"Ghostbusters" (2016) Review

There is a beautiful scene in Ghostbusters in which Melissa McCarthy’s character gives the other members of the team a pep talk after the citizens of New York denounce them as frauds. I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but she essentially says that even though everyone is doubting them, they know what they’re doing and should ignore the vitriol and save the day anyway.

It’s a fitting metaphor for the film itself, when you think about it. From the moment it was announced, Paul Feig’s reboot of Ghostbusters received backlash and bile from fans of the original film from 1984, making it the subject of untold amounts of rage-filled comments. Its trailer has become the single most down-voted trailer in YouTube history.

So, even though the angriest denizens of the Internet were counting them out, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) and the four talented comediennes he chose to be our new Ghostbusters were so sure-handed and confident, they rose above the hatred and won the day in the end.

Of course, this new version of Ghostbusters is nowhere near as good as the classic original. It was never going to be. But it’s not worth all the fuss, and it’s far from the disgrace to the original film’s legacy that the angry commenters were expecting (and probably hoping for). When all is said and done, it’s a scrappy, good-natured summer blockbuster that, while not perfect, delivers a lot of laughs, a few chills, and a ton of thrills.

When a book about the paranormal that she co-wrote resurfaces, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is let go from her teaching position at Columbia University. The at-first-skeptical Dr. Gilbert soon realizes that all her theories were true when malevolent ghosts begin to invade Manhattan. Teaming up with her former friend, Dr. Abby Yates (McCarthy); eccentric engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (the particularly outstanding Kate McKinnon); and New York history enthusiast Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Dr. Gilbert forms a paranormal extermination team called the Ghostbusters in order to save the world from a demonic entity.

While the story hits a lot of the same beats as the original, it’s the chemistry between these four women, as well as Feig’s unique sense of comedic timing, that keep this reboot feeling fresh. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, and Jones bounce off of each other to great effect, giving us a sense of camaraderie that harkens back to how well Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson worked with each other in the original. There is genuine wit and inventiveness in the design of the ghosts, and there are even a couple of creepy sequences that sent chills down my spine.

However, even though Ghostbusters gets a lot of things right, that makes the things that it gets wrong all the more frustrating. The film needed some more time in the editing room to tighten up the baggy pacing. As demonstrated in his previous works, Feig encourages improvisation in his cast. While this often leads to some very funny bits, it keeps scenes dragging on for far longer than necessary. There are scenes that begin and end very abruptly, and quite a few of the jokes land with a resounding thud. Additionally, there are several surprise cameos from some recognizable faces, but their presence just serves as a distraction as it takes the focus away from the core group.

But once the team gets to busting, the proton packs get to firing, and the jokes get to flying, the film is an absolute joy to watch, especially in a 3D presentation that ranks among the best I’ve ever seen. The 3D effects go out and over the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen, so it creates the illusion that slime, ghosts, and laser beams are invading the theater and jumping right at you. It’s a truly effective technique, and it made me wonder why more 3D movies don’t take advantage of it.

So after all that hullabaloo over this new Ghostbusters destroying the integrity of the original and insulting the memory of its co-writer Harold Ramis… it’s time to relax. Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is not an insult to the original. Harold Ramis, God rest his soul, is not spinning in his grave. The original Ghostbusters is still readily available to watch and enjoy, and is probably on your home video shelf right now. I know it’s on mine. And when the reboot is released on Blu-ray, it will not replace my copy of the original. It will have earned a place right alongside it.

Grade: B-