The Bock’s Office: ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot is more of a reincarnation
A new version of a movie that’s been beloved for more than 30 years is rarely going to come along without people holding on to the memory of the original. In the case of “Ghostbusters,” referring to the update as being haunted by its predecessor seems most appropriate.
If you go…
“Ghostbusters,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 113 minutes
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones
Ivy League physics professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) has found her tenure track job on the line due to a past mistake — a book on the paranormal written by her and her former best friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), many years ago that has suddenly resurfaced.
Humiliated by the prospect of becoming attached to the kind of far-out theories she used to believe in, Erin demands Abby and her new research partner (Kate McKinnon) put a lid on things. That is, until the three of them experience an actual spirit, proving that not only are ghosts real, but they are in great supply in New York City.
Laughed out of their work in academia, the trio instead sets up shop on their own to investigate the threat of spooky specters overtaking the city, learning that the creatures from the other side may be getting some help from someone in the land of the living.
It’s a toss-up whether Wiig or McCarthy is meant to be the main character here, but as in “Bridesmaids” they complement each other well as best buddies with many years of estrangement suddenly thrown together again by something very strange indeed.
As Erin learns, it’s hard to be uptight and furious with your pal when there’s the prospect of a phantasm vomiting up an ocean of ectoplasm all over you, and while she’s the slime magnet, Abby bears the brunt of being the guinea pig for much of the group’s equipment.
McKinnon is a hoot as the inscrutable Holtzmann, a whiz with engineering, not so much with maintaining a conversation without going to weird areas. Fellow “Saturday Night Live” cast member Leslie Jones also adds plenty as the fourth member of the team, Patty, a transit worker with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Big Apple who doesn’t hesitate to step in as a no-frills exorcist by slapping evil spirits right out of someone.
Then there’s Chris Hemsworth as their hunky receptionist, Kevin. Suffice it to say if you thought he was a little thick as Thor, his latest character will have you concerned he’s truly brain-dead.
The gender-swap tactic of rebooting the franchise immediately split the fandom into those who applauded the girl power movement and those who claimed Harold Ramis would be rolling in his grave if he knew what had been done to the masterwork he created with Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman.
Well, Egon, I doubt you’ll be coming from the great beyond to wreak havoc, but be ready to start tearing up hotel hallways just in case of the inevitable. You know, cats and dogs, living together — MASS HYSTERIA!
As a director, Paul Feig clearly wants this to be a statement movie that shows there can be a revamp of an idea without all the fanboy fury when the only point that needs to be made is “Hey, women can be funny and wield proton packs, too!” And he accomplishes this, largely due to a leading quartet that’s definitely up to the job.
However, Feig’s script with Katie Dippold is a different matter than when he helmed “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” or “Spy.” It’s great that you want to highlight women, but if that’s the case, why are you making something that adheres so rigidly close to such a classic?
Think about it: the four character archetypes are the same, from the reluctant, skeptical leader to the occult enthusiast to the oddball egghead to the African-American layperson — the latter of which is a whole different conversation — the plot structure hardly diverges from where it was in 1984 with the exception of dropping a romantic subplot, and the references to the original are more dutiful than fun.
OK, the Hostess billboard that says, “That’s a big Twinkie!” is a good gag, but the cameos range from inspired to insipid, and we absolutely did not need multiple covers of the theme song when Ray Parker, Jr. got it right the first time.
The problem with “Ghostbusters” is that it’s doomed to provoke criticism for the wrong reasons. The leading ladies don’t deserve to be shot down for what amount to great performances just because they’re in a poorly conceived, unoriginal film, and yet every misogynistic movie buff will do exactly that because they dared to be in something that threatened to recreate their favorite flick.
I ain’t afraid of no reboot, but when you’ve got little new to say, you kind of deserve a boo, Mr. Feig.
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