Ghostbusters (2016): adapted by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig from the 1984 film written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd; directed by Paul Feig; starring Kristen Wiig (Erin), Melissa McCarthy (Abby), Kate McKinnon (Holtzmann), and Leslie Jones (Patty): Part valiant try, part corporate disaster. Paul Feig really wouldn’t have been any of my choices to co-write or direct a Ghostbusters reboot. Edgar Wright would have been perfect, given his comfort level with visual effects and the effective integration of those effects into a comedy.
Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold don’t have a clue when it comes to the fantastic elements of Ghostbusters. One of the charms of the original movie was that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote a screenplay that could have been played completely straight as a supernatural action movie pitting the forces of science against Lovecraftian horrors. In its comedic way, Ghostbusters (1984) is the greatest Humanity vs. The Supernatural movie ever made: it certainly presents a more believable battle with higher stakes than any Exorcist or Omen movie, and all without the creaky apparatus of Judeo-Christian apocalypticism.
And that movie knew how to deploy its visual effects in service to its story and its comedy. This Ghostbusters just keeps throwing an escalating series of expensive visual effects at the screen in what looks by the end of the film like total panic by Feig and the studio.
There’s nothing wrong with the casting of the distaff new Ghostbusters. I particularly liked Leslie Jones as a subway guard with an encyclopedic knowledge of New York’s history. But McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, and Jones would have benefitted from better writing and a plot that actually builds: the movie goes from set-up to climax without any of the original film’s middle complement of successful Ghostbuster operations.
Chris Hemsworth’s idiot receptionist is a clunky puzzle — he may work as a very broad parody of genre portrayals of women, but he certainly doesn’t work as a gender-flipped equivalent to Annie Potts’ brassy receptionist from the original.
Beyond that, the villain is terribly uncompelling — and the movie spends a lot of time trying to flesh out his character. The original wasn’t saddled with this problem: Zuul was an approaching force, and William Atherton handled the role of secondary bureaucratic villain without any worries about his backstory.
If there’s any emblem of this movie’s misguided nature, it’s this: ghosts et al. now throw slime everywhere pretty much all the time, but especially when passing through solid objects. Some slime good, more slime am better, say Hollywood! And let’s give Slimer a girlfriend and a car! Yeah. That’s super. Not recommended.