The much anticipated (for better or worse) Ghostbusters refresh hit American soil for mass consumption last evening. Before we venture any further, let’s just address the Stay Puft sized elephant(s) in the room: the trailers are bad, the marketing has been an exercise in futility, and I was not looking forward to this film. Much to my surprise, I did not walk out of the theater in a heated rage and my childhood affection for the original film and cast was left completely intact. I did have quite a few light hearted chuckles, but those were negated quickly by cringe worthy and shallow plot devices. This film has been shrouded in controversy and it’s not outside the realm of plausibility that the true spirt of the film was left on the cutting room floor with a gentle nudge from studio handlers. In all regards, the finished product delivers juvenile attempts at humor, underwhelming performances, whiplash inducing tone shifts, and special effects you swear you’ve seen in the last Scooby Doo movie.
Chances are if you’re taking the time to read this you’re aware of the original Ghostbusters debut in 1984 starring the comedic powerhouse of Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis. For the 2016 treatment, the core team is built around Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig), Abigail Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and the zany Jillian Holzman (Kate McKinnon.) Mirroring the original, the team is rounded out by a street-wise native New Yorker, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones.) While each of these talented actresses are funny in their own right, their performances are tone deaf as none have the chops to engage and carry the audience through this haphazardly constructed plot. If you’ve watched Wiig’s previous Feig film (i.e. Bridemaids) and to some degree her work on Saturday Night Live, her performance mirrors the aforementioned. McCarthy falls victim to her constant one dimensional delivery of every line but I was pleasantly surprised by a low frequency of falling down and fat jokes on her behalf. Gilbert and Yates are essentially the same character, only difference in Erin’s obnoxious swooning over the brain dead receptist, Kevin played by Chris Hemsworth. Holzman offers immediate comic relief through much of the first act but her character’s antics become over played and too far over the top less than half way through the flick. The biggest surprise came in the form of the destructor …errr Jone’s Patty. The expected loud, assertive character witnessed in the trailer and TV spots (unfortunately those parts are in the actual film) was nicely complimented by the only performance that seems to fit the overall tone and mood.
Another shining part of the film was the arsenal of new technology developed by Holzman to assist the Busters in their paranormal endeavors. We are treated to an abridged look at the development of the updated proton packs and traps and also given a slew of new tools including a ghost chipper (think if a vacuum had dirty sex with a wood chipper after a few shots of tequila), proton flash grenades, compact proton pistols and a gauntlet capable of discharging a proton beam with a flailing punch.
I won’t go into detail (if you really want to know do a quick google search) on the “surprise” cameos from the cast members of the 1984 release. Predictably, homage to the originals is paid, but in distractingly flat fashion – except for the fan favorite spuddly specter, Slimer whose appearance is an insulting attempt at fan service.
So to recap from my Ghostbuster fanboy heart to yours, this movie has an audience that will most certainly enjoy it; evidenced by the row of pre-pubescent girls (which made up for 25% of those in attendance for my first screening) hooping and hollering at lazy dick and fart jokes. But if this is the movie to rally around for larger roles for female hereon, it falls short. The entire movie falls victim to itself – rather than rise above and create a truly unique and enjoyable re-imagining of the Ghostbusters, you’ll be treated to cheap shots taken at internet naysayers which do nothing more than further the divide and alienate the rabid fan base of the originals. No amount of flashy ecto-tech could equip this cast to overpower the lacking, childish attempts to capture and build on the iconic Ghostbuster properties of the past. Rather, Ghostbusters 2016 will fall into obscurity as it is nothing more than an easily forgotten summer popcorn flick soon to be found littering the five dollar bin at your favorite big box retailer and late night cable obscurity.