On the strength of its all-female leading cast, this remake of the original "Ghostbusters" (1984) will likely be a box office smash, but not because it's an upgrade. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones each have shining moments in this 2016 version, but the humor is inconsistent. What's more, the novelty of the foursome actually battling ghosts in what is supposed to be New York City (actually filmed in Boston, and other Massachusetts locales) gets tiresome rather quickly.
The opening scene is well done, with the tour guide (Zach Woods) of a supposedly haunted mansion taking a group of a dozen or so tourists around the former home. Woods and his deadpan style, plus the silent, non-smiling extras, add up to an amusing opening. And the fun continues with Erin Gilbert (Wiig), a college physics professor, reviewing an elaborate formula --- which takes up an entire wall --- in front of an empty auditorium.
But she learns that a book she co-wrote with fellow paranormalist Abby Yates (McCarthy) years before, about the existence of ghosts, is again available on the internet. This causes her great consternation, but even worse, she loses her job when she is let go by the school's administrator, Harold Filmore (Charles Dance) because her past is not dignified enough for his institution.
She confronts Yates, and in short order, the two realize after testing the aforementioned mansion that ghosts actually do exist, and manage to capture one in a metal box designed by nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon). When a ghost is discovered in the subway where Patty Tolan (Jones) works, she becomes the fourth "ghostbuster" when their city is overrun by these apparitions.
From this point on, the film is primarily about the ladies donning the familiar uniforms and shooting laser-like beams of energy to dispose of the ghosts. Seeing Erin get slimed, a la Bill Murray in the original, is nothing new, and director Paul Feig and his crew use many of the same special effects, so some of the ghosts are identical to those in the first movie --- and way too scary for little ones.
A running gag in "Ghostbusters" (2016) has the girls reciting scientific gibberish, a la Sheldon in "The Big Bang Theory", which Jeanne might find amusing since she loves Jim Parsons (as I do). Kudos to McKinnon, especially, for managing to recite her lines flawlessly and with a straight face.
Chris Hemsworth plays Kevin, a big, handsome galoot whom the girls interview for their receptionist job. Erin is immediately smitten with him --- also a running joke --- so Kevin is hired. But he's as dumb as the proverbial box of rocks, and can't even answer a telephone properly, another gag that loses its luster. Hemsworth does manage to do a bit of dancing, "Magic Mike" style, and later he is possessed by an especially evil ghost bent on the usual mayhem.
Feig and his co-writer, Katie Dippold, infuse some bathroom humor into their script, which is not amusing. Furthermore, the director of "Bridesmaids" and "Spy", two McCarthy winners, doesn't attain the comic
level of those two films, not by a long shot. Based on the repetitiveness of a number of recurring situations, the script feels a bit lazy, not Feig's best effort.
I get annoyed when movies feature blatant product placement, and in "Ghostbusters", Papa John's Pizza gets a dose of screen time, although the pizza boxes appear upside down. This is a distraction, but if it helps to defray the costs of a film, I'd probably do it, too.
Cameos by some of the original cast, including Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson mostly fall flat. Moviegoers under 40 who missed the first "Ghostbusters" will likely not recognize Aykroyd, for example, who appears for about 10 seconds as a cab driver.
There are a couple of brief tributes to the late Harold Ramis, including a bust of the actor, and a dedication in the closing credits. Andy Garcia is entertaining as the city's mayor, but Cecily Strong, another SNL standout, is underutilized as his assistant. Veteran character actor Michael McDonald is a hoot as a theater manager when he elicits an hysterical, previously-alluded to scream. Nate Corddry, brother of Rob, has a cameo as a street artist who comes up with the Ghostbusters logo --- nicely orchestrated. And it was good to see Ed Begley, Jr. back on the big screen, who has over 300 TV and film credits in his IMDb bio!
Overall, Wiig is the funniest in the cast; McCarthy is essentially doing her usual thing; and McKinnon, my personal favorite from SNL, is much funnier on the show, as is Jones, who only has to look at the camera to get laughs. But the special effects become tedious, at best. This "Ghostbusters" --- at a shade under two hours --- is just too long.
Opinion: Wait for DVD