Columbia 116 Minutes PG-13
Can four smart, funny women save the Big Apple and the world from a Ghost Apocalypse? The controversy over casting Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to don the jumpsuits and proton packs is a non-issue once you see this film. We found them all more than capable of taking on the action as well as the comedy. It just could have been put together and paced better, but it’s still fun, especially if you see it with a big audience.
Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Heat) and writing partner Katie Dippold have stuck to the original concept, only flipping the gender switch. As Feig describes it, the concept is quite simple. It’s about four smart outsiders who believe in ghosts. The rest of the world ridicules them until the ghosts go on a rampage and these apparition-chasing weirdos save the world. Add jokes, familiar music and way too many special effects.
Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a Columbia physics professor who only wants tenure and a cushy future. Her plans are derailed when her former best friend and fellow ghost enthusiast, Abby, (Melissa McCarthy) publicizes their old book. It’s called “Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal” by Erin Gilbert and Abby L. Yates (the characters named in the movie) and is for sale for real on Amazon! Nice piece of marketing. Kristen Wiig is the sedate one of the bunch. She underplayed the role so much, we kept waiting for her to break out more. She lets loose some eventually which was welcome.
Kate McKinnon steals every scene she’s in as the genius mad-scientist Jillian Holtzman who creates all the weapons and technology to defeat the ghosts. McKinnon gets to take her role way over the top so she gets more than her share of big laughs and rightfully so, especially when she pops out of nowhere with some silly line or sight gag.
Leslie Jones is Patty, a subway worker who joins the crew after her ghostly encounter on the tracks underground. She isn’t half as out there as she usually is on SNL and we think her brand of comedy could have been used more. Maybe she could have gotten a little sexy with one of the ghosts.
Melissa McCarthy obviously had a lot of fun as ringleader Abby. She’s running the show. McCarthy’s stunt double, Luci Romberg, says Melissa is an amazing athlete who always wants to do her own stunts, like she did in Spy. And she does a ton of them. The only ones she doesn’t do are the ones the studio won’t let her. Melissa says how often do you get a chance to be thrown across a room. It’s fun for her, she says, like getting to join the circus!
The comedic surprise is Chris Hemsworth’s blonde, male bimbo turn as Kevin, the Ghostbusters’ receptionist. Feig related how Hemsworth went off book and improvised a lot of his big interview scene with McCarthy and Wiig. He had them laughing so hard they had to keep shooting takes over and over again. And Yes, of course, you will get to see Thor with his shirt off and bust some moves when you least expect it.
This new Ghostbusters also pays homage to it’s roots. Most of the original cast makes cameos, unrelated to their characters from the 1984 film. Even the late Harold Ramis (to whom the film is dedicated) is worked into a scene. Rick Moranis, who hasn’t acted in 10 years, and is concentrating more on a music career, turned down the offer to appear. But you will see Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver. The audience at our screening cheered each appearance, but most of the “old timers” didn’t appear anxious to spend any more time on screen than their few seconds.
The music is full of energy. You will hear strains of the Ray Parker Jr. theme which has become as iconic as the 80’s movie itself. The new theme “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)” by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott doesn’t come anywhere near the original. The hook just isn’t memorable and Ray Parker Jr. agrees that the hip-hop, rap style is like everything else out there. He says he wished that someone asked his advice before putting it out there. He’s right.
The centerpiece of a Summer Blockbuster is the special effects. Once gain, the original Ghostbusters set a standard for its time. We didn’t see the effects, ghosts and explosions breaking any new ground here, but there were a lot of them. Actually too many of them. It’s your basic destroy Manhattan scenario you’ve seen in many other blockbuster action films. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of action, bizarre ghoulish apparitions and whiz bang CGI. Director Feig even brings back a few of the classic Ghosts from 1984 like the Sta-Puff Man and that bad greenie, Slimer. Both were cheered when they appeared.
It’s interesting to note that Feig decided to put real actors in full ghost make-up and costume with LED light suits. He believes that for comedy to work, actors need to interact to get real reactions and better laughs. So there is a minimum of acting in front of a plain green screen with an “X” where the actor is supposed to focus attention. He gets them right in there.
Is this worth your bucks? Simple answer is yes. This is a movie that’s much more fun to watch with a big audience reacting to comedy, the cameos and the over-all vibe. The plot, frankly, is weak and much of the film feels like SNL sketches. After all, this cast looks like an SNL reunion with Wiig,McKinnon, Jones, Cecily Strong, Murray, Aykroyd.
There are long stretches in the middle section of the film that lag. The climactic rescue and explosion didn’t bring anybody out of their seats. This movie which cost $150 million to make, has to appeal to a wide demographic, so the scary moments aren’t too scary and humor can’t get too raunchy. They take the safe, middle-of-the-road course.
Make sure to stay to the very end of the credits which won’t be hard to do since the credits and the extra content are just as entertaining, if not more, than the movie itself. Chris Hemsworth gets his due late in this game. This reboot of the 1984 revered classic isn’t great, but we think it’s good enough to deserve a sequel and there’s a hint that it could be coming. These days that pretty much is all that matters in the movie biz. If the box office is big enough, these ghostbusters may be back to haunt you.