‘Ghostbusters’ Review

‘Ghostbusters’ ain’t afraid to be a reboot, and that’s why it works

Feig and the Ghostbusters team have built a strong foundation for a rebooted series that seems more than capable of standing on its own.

From the moment it was first announced back in 2014, director Paul Feig’s reboot of Ghostbusters has been the focal point of debate. A depressing amount of that discussion has centered on the decision to go with four (very funny, very talented) women in the lead roles, but the real question — for sane, rational people, at least — is the one that lingers over any reboot, remake, or sequel these days: Does the movie justify the decision to start over?

Fortunately, while Ghostbusters does indeed stumble and occasionally feel more like 1989’s Ghostbusters II than the 1984 original, the final product not only does the franchise proud, but leaves you wanting more adventures with its all-new team.

Co-written by Feig and his screenwriter on The Heat, Katie Dippold, Ghostbusters casts Bridesmaids actresses Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as a brilliant particle physicist and an expert in the paranormal, respectively, who find themselves caught up in an investigation of spectral pests plaguing Manhattan. They’re assisted by an eccentric engineer played by Saturday Night Live cast member Kate McKinnon and a former subway station worker played by fellow SNL veteran Leslie Jones.

To their credit, the cast of Ghostbusters does a nice job of creating some distance between their characters and those of the original film’s stars.

Naturally, the team’s investigation leads to the discovery of a far more sinister threat facing the city, and the Ghostbusters soon find themselves in the role of reluctant heroes as they face off against a villain whose diabolical scheme could put an end to the world — or at the very least, New York.

As far as reboots go, Ghostbusters is positioned in a comfortable place at the midpoint between slavish, shot-for-shot remakes and movies that share nothing in common with their source material beyond a title.

To their credit, Feig and Dippold break new ground where necessary, but still seem to keep the original 1984 film just below the surface of their story. Many of the over-arching plot points echo the original, from the down-on-their-luck scientists treated like frauds who step up to become heroes, to the story’s reverence for New York City and its role as a nexus of sorts for paranormal phenomena.

The movie also doesn’t shy away from overt call-backs to the original, with much of the 1984 film’s primary cast appearing in the reboot in cameo roles (and in the case of one particular cast member, a bit more than a cameo), and more than a few tongue-in-cheek references to elements of the first film that have found their way into the collective memory of fans.

While the motivation behind all of the call-outs and cameos is obvious, at times, all of the nostalgia does weigh down the story Feig is trying to tell. Fans might enjoy the sight of so many familiar faces and lines from the original film, but those elements rarely feel organic and occasionally end up stalling an otherwise fun story right as it gets rolling along on its own momentum.

To their credit, the cast of Ghostbusters does a nice job of creating some distance between their characters and those of the original film’s stars.

There are few surprises to be found in the performances of Wiig and McCarthy, who play to their strengths and essentially play smarter, scientist-type versions of the characters they’ve had so much success playing in the past. Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is equal parts ambitious and awkward, while McCarthy’s Abby Yates is simultaneously confident and a little bit flakey. They’re the sort of characters both actresses do well with, and to their credit — and to the credit of Feig and the Ghostbusters creative team — they’re not simply female analogs of the male characters in the original film. Fans of the two actresses will find a lot to like about this new setting for them to continue doing what they do best.

McKinnon is the real standout in the film.

In the role of the team’s quirky tech expert, McKinnon shines as Jillian Holtzmann. At times, Holtzmann feels like an embodiment of all of the best parts of the original film’s Ghostbusters, brimming over with confidence and intelligence to spare, and not giving a damn what anyone thinks — or which safety concerns she might need to overlook to get the job done. She’s a butt-kicking science warrior on a quest to know the unknown, and she absolutely, positively isn’t afraid of any ghosts.

Possibly the best testament to Ghostbusters is that it does indeed deserve a sequel.

Basically, if any character in Ghostbusters is action-figure worthy, it’s McKinnon’s Holtzmann.

It’s Jones who ends up being that aforementioned exception — through no fault of her own.

Jones’ Patty Tolan is a subway station worker whose encounter with a ghost leads her to the Ghostbusters who eventually make her part of the team. Tolan is the closest thing to an analog the film has with its 1984 counterpart. Jones’ character is every bit the outsider that Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore was in the original Ghostbusters, and serves much the same purpose in the story. She’s the audience stand-in caught up in a wild, supernatural adventure, and although she gets more screen time than the underused Hudson did in the original film, their characters essentially exist for the same reason: to hold a proton pack and be the team’s voice of common sense and rational thought amid all of the scientific and supernatural chaos.

Jones does a fantastic job with what she’s given, but her role is limited. The film’s post-credits scene (yes, you’ll want to stay through the credits) suggests that she’ll play a far more integral, active role in the team’s investigations down the road — if there is a sequel, of course.

The film also features a fun performance by Thor star Chris Hemsworth, who plays the team’s meathead receptionist, Kevin. The superhero actor does a surprisingly good job with the comedy and holds his own alongside some pretty formidable funny actors, but does overstay his welcome with more screen time than seems necessary for a film about the Ghostbusters (not their receptionist). Janine never got this much time in the original.

1271033 - THE WALK

If there’s one flaw that permeates Ghostbusters, it’s the film’s reliance on some pretty heavy digital effects for its ghost characters — effects that occasionally feel too cartoony.

Texture is often the key to selling digitally created elements, and far too many of the specters and paranormal pests in Ghostbusters feel like flat images on a screen instead of characters in the story. It’s a problem in more and more movies as Hollywood leans heavily on digitally created elements. The issues with Ghostbusters shouldn’t be construed as a vote against computer-generated effects (or for practical effects, for that matter) but more of an example of what could use more attention in a sequel.

Possibly the best testament to Ghostbusters is that it does indeed deserve a sequel.

Feig and the Ghostbusters team have built a strong foundation for a rebooted series that — despite all of the issues that come with a nostalgia-laden property like this one — seems more than capable of standing on its own. Even where Ghostbusters falls short, the film shows a tremendous amount of potential for the characters (more Holtzmann, please) and the franchise down the road.

Here’s hoping that audiences — particularly those who could be the next generation of Ghostbusters fans — see that potential, too.

Movies & TV

15 films that flopped in the U.S. but made big bank overseas

A Hollywood film doesn't necessarily have to perform well in North America in order to be considered a success: These 15 films all performed poorly in the U.S., yet managed to rake in huge earnings overseas.
Movies & TV

Was there a 'Captain Marvel' Easter Egg In 'Avengers: Infinity War'?

Academy Award winner Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel in the upcoming Marvel Studios movie hitting theaters in March 2019. Here's everything we know about Marvel's first female-led superhero movie.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this summer with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Sony's upcoming 'Venom' movie might not be R-rated after all

Tom Hardy will play the lead role in Sony Pictures' Venom, so here's everything we know about the solo feature for the popular Spider-Man spinoff character ahead of the film's 2018 premiere in theaters.
Movies & TV

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' gets some extra SHIELD with latest casting

Despite some mystery surrounding Spider-Man's future after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man: Far From Home swings into theaters in July 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

Got questions about Hulu and Hulu with Live TV? We've got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Movies & TV

Dear Hollywood overlords: Please don’t turn the Oscars into the Grammys

With more than five million fewer viewers than a decade ago, the organizers of the Academy Awards are adding a “popular films” category in an attempt to capture more eyes. Here’s why we think that’s a terrible idea.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find them.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Zion,’ ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Short documentary Zion, hardboiled detective comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and more.
Movies & TV

MoviePass forces customers to choose between only two movies

After recently announcing a new model that is set go into effect in September, it was revealed that MoviePass has now started to force its customers to choose between only two movies.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Slaughterhouse Rulez,’ ‘The Nutcracker,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. To simplify things, we round up the best of the best each week. On tap this week: The trailers for Slaughterhouse Rulez and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
Movies & TV

A U.S. comedy that ended in 2004 is now the most-streamed show in the U.K.

It ended 14 years ago, but Netflix has given a U.S. comedy a new lease of life in Britain. In fact, it's currently the most-streamed show there, beating the likes of The Grand Tour and Stranger Things.
Movies & TV

‘The Meg’ devours the weekend box office to knock off ‘Mission: Impossible’

Giant shark movie The Meg surprised just about everyone with a massive opening weekend that gave studio Warner Bros. Pictures its biggest premiere of the year so far. It knocked Mission: Impossible -- Fallout down to second place.