forced Bonding Scenes