Monday, May 20, 2024

Review: Fanboys Want to Kill “Ghostbusters” But Four Comic Superstars Are Worth the Ticket


Who you gonna call? Not the old Ghostbusters. They’d been trying to work out a new chapter of their series when Harold Ramis died in 2014. I talked to Ivan Reitman a lot about it but then Ramis fell ill, and the rest is history.

Someone had the smart idea for an all-female cast version. Why not? The original “Ghostbusters” wasn’t “The Godfather.” It’s sturdy enough to take this route. A new generation, same song (Ray Parker via Huey Lewis). Paul Feig is very clever. What could go wrong?

I’ll take the stand that the new “Ghostbusters” is a lot of fun. You’re never going to recapture the novelty of the original — even with cameos from all the old stars. The surprise is over. But new productions of old plays are common on stage. There’s nothing so sacrosanct about “Ghostbusters.” Get over it.

The Feig movie basically retells the same story as the original, just updated to 2016. Ghosts are attacking, scientists with weird inventions must combat them. The squad this time is Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. A Hemsworth is their Annie Potts (I’m never sure which one, but I think it’s Chris. Or Liam.) Andy Garcia and Cecily Strong are New York’s mayor and his aide de camp. Ed Begley and Zach Woods run a haunted house . This isn’t rocket science.

The good news is that the actresses are terrific fun, each enjoyable as heck. McCarthy and Wiig are better known quantities from “Bridesmaids” and their TV shows, and they’re solid as the central ‘straight men’ (comic– not preference). I adore both Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, and they don’t fail to entertain. Neither does Cecily Strong. Lorne Michaels has a current crop of female superstars, and they are all unleashed here.

Hemsworth is very funny and self-deprecating although it might have been more interesting to have Paul Rudd in there instead.

Special effects? This isn’t “Avatar,” They’re fine. I saw the 2D version. “Ghostbusters” is about characters and fun, so it didn’t bother me that the whole thing looks a little cheesy. What bothered me was there was no story. With all these characters, there’s no flirting, no romance, no frisson. One more draft and maybe Wiig and Andy Garcia might have hooked up. Leslie Jones could have had one of her Colin Jost things happening. I was sure Cecily Strong’s mayoral aide and McKinnon’s inspectress gadget would at least wink at each other. But nada. Nothing happens. And so the film never feels like it takes off to a higher plane.

But Harold Ramis gets a lovely nod with a bust-wearing-glasses, and all the old actors roll through (you have to wait til the bitter end to see Sigourney Weaver). Begley and Woods fade away (the latter could have developed a crush on Jones). Dan Aykroyd has a drive by, and Murray has a bewildering cameo that ends nowhere. I really clapped when I saw Annie Potts– she could have been their den mother, the elder lady with all the secrets. (Next time, if there is a next time.)

This “Ghostbusters” also has a lot of product placements, notably H&M (which is the only name on a New York skyscraper) and 7-11. For some reason, when the scenes turn to Times Square, stores that don’t exist anymore like Woolworth’s and Bonds are featured. Was this a retro thing? I couldn’t figure it out. But it does say that I was getting a little bored toward the end so that checking for Easter eggs was on my mind.

Is it fun? Yes. Is it a good summer comedy? Yes. And it’s absolutely worth seeing these ladies go for it. They’re a hoot. So plug your ears to the nay-sayers. Don’t let them slime this film.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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