[Screen It]


(2016) (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig) (PG-13)

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Comedy/Horror: Four female ghostbusters try to save New York City from a villain who wants to cleanse Earth by unleashing a plethora of ghosts into the world.
Abby Yates (MELISSA McCARTHY) and Erin Gilbert (KRISTEN WIIG) were once good friends who wrote a book about ghosts years ago. Yet, while Abby continues to work in the paranormal field with her geeky inventor colleague Jillian Holtzmann (KATE McKINNON), Erin has tried to distance herself from that past, what with hoping to get tenure at Columbia University where she's a professor. But when a ghostly occurrence at a nearby New York City mansion brings one of its directors calling for her help, Erin learns that Abby re-published their book without her permission and she's worried about what that will do to her academic reputation.

She reluctantly joins Abby and Jillian on an exploratory trip to the mansion and they indeed encounter a ghost. When video of that gets out, Erin is fired and then Abby and Jillian are kicked out of the institute where they've been working. The three decide to form a paranormal investigation team, and are soon joined by transit worker Patty Tolan (LESLIE JONES) who's had her own ghostly encounter, as well as the hunky but dimwitted Kevin (CHRIS HEMSWORTH) who signs on as their receptionist.

When news gets out about them, their workload increases as they've figured out a way to capture and contain ghosts. But that exposure also draws the attention of Mayor Bradley (ANDY GARCIA) and his PR director, Jennifer Lynch (CECILY STRONG), who want to discredit the "ghostbusters" in order to avoid any sort of city-wide panic. And that's important because the ladies have discovered that a disgruntled and picked-upon custodian, Rowan North (NEIL CASEY), wants to cleanse Earth of humans by allowing hordes of ghosts to enter our world. As they get more proficient at what they're doing, the ghostbusters try to stop him, unaware of how big the problem will become for them and their city.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
There's the old comment that there's no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right. I don't know where that saying originated, but I get the gist. At least back in the pre-Internet days when word of mouth was about the only way something spread among the masses. That is, until it escalated to the point of being covered in the press.

Nowadays, of course, the press doesn't rely on people talking face to face. Instead, it's all about what's trending online where people can immediately join some cause or jump on some bandwagon. Sometimes that's for the good (with popular crazes taking off at light speed as compared to the old days), but far more often than not it's used in some sort of negative way.

And that's certainly what's happened with the reboot of the 1984 comedy classic "Ghostbusters." Apparently forgetting the ill-will the disastrous 1989 sequel created toward the series, the navel gazers of the world first reacted upon hearing about the film being remade and expressed their displeasure online. Then they really lost it when it was announced that the genders would be reversed this time around, followed by the first trailer for the film becoming the most disliked movie trailer in YouTube history (and landing in the top ten of the most disliked videos overall).

I'll admit I'm not a fan of remakes in general (with a few exceptions) and that first trailer didn't inspire much confidence in what we'd eventually come to see. But none of that had to do with the fact that Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones signed on as the leads. After all, some of the funniest comedians in filmed history have been ladies, particularly on TV (Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, Tina Fey, etc.), and funny is funny regardless of gender, race, age and so on.

Accordingly, I sat down for our preview press screening of this film with a mostly open mind. The only hesitant part stemmed from my overall displeasure with Hollywood, in general, going back to the well time and again rather than creating something original, and the concern that writer/director Paul Feig might venture too far into over-the-top (and crude) humor as he did in "Bridesmaids." Having now seen the flick, I can say that the PG-13 rating keeps most (but not all) of the latter in check, and while it has a number of laughs, the overall film is a pale imitator of the original.

And much of that stems from the fact that Feig and co-writer Kate Dippold are too concerned about copying the blueprint of the original, paying homage to its various signature moments and shoe-horning in cameos by most of the original cast (who are not playing their characters from that film) . That's all taken to the point that they forgot to make a flick that stands on its own without being propped up by familiarity with and the popularity of the '84 film. In fact, it feels like a horror movie protagonist who's harassed by the spirit of someone they knew from the past and thus they're aware they're always there and seem to do what they can to appease that ghost rather than fully move forward.

Which is somewhat peculiar in that Feig and Dippold have crafted this as an origins story, pretending the events of the first film never existed while simultaneously and repeatedly referencing the original. For instance, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was an inspired bit of loopy zaniness in the first film that delivered on a funny bit (including the line "Well, there's something you don't see every day"). Here, he shows up again as a ghostly Macy's Day sort of parade balloon but only as homage and not something integral to the storyline this time around. It's not as bad as when Gus van Sant remade "Psycho" shot-by-shot, but there are too references going back that the film never truly goes forward on its own (again as an origins story).

The performances are okay, with McCarthy and Wiig reigned in quite a bit from their usual over the top antics (which I appreciated as I'm not a huge fan of either's signature material, but that wasn't replaced with enough of anything else to offset that omission). McKinnon is called upon to take up that slack, but I found her performance more irritating than funny. Jones gets the best moments essentially playing the Ernie Hudson part from the first film (which ends up making sense...somewhat), while Chris Hemsworth generates some laughs as a hunky dolt, but even that gets old after a while.

Andy Garcia and Cecily Strong can't do much playing the mayor and his head of PR, but their material and performances are golden compared to Neil Casey as the central antagonist in what's arguably one of weakest villain characters ever put on film. His actions obviously serve as the catalyst for the action and special effects extravaganza at the end, but all of that post-production work is pretty much for naught.

I wish I liked the film better as there was plenty of potential switching out the genders for the lead roles. But all involved don't go any further beyond simply showing that the ladies can play these sorts of characters just like the men, and never apply a much-needed feminine touch, wit, and intelligence to the material. It's certainly far from being bad-scary, as there are some laughs to be had, but it's clearly not the "Ghostbusters" you're gonna wanna call. That would be the 1984 film. This one rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed July 13, 2016 / Posted July 15, 2016

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