Ghostbusters, haunted by spirits of the original, fails to stand on its own
Despite an A-Team of funny females, the remake is hampered by reverence for the original
Ghostbusters isn't a referendum on the state of females in comedy, but rather another refried Hollywood reboot — and an undercooked one at that.
A little more than 30 years after the events of the original tale, New York City is once again the setting for paranormal pandemonium. Rushing to the rescue is the comedic powerhouse of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
Wiig is nervous and high-strung as a professor clinging to academia. McCarthy is eager and all-in as a ghost researcher. McKinnon appears as a gonzo engineer with the off-kilter rhythms of David Byrne.
The trio are eventually joined by Leslie Jones — in an amped-up version of herself — as a subway worker who knows the city. Considering the others portray trailblazing scientists, giving Jones's character nothing but streetwise know-how feels like a missed opportunity, if not just plain condescending.
The fulcrum of the film is supposedly the friendship between Wiig and McCarthy's characters, who once co-authored a book on spirits before having a falling out.
While director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold may be trying for something subtler, the relationship never quite clicks. If anything, Wiig invests more into her character's crush on Kevin, the hunky himbo receptionist played by an amusing Chris Hemsworth.
Part of the problem is that Ghostbusters is so busy going through a karaoke-style re-enactment of the original that these new paranormal exterminators have little time to stand on their own.
Converted hearse as their Ghostmobile? Check.
Sparking proton packs? Check.
Needless explanation of the Ghostbuster logo? Check.
Tortured remake of original theme song by Fall Out Boy? Oh Lord, check.
Stuck in a cinematic limbo between remake, sequel and homage, Ghostbusters movie takes place in a city that doesn't remember what happened, but whose mayor still makes vague references that hint he does.
To add to the confusion, the film is riddled with lifeless cameos. SPOILER ALERT! In particular, Bill Murray turns up as a foppish skeptic named Martin Heiss, looking like a refugee from a Wes Anderson film minus the laughs.
In terms of family entertainment, Ghostbusters adeptly balances the spooky stuff with the comedy. The ghosts have a Disneyesque, Haunted Mansion vibe and there's lots of glowing green goo. Still, the 3D effects might scare the young ones.
It's only in the final act, as the group try to stop a bitter loner from opening a portal to the netherworld (again), that these Ghostbusters finally gel.
Haunted by visions of the original, Wiig, Jones and McCarthy do what they can to make the spectral showdown their own.
But really, McKinnon's riot grrrl take on Jillian Holtzmann is the movie's saving grace.
Like Jeff Goldblum or Christopher Walken, she's a performer tuned into her own channel. With wild eyes and a smirk, her Holtzmann cobbles together nuclear power packs with gleeful abandon and owns her awkwardness. While I couldn't care less about the inevitable Ghostbusters sequel, I can't wait to see what McKinnon does next.
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars