LOS ANGELES, July 11, (RTRS): When the new “Ghostbusters” movie was announced, it didn’t take long for internet trolls to lament that their beloved franchise would be ruined by a quartet of female comedians.
But the reviews for the gender-bent reboot, released on Sunday morning, show that the all-female cast is hardly the problem. In fact, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and the chemistry that ties them together, save the movie, the majority of early reviews agree. As the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis put it: “Girls rule, women are funny, get over it.”
The problem, rather, lies with director Paul Feig, the takes largely agree. Variety’s Peter Debruge took issue with the fact that the film, which he called “both funnier and scarier” than the 1984 original, was haunted too much by its predecessor. Cameos from franchise past, he said, “undercut the new film’s chemistry.”
“Is the new Ghostbusters funny? The answer is: Kind of, but not nearly to the degree it should be considering the talent involved,” said Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty, who handed the comedy a C+. “The laughs don’t pile up as high as you’d expect,” he said, but he praised the cast’s chemistry.
Indeed, Scott Mendelson of Forbes came to a similar conclusion: “Thanks to some choppy plotting, awkward pacing and tonal issues, the film rests almost entirely on the shoulders of its would-be heroines.”
“Don’t expect much more than a paint-by-the-numbers ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot,” he went on.
Terri Schwartz of IGN called the film “just fine, though not for the reasons many would expect.” She, like other critics, singled out the cast, namely Wiig and McCarthy’s chemistry as their friendship grounds the movie. “Unfortunately, it’s the pacing and editing that is the biggest problem with the movie,” she concluded. “’Ghostbusters’ is a comedy first, and for all that haters blasted the movie for starring four women, it’s actually director Paul Feig who doesn’t seem like he’s the right fit for the series.”
The Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato laid similar praise on the cast, especially McKinnon, who she said stole the show. “Unfortunately ‘Ghostbusters’ also comes saddled with the trappings of 21st century studio filmmaking: lulls in pacing, kiddie-safe comedy, choppy editing, and the general sense that a sharper, ballsier version exists in an alternate Hollywood universe,” she added. The stars, however, “plant their own flag on a beloved sci-fi comedy franchise — even if it’ll still take a miracle from beyond to convert the hypercritical haters.”
Indiewire’s Eric Kohn granted that the screenplay, written by Feig and “The Heat’s” Katie Dippold, “offers plenty of charming bits and throwaway lines.” “But these can’t save the movie from a preponderance of awkward gags that wear thin and then thinner, capped by an effect-riddled third act without fresh thrills,” he wrote.
Still, for those looking for shameless summer fun, “Ghostbusters” seems like a good place to start. “The new, cheerfully silly ‘Ghostbusters’ is that rarest of big-studio offerings — a movie that is a lot of enjoyable, disposable fun,” said Dargis.
“Ghostbusters” hits theaters on July 15.
All reboots are haunted by the specter of the movie that inspired them, but Sony’s new gender-swapped “Ghostbusters” suffers from a disappointingly strong case of deja vu, even going so far as to conjure most of the earlier film’s cast (including Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) in cameos that undercut the new film’s chemistry.
For Feig, who has carved out his niche in the comedy sphere by helming such distaff-led laffers as “The Heat” and “Spy,” this property offers a unique opportunity to test how a major Hollywood franchise might fare if entrusted to a female-driven ensemble — although it would be wrong to blame this side-splitting quartet for the film’s underwhelming box office performance. The problem isn’t that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson created characters too iconic to surpass; the fault lies in the fact that this new “Ghostbusters” doesn’t want us to forget them, crafting its new team in the earlier team’s shadow.
McCarthy is amusing as always, but veers dangerously close to repeating her same old shtick, while Wiig is a poor substitute for Murray’s horndog Dr. Peter Venkman, playing a brainiac incapable of maintaining a respectful professional relationship with members of the opposite sex. (It’s one of the movie’s more inspired gags to flip the sexual harassment in the other direction, offering up “Thor” hunk Chris Hemsworth as the group’s straight man, an assistant too dumb to realize he’s being objectified.) And yet the one-line idea that made the original such a success — a comedy team fights ghosts — is so rich that surely Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold could have taken the franchise in a totally new direction.
Instead, channeling the earlier film at every opportunity, “Ghostbusters” opens with an effects-driven phantom menace before introducing audiences to three scientists who’ve jeopardized their academic careers by believing in the paranormal. Like Venkman before her, Wiig’s tenure-track Erin Gilbert is the resident skeptic, while McCarthy and McKinnon — as labmates Abby Yates and Jillian Holtzmann — look and sound like loonies, setting out to prove that ghosts really do exist. Once kicked out of their respective institutions, the trio have no choice but to go into business for themselves, adopting roughly the same costumes, logo, and Ecto Mobile (a converted hearse) that their male counterparts did in the original, while spending far more time than that earlier film did explaining each of these choices.
At first, the funny ladies’ mission is simply to be taken seriously, as they investigate every ghost sighting in the newly hyper-haunted New York City area, including one from an MTA subway worker named Patty, played by Jones, who inexplicably decides to quit her job in favor of facing her biggest fear. Though Jones gets some of the film’s most memorable lines, her character channels a shameful racial stereotype — one that traces back to the days of blackface when it amused audiences to see African-American characters spook easily, bugging their eyes and running for their lives whenever confronted with a ghost — except that the ghosts here really are frightening (especially in 3D screenings of the film), when they literally appear to leap off the screen, projecting ectoplasm past the confines of the widescreen frame.
Turns out there’s a reason that business is booming for the Ghostbusters. In a cartoonishly feeble-minded plot twist that suggests Feig might be better suited to be directing the new “Scooby-Doo” reboot, a disgruntled white guy (Neil Casey), has been inviting noxious visitors from the spirit world to cross over for his own nefarious purposes.
Once the ladies manage to track this sad sack down, the movie grinds to a halt as the heavily armed group of scientists (whose arsenal has gotten a major upgrade since the earlier film) try to talk him out of destroying the world. That’s pretty much the point where “Ghostbusters” stops being funny enough to sway the haters who’ve become such a vocal presence online — a phenomenon the film actually goes out of its way to acknowledge, as McCarthy dismisses such sexist comments as, “Ain’t no (…) gonna hunt no ghosts,” that appear beneath the group’s YouTube videos.