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Don’t Slime Me, ‘Ghostbusters’ Is A Fun Update (Movie Review)

ghostbusters thumbThe prospect of putting together a new Ghostbusters is a daunting one, yet an interesting challenge. While the 1984 fantasy-comedy is regarded by many (including myself) as a classic, the concept of a group of scientists in the business of catching ghosts opens up a world of possibilities. Despite the many people (including the original film’s mastermind and star Dan Aykroyd) who championed a third film, the resulting addition to the franchise is a modern update featuring a new director and cast. Fortunately for them, despite a few bumps, the film is fun summer entertainment.

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A new origin story is put forward that wisely separates it from the original for the most part. Kristen Wiig stars as Erin Gilbert, a scientist who had a falling out with her friend and fellow scientist Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). A supposedly haunted house brings these two back together (they once wrote a book on ghosts), along with Abby’s new scientist pal Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Following an event that leaves Erin covered in slime, the group put themselves in a position to go into business capturing and studying ghosts.

Plenty of joy comes from seeing actors and filmmakers relish the opportunity to embrace the silliness of what they are working on. Director Paul Feig seems to get that, which is why his take on Ghostbusters largely works. The lightening in a bottle that was created by the first film was never going to be recreated, but Feig certainly seems to be having plenty of fun with the new cast he has assembled and working again with co-writer Katie Dippold (The Heat) to deliver on the type of humor he has found success in directing.

In that regard, the film generally works pretty well. Leslie Jones’ Patty eventually joins the group, which makes for a great team, serving as the film’s greatest asset. There is a theme of comradery that stems from a brief bit of backstory, which makes me wonder about the deleted character beats that would have made a climactic moment more affecting. These are small beats and arguably ones that make this film longer than it needs to be (nearly two hours, compared to the original’s 100 minutes), but the audience does get the chance to invest in these folks.

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Story-wise, the film is about as straightforward as it gets in terms of setting up the team, letting them riff for an hour and pushing them into an action-packed third act, with little gaps in logic suggesting studio notes here and there. There’s also the matter of product placement and the general look of the New York we see. While I don’t doubt Papa John’s Pizza exists in NYC, it’s unlikely four New Yorkers would all be eating it. It’s only worth noting because of how much of a New York movie the previous films seemed to be. This 2016 edition feels fake by comparison, especially given how confined it feels.

The amount of call-backs will likely be a source of contention to many as well. It’s never in the film’s best interest when it embraces these moments, as the cast and general momentum found in the original material plays so much better. Sadly, it’s most troublesome when we see Bill Murray pop up and really stop the film dead in its tracks. Other expected cameos go over rather well though.

Also going over well is Chris Hemsworth, who takes on the role of Kevin, the dim-witted receptionist. A lot of familiar faces and funny people appear in the film, but short of a few good gags and moments from other cast members, Hemsworth is the one who may have found his true calling, outside of being the god of thunder.

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The other element of this film concerns the fantastical. As this is a movie about busting ghosts, we get a lot of elaborate special effects and action. With a $150 million budget, Feig does well to put it all up on the screen. Modern times mean we see this kind of visual scope often in films, so it was rather fun to see what kinds of new ways the ghostbusters could take action against all this paranormal activity. Good thing McKinnon was around to have fun creating a variety of weapons.

Speaking of McKinnon, it is the main cast that has obviously faced their share of criticism since this film was announced. Rather than give a particular crow more attention though, it’s easier to say this ensemble is solid. There is a natural chemistry shared between this group that stems from the friendship that already existed between them. Each brings a unique brand of humor and while the film sometimes misses on delivering bigger laughs, there is a sense of glee Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones seem to share in getting to put on proton packs and act like any kid who was a fan of Ghostbusters when they were younger.

No longer in a league of its own, Ghostbusters still manages to deliver enough laughs and visual wonder to make for a sufficient summer movie. It gets by largely on the cast chemistry, while maneuvering around the call-backs and studio politics that force the movie to feel a bit more generic in its assembly than the filmmakers probably would have liked. Issues aside, there is a fun movie here that became more noteworthy than it should have for the wrong reasons. Hopefully the audience is less concerned about who is catching ghosts and instead wondering whether or not they ain’t afraid of no ghost, but are happy to laugh.

[Note: the film’s use of 3D was enough fun for me to actually recommend it. Feig clearly had his team go to great lengths to make it as over-the-top as possible in a way fit for the film.]

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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