Let’s forget the asinine online controversy surrounding Ghostbusters 2016, a film that’s been lambasted by lame throngs of man-children with childhoods so terrible a pop culture item could apparently ruin them. Okay, I’m done. Now let’s forget it. Paul Feig, the funnymaker of Melissa McCarthy’s career, has churned out an amiable remake that is neither bust nor blockbuster. It’s half of a good movie interrupted by bellowing and ghost balloons. McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon make a great team, even if their individual charms are eventually overshadowed by one bombastic finale.
Wiig’s a tenured professor and normal schlub narrowly escaping her former life as a paranormal believer until an old book creeps up on Amazon. McCarthy’s a jargon-ranting, proudly intellectual believer with a bevy of makeshift technology. McKinnon’s her eccentric partner in science with an engineer’s know-how and a pansexual’s how-to. The latter is only implied, but boy does she exude some wily charisma. Jones is happily employed as a subway worker while her true passion lays deeper, in history. She’s a connoisseur of the past, in particular the mysterious nooks and crannies of our delicious Big Apple. Plus, don’t forget Chris Hemsworth as their clueless secretary, a role perfectly tailored for the mighty Thor’s dopey smile and roguish muscles. For once the male gaze has been usurped by the female gaze as Wiig’s lonesome teacher can’t stop flirting with the dude at their front desk.
These four women enjoy an easy chemistry and we enjoy them for it. That is, before the ectoplasm hits the fan. Once the loser villain and his Revenge of the Nerds plot comes to fruition, the clever gags and garish laughs take a backseat to the outdated spectacle of CGI spirits from beyond terrorizing New York. The problem is two-fold: cameos from iconic entities like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man fall flat, and there’s nothing new to replace them. A year from now I’ll be hard-pressed to point out or describe any memorable ghouls from an otherwise infectious outing. It doesn’t help that mad scientist Rowan North feels like a placeholder villain, not to mention the fact that he’s an ordinary millennial sans normal hobbies and, well, sanity. Previous franchise poltergeists were demonic demigods and the terrible ghost of a sixteenth century tyrant. Much more interesting than a mere door man turned arbiter of the dead.
No matter how much the original is impossible to top given its pedestal, Ghostbusters 2016 still comes up woefully short in comparison. The biggest failure must be the bawdy and unbelievably tone-deaf decision to produce a new theme song. Yes, the “Who ya gonna call?” hymn makes a brief appearance early on and occasionally pops up via synth score rendition, but c’mon…this is one of the most famous songs in cinematic history. Utilize it, Feig. Regardless, a mixed recommendation is in order for the pure unadulterated fun of watching four comedians do their thing. And I’ll admit, the other cameos don’t hurt.