Let’s start with the good news: The new Ghostbusters is funny and entertaining, the story moves along at a solid clip and has lots of cameos from the stars of the original 1986 Ghostbusters too. The story works with four women in the lead roles instead of the four men in the original film just fine.
That’s not the problem with this remake. In fact, there are two fundamental problems when you look at it more closely than just asking whether it’s funny: The first is that there’s not much actual story, no real narrative crescendo that is resolved in the last reel. That’s because of the second, bigger problem: The new film tries way too hard to pay homage to the original movie.
There aren’t just cameos, for example, there are characters on screen that have pointless, flat scenes that break the narrative flow. Chief among them is Bill Murray as Dr. Martin Heiss. He doesn’t even look like he wants to be in front of the camera, it’s so painful to watch.
And then there’s the storyline, which liberally borrows sets, scenes and story elements from the original goofy, whimsical movie. There’s enough different that it’s not a remake, but that being the case, they didn’t judiciously pay homage in subtle, nuanced ways, the production team uses the first film as a scrapbook from which to yank concepts as LEGO pieces. It’s downright weird how much it occurs.
The basic storyline has Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) trying to attain tenure at Columbia University when a paranormal book she wrote with former best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) resurfaces on Amazon.com. That’ll torpedo her chance at tenure, so she marches over to the Paranormal Research Lab to confront Abby, just to meet nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and for all three of them to be unceremoniously kicked out of the college.
Now what? While that’s happening, there are also ghost sightings, include the terrific opening scene’s haunted house. So the three women decide to open a service where they’ll use Holtzmann’s crazy inventions to tame and capture ghosts. They can’t afford the fire station from the first film (look closely, it’s a great reproduction) so they end up above a Chinese restaurant. Ghostbusters!
Add one-bulb-short-of-a-chandelier Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as the eye candy secretary and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) as the hilarious straight-talking no-nonsense fourth Ghostbuster and you have the cast of the film. Hemsworth has a lot of fun with the role of the dumb beefcake, as does Wiig, and that’s some of the best humor in the movie because it’s so opposite to his usual roles.
The four women also deliver good performances, though my film-viewing friends and I disagreed on who was best. I enjoyed Wiig and Tolan and found McCarthy her usual overly crass self and McKinnon rather inexplicable as a sort of 80s throwback mad scientist who would be better suited for a remake of Doctor Detroit.
Adding to that, however, this new Ghostbusters movie is far cruder than the original film. In fact, there are so many crude jokes and scenes that the new movie definitely earns its PG-13 rating and I wouldn’t recommend taking younger children to the theater.
Also, a handy tip: There’s a post-credits scene. And it doesn’t involve any Marvel characters. But stay and watch it anyway.
Still, all of the problems aside, I did laugh a lot during the movie. There are some very funny lines, some amusing visuals and it’s a movie that zips along to its quite inevitable conclusion, all the while proving entertaining.