There’s something strange in the neighborhood and it’s the way director/writer Paul Feig handled the reboot of “Ghostbusters.”
Instead of taking the classic franchise and making it a unique product, he settles for a story that lacks originality. The only sparks of interest are the endless cameo appearances and references to the original film.
Just like the original 1984 film, the new “Ghostbusters” starts with the formation of the team whose members aren’t afraid of no ghosts. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a professor at an upper echelon university on the verge of tenure. That status is threatened when an old friend and writing partner, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), releases a book they wrote together about ghosts.
They team with engineering whiz Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and blue collar worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) when they are approached to rid a New York mansion of its unwanted dead guests. The appearance of a real ghost leads to them starting their own ghost-hunting business.
The group battles a weird assortment of ghosts leading up to a major confrontation with a giant ghoul at the supernatural center of New York.
That sounds familiar, right? That’s because Feig sets his movie on the same course as the original. There’s nothing wrong with the design, but when you relaunch a story it is vital to embrace the original concept but still spin it on its fictional axis to create something new.
You know there is a problem when the biggest reactions come from the appearance of actors and references made to the first “Ghostbusters.” There are so many nods to the original film, Feig and company must be suffering from whiplash.
The script by Feig and Katie Dippold suffers from slow spots filled with an odd dance number and endless explanations of how the ghostbusting equipment works. These are fillers. The plot is more empty than a trick-or-treater’s bag at an apartment complex for dentists.
The movie does feature solid special effects, especially with the big battle at the end. It’s big and bright, but it doesn’t do enough to obscure a lack of originality.
One thing Feig does well is get solid performances from his cast. Both McCarthy and Jones have a tendency to overplay a lot of scenes but in this case they don’t. McKinnon does take her role over the top, but that works because she commits so deeply to the mad-scientist role.
Having Chis Hemsworth play the eye candy receptionist with the I.Q. of a hammer runs thin quickly.
There was a lot of backlash to the announcement that the reboot of “Ghostbusters” would feature a female cast. It wouldn’t have mattered if this had been an all-male, all-gay or all-penguin cast. It’s the story.
Should someone ask you “who you gonna call?”, tell them it’s the original “Ghostbusters.” This reboot is a spirited effort that ends up a pale specter of the original in the end.
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Jones
Director: Paul Feig
Rating: PG-13 (crude humor, action scenes)
Opens: Friday, July 15