From the day this female-forward Ghostbusters reboot thing got announced, unhinged fanboys have been sliming the internet with their ecto-hate. The movie’s trailers sparked thousands of pearl-clutching responses full of the mortal dread that a remake, especially one starring—gasp, women!—would somehow corrupt childhood memories of a beloved supernatural action comedy. Superfans of the 1984 original Ghostbusters, starring Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis, have reportedly even sent hate mail to the moviemakers and cast. How messed up is that? “Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life,“ said director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy), who helmed the remake—and who knows a few things on the subject, having created Freaks and Geeks.
But look: Trolls will hate-watch the redo anyway. So for the rest of us, how is it?
The cast is one of the movie’s saving graces, but it can’t save Ghostbusters from coming off like warmed over déjà vu-all-over-again that’s way too reverential toward its predecessor. It’s set in Manhattan (but filmed in Boston) where a massive outbreak of ghosts (very cool in 3D) haunt a grand old mansion, the subway and the theater district. Co-scripted by Katie Dippold (The Heat) and Feig, the movie casts Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon as dedicated psychic researchers toiling away in a down-market lab, Kristen Wiig as a fallen academic and paranormal skeptic and McCarthy’s old colleague, and Leslie Jones as a New York subway transit worker who, for reasons that the screenwriters down’t really bother to explain, joins the team housed in a former Chinese restaurant.
Feig spends an awful lot of time on an awfully scant plot, and the digital effects-bloated flick is awkwardly paced and clumsily edited and rarely generates big enough laughs, scares or interest in the characters. But what’s mystifying is how often the stars, who have proven themselves to be inventive and funny, sometimes explosively funny, come off bland. Their camaraderie should be right up there on screen but McCarthy and Wiig, who’ve worked together in Bridesmaids and on SNL, seem weirdly disconnected. More dispiriting is that when they do try to jolt the script to life, their comic riffs, improvisations and joie de vivre hit dead air.
Then there’s McKinnon, playing a role Wiig might have copped five or so years ago. She’s all crazy hair, goggles and a deeply twisted gleam in her eye. With her insanely sharp timing and go-for-broke comedy chops, she constantly shifts focus whether she’s doing a bizarre happy dance to DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night,” flirting with Wiig or improvising bizarre ghost-trapping devices. She’s like what might happen if someone crossed a Bond movie M with several Marx Brothers—a sexy side of young Sharon Stone. Yeah, she’s that good.
Still—the cameos by Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a bust of Harold Ramis? The noisy, out-of-control finale that invites the audience to tune out? Depressing. At least Chris Hemsworth—the ghostbusters’ office assistant “Kevin,” a clueless hunk and object of lust and a fun reversal of the dumb blonde stereotype—looks like he’s having a great time. Especially when he’s spouting lines like, “Have you ever realized an aquarium is just a submarine for fish?”
Ghostbusters will almost certainly beget a sequel or two. But if the next installments stand a ghost of a chance of winning over viewers once and for all, Feig and company should respectfully and lovingly go their own anarchic way, leaving behind both the original movie and the sad little hater who wrote, “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”