While reboots of revered films are generally met with disdain from die-hard fans of the original, rarely has one faced such a vitriolic backlash as Ghostbusters. The hatred thrown the film’s way has mainly been from misogynistic and racist internet trolls, dismayed by the decision to revive the franchise with a female cast. The film was written off by many when an underwhelming trailer hit a few months back but the vile abuse has continued, culminating in a despicable Twitter attack on actress Leslie Jones last week. With the film up against it, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and his cast were charged with the unenviable task of delivering a remake worthy of it’s predecessor to silence the haters. Unfortunately, they miss the mark. This lacklustre effort from Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold (Parks & Recreation), badly lacks the comedic smarts of the original. Despite the best efforts of the cast, who are perfect choices for their respective roles, the script is riddled with a barrage of gags which consistently misfire.
The plot centres around Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), an esteemed Physics professor at Columbia, who previously co-wrote a book about paranormal activity with estranged former colleague and friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). When the book resurfaces online, it threatens Erin’s academic tenure so she is forced to confront Abby, who still spends her time investigating spectral phenomenon with her eccentric sidekick Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon). Despite initial scepticism, Erin reunites with Abby when some unexplained hauntings hit New York City. It turns out that Rowan North (Neil Casey) a creepy, loner with megalomaniac tendencies has developed a device capable of summoning supernatural forces and is seeking to create hell on earth. With the assistance of Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a former subway worker with extensive knowledge of NYC and their bumbling receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the Ghostbusters are formed, just in time to save the world from a supernatural apocalypse.
The film’s visual cues and plot beats stick close to the 1984 original. The car, costumes and gadgetry are revived, proton packs and ectoplasm make welcome big screen comebacks, along with spectral characters such as Slimer and Mr. Stay Puft. There are some decent action set pieces and the spooky effects are a nice homage to the first film. Turning the Ghostbusters into an all female team seems inspired on paper, especially with the comedic pedigree of Saturday Night Live alumni Wiig, McCarthy and McKinnon on board. It’s just a pity that the material falls so flat. Feig is well known for his fondness of improvisation, but the approach yields cringe inducing results here with dud one liners and unfunny, meandering sequences halting any impetus that the action manages to muster. McCarthy and Wigg are particularly wasted, their characters void of the charm and wit that Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray brought to the first film. Jones is fine as street wise Patty, McKinnon injects a sassy, offbeat edge to her character and Hemsworth delivers an amusingly deadpan turn. Unfortunately, the half baked script badly needed a sharper rewrite to enable this cast to shine.
Nowhere near as funny or as scary, this incarnation fails in comparison to it’s far superior source material. Most of the cast from the first film make tiny cameos which feel forced and gimmicky rather than inspired. That’s the main problem. The ghost of the original haunts every frame and overall Ghostbusters 2016 doesn’t convince. It’s another unnecessary reboot and a disappointing addition to what has been a dire season of hackneyed Hollywood blockbusters.