Ghostbusters (2016)

  • Time: 108 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Paul Feig
  • Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon


Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.


  • Certainly no film in recent history has been barraged with such backlash as Paul Feig’s all-female remake/reboot of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 Ghostbusters. Its trailer is the most disliked in YouTube history, angry fans have flooded IMDB with negative user ratings. Is all the animus warranted? Certainly not if one has actually seen the movie, which is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, managing not only to pay homage to the original but stand apart from it.

    Ghouls and giggles have been such strange bedfellows that few movies have managed to pull off the pairing with aplomb, which contributes to the enduring appeal of the original. One may have to look as far back as the Bowery Boys’ 1946 Spook Busters and the 1940 Bob Hope vehicle The Ghost Breakers to find comedies whose kicks were borne out of slapstick interactions with the paranormal and which were not outright parodies such as 2000’s Scary Movie. Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold set the scary-funny tone from the opening sequence. A guide (Zach Woods) tours a group around a haunted mansion, pointing out its notable features such as the room where P.T. Barnum got the idea to enslave elephants for entertainment, the Irish-proof security fence, and the door behind which one of the mansion’s inhabitants was locked for all of her days. The house has been tricked out to scare the customers but, after everyone has gone, the guide discovers to his distress that there is indeed a ghost and she is not a very friendly one.

    The film soon introduces us to the women that will comprise the ghost-fighting squad. Longtime friends Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), whose friendship has been strained since Erin distanced herself from a book they co-authored about paranormal phenomena, are thrown back together when they hear of the incident at the mansion. Erin is the prim and proper tenure-bound disbeliever, whilst Abby is the gung-ho obsessive. Both are reduced to giddy teenyboppers when they come face-to-face with the mansion’s ghost who proceeds to greet Erin with a seemingly endless spew of green slime. Their unabashed excitement – both over the encounter itself and the fact that their long-held but much-ridiculed convictions have finally been validated – is one of the film’s many highlights.

    Kicked out of their respective universities, Erin and Abby decide to form the Department of Metaphysical Examination with the headquarters based above the Chinese restaurant from which Erin exasperatedly receives her takeaways (“We’re a floor above you and it still takes you an hour to deliver,” she admonishes). Completing the quartet are the eccentric Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and streetwise MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Saturday Night Live stars McKinnon and Jones arguably steal the movie from their more well-known co-stars.

    Jones delivers many of the film’s funniest – and sometimes most cutting – lines. “I don’t know if it’s a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m pissed,” she announces after concertgoers fail to catch her when she jumps off the stage. “He’s the third scariest thing on that train,” she cracks about a ghost that’s hopped a Queens-bound train. As the newly dubbed Ghostbusters make their way through the theater’s backstage area in search of the reported ghosts, she comes across a room full of mannequins and promptly opts out of entering “the room full of nightmares” before one of the mannequins comes up behind her in one of the film’s creepiest moments.

    McKinnon, meanwhile, may not necessarily have lines that are funny in and of themselves but her attitude and delivery, a potent mixture of the darkly cynical and the earnestly curious, spin comic gold out of the simplest word. The rousing slow-motion sequence in which she blasts her way through a group of ghosts like a boss, is a prime example of the sustained hilarity and the genre-upending that this film delivers in spades.

    Individually and collectively, the actresses are all in fine fettle, proving that girls can kick back and have as much fun as the boys. One could reasonably argue that the filmmakers haven’t taken the feminist spin too far, but that would be a niggle as would any gripes about there being too many callbacks to the original film. Yes, the film is chock full of references to the original, but it’s not wholly beholden to it. Most of the original cast, save for the late Harold Ramis (who appears in the form of a bust at Erin’s university) and Rick Moranis (who declined to interrupt his retirement), pop up in generally delight-inducing cameos as do many other performers (including one rock star for whom hallucinations are part of the everyday). Chris Hemsworth, as the ladies’ amusingly clueless receptionist Kevin, expands on the comic chops that have been briefly glimpsed in the Thor and Avengers movies and the execrable Vacation. Whether hanging up the phone on a potential customer because he “was just not into that conversation” or contentedly chomping on a sandwich in the midst of all the ectoplasmic mayhem, Hemsworth brings a wonderful goofiness to the mix.

    Though the film is allegedly set in present times, its heart is very much in the Seventies and Eighties, from its choice of music (DeBarge!) to some of its call-outs (The Exorcist, The Shining, Poltergeist). Never is this more evident than in its treatment of its special effects, which are both vibrantly updated and yet sweetly old-fashioned, and its vision of New York’s Times Square with its straight-out-of-the-Eighties revival houses and non-extant companies cleaned up and neonised. Ghostbusters is not without its flaws – the designated villain responsible for the sudden increase of paranormal activity around the city is a bit standard, and one original Ghostbuster outstays his welcome – but it is a terrifically entertaining film that will induce both belly laughs and shivers down the spine. Forget the trailer, forget the social media chatter, go see it for yourself.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: The spirits are high, even if they fall a bit short in this sporadically funny remake.

    GRADE: B-

    SYNOPSIS: More ghosts in the movie machine.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Rest assure that the misogynistic rantings on social media about the all-female casting of the rebooted Ghostbusters is for naught. While this newly minted version lacks the overall fun and iconic moments of the original (more on that later), the comedians do it justice, even if they become lost amid endless CGI effects by the third act.

    The gang is back to fight evil spirits who are suddenly materializing in midtown Manhattan. Only this time they, being the new estrogen-fueled ghostbusters, take the form of an all-girl hunting party fully armed with proton zappers and funny zingers. The casting of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, all talented and funny ladies who have incredible comic timing, take a standard been-there-before script and add needed energy and verve to the predictable.

    Director Paul Feig never finds the right rhythm as he constantly sacrifices the comedy elements for the state-of-the-arts CGI, which overshadows the hijinks. (To be fair, the original film also had that same issue.) The effects are better than average, otherworldly but still ho-hum. The squad battles phantom after phantom…that’s the essential plot. One set piece after the next becomes overkill, with little screen time to develop the characters and their relationships. As the film reaches its end, too many ghosts may have lost the war but they have successfully clogged this movie machine.

    Of course, the specter of the popular 1984 film haunts this version. It almost intrudes. Feig’s walk down memory lane becomes an apt reminder of the superiority of the original. There is an almost desperation to connect both films which upstages this new film adaptation in comparison. While there are pleasant reminders interspersed in this 2016 model, the screenplay never deals much with the personal angle of the group. Most of the original cast members, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man, do make an appearance to earn this film their seal of approval. While the film is heavily endorsed by producers, cast, and crew of the earlier franchise, the numerous product endorsements, including Papa John’s Pizza and Sony, are also glaringly front and center.

    But the green slime is back in full force, the film’s trademark logo and theme song are present, and the quick banter between the quartet exists, even if the sinister Zuul and its demonic body possession is sorely missing…as is that fond memory of Mr. Murray and Ms. Weaver’s hilarious sex scene was an iconic moment in cinematic comedy. (However, the mere mention of Zuul in the lengthy end credits may be enough to plant another sequel in the minds of filmmakers and producers, even if this film is a bit of a financial bust with the moviegoing audience.)

    Still Ghostbusters (2016) more than amuses, thanks to the actors involved. The four leads are fine replacements to the cause, especially Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Jones. Chris Hemsworth adds nice support as the dim-witted boy-toy secretary to our crusaders. But the formulaic screenplay by the director and Katie Dippold just doesn’t give this assembled crew a ghost of a chance.

    NOTE: Stay for the aforementioned end credits to witness a cut 80’s dance sequence with Mr. Hemsworth, who has all the right moves, It owes a tip of the hat to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Too back the entire sequence wasn’t in the actual film, a poor decision by its director, Mr. Feig. At least, some of it has been saved for our viewing pleasure.

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  • Mayor Bradley (played by Andy Garcia) gets offended when someone compares him to mayor Larry Vaughn from the movie Jaws. Dean Thomas Shanks (played by Steve Higgins) finds new ways to give people the middle finger. Sadly, these instances don’t directly involve any of the main characters. And sadly, these are the only times I chuckled during 2016’s Ghostbusters (my latest review).

    Anyway, they say good movies should never be remade. Such is the case here.

    Now if you think I’m gonna compare this patch job reboot to the original film from thirty-two years ago, well you’d be correct. In truth, Ghostbusters doesn’t try to be like the first installment. Guess what though, that just makes it feel like an even more inferior product.

    Paul Feig directs “Ghost” and does what I feared he would do. He for reasons known, turns it into a Melissa McCarthy vehicle. The dialogue is grating, the improvisation is overwhelming, the lead actresses don’t really click together, there are minimal laughs, and McCarthy’s voice sounds like someone with a bad cold. Who you gonna call? How about the guys from 1984 instead.

    When Ivan Reitman helmed the original Ghostbusters, he created cinema that combined the eerie and scary with the humorous. He had Bill Murray providing one-liners and quips. He also inserted a foreboding, musical soundtrack to add to the film’s epic statue. When the dust settled and the box office receipts came in, a perfect summer blockbuster was born. With this new Ghostbusters, nothing seems to be at stake. Feig generates something stock about four woman teaming together as ghost catchers. Their story is laughably rushed. By the time all the apparitions and demons have been eliminated via Times Square (spoiler), there’s no one to really root for.

    Basically with the first Ghostbusters flick, the people of New York identified with the heroes. A close relationship (and a romance) was formed between the two. With this modern day Ghostbusters, the girls with the proton packs seem alienated from most citizens in the “Big Apple”. They do their job, snap at heavy metal concert goers, and complain about their lousy Chinese food. It just doesn’t work. Bottom line: Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones aren’t at all cooler than Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, and Ernie Hudson. I’m not saying that because I’m a guy. Heck, it’s just a fact.

    Granted, 2016’s “Ghost” does provide an upgrade in the special effects department. The phantoms may not be scary but they have a unique look to them (kind of like metallic cartoon characters). Also, there’s more ghosts this time (plus the return of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man) and more disgusting slime than in the first Ghostbusters. My problem with this current re-imagining is the weak yet tech-savvy script, the hapless cameos by stars of the original (Aykroyd, Hudson, Murray, and Sigourney Weaver), and the notion that the new ghost wrangler babes rent out an apartment (above a rundown restaurant) for $21,000 a month. Huh? In this flick’s nearly two hour running time, they don’t make any money in their paranormal profession.

    Neither scary nor funny, Ghostbusters thinks it’s a success and blatantly begs for a sequel by the time the end credits roll. Somehow somewhere, the great Harold Ramis is turning in his grave. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

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  • “I’m Ed Mulgrave. I’m the historian at the Aldridge Mansion, and I believe it’s haunted. If you could just come take a look.”

    There’s one thing I’m firmly convinced of. And that’s to stay clear of milestones in film history. A milestone is a film that isn’t necessarily brilliant or an absolute masterpiece, but it made a particular impression on me. For instance “Evil Dead”. For me that movie is a milestone because this was the first real horror I watched and I afterwards I wasn’t haunted by traumatic nightmares. When I left the cinema hall after watching “Grease”, I thought I was as tough and cool as Danny. “Back to the Future” remains a rock-solid classic for me. And “Ghostbusters” from 1984 was also such a milestone. It became a kind of a hype and it’ll still be appreciated by film lovers after 50 years and broadcasted on television on Saturdaynight. I’m sure no one will remember this remake after lets say a year. It may safely be added to the list of unnecessary made and totally failed remakes in the history of motion pictures.

    The highlight of this film is the appearance of the original Ghostbusters actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and a bust of Harold Ramis (who unfortunately died in 2014). And the funniest thing is that Murray plays a skeptic who doesn’t believe in the existence of ghosts. And strangely enough, Chris “Thor” Hemsworth was the funniest character from the new cast. Funny, the majority thinks the opposite about these two last facts. For the rest, this is simply a duplicate of the original film. The story-line is almost identical (with some minor adaptations). The biggest difference are the special effects. They look sophisticated and are very impressive compared to those of 32 years ago (quite obviously) and a Ghostbusters team that consists entirely of women. I don’t have a problem with that. But nonetheless it’s still not clear to me why they’ve chosen this option.

    Maybe it’s me or the fact that the nostalgic value of this film is very high. Perhaps the opinion about this film will be different if you’re from a younger generation and you’ve never seen the first version. Sure, in that case it’s still brand new and highly original. But someone like me who’s part of an older generation and who has enjoyed the original film, just sees a duplicate, full of recycled ideas and reused objects, infused with not so humorous humor. Admit it, when you smile more about the fumbling of a hunk, who impersonated “Thor” once, this raises all kind of questions. Maybe it’s because I have no affinity with the female so-called humorous actress Melissa McCarthy. I thought “The Heat” was horrible. And I pulled the plug on “Spy” after half an hour because I was bursting into tears rather than in laughter. Who you gonna call? Not these ghost busters for sure …

    Nonetheless, it’s admirable they persisted in making this reboot. You don’t need to be a genius to realize that this version would be overshadowed by its predecessor and would never manage to beat it. And if you don’t have a unique story-line and all kinds of objects from the first film are used again (the paranormal apparitions Slimer and the Marsh Mellow Man, the famous tune, their headquarter and the Ghostbusters vehicle), there’s only one thing that remains : the interaction between the main characters and the humor. And even that was toe-curling bad and irritating. The humor used by Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd was so natural, genuine and ingenuous. What’s demonstrated here is so plastic and as implausible as the ghostly entities that flood New York City. Well, I stand by my first statement. Milestones are untouchable.

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