Ghostbusters (2016) ~ Review

Remakes, reboots and reimaginings get no love at all because they compete again nostalgia and, yes, very often slightly better filmmaking. It's easy to judge them harshly by comparison, but approaching them with an open mind is essential. Thankfully, the new Ghostbusters made clever decisions to avoid treading on scared ground by going in new directions like casting female protagonists and creating an original (if tepid) story. The tone is spot on. The effects are fun and colorful. And the cast is very funny even when the script fails them.

Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and the outstanding Kate McKinnon, who upstages the entire cast, work great together and if anything one wishes they were allowed to cut loose and let that PG-13 rating slip into R-rated territory (this freedom gave director Paul Feig's other films Bridesmaids, Spy, and Knocked Up a sharp comedic edge). It's clear this expensive production was aiming for a very wide summer audience despite its undaunted (niche?) ambition: to boldly go where few women have gone before?

Arguably, the original 1984 Ghostbusters was a mainstream film aimed primarily at male geeks, and now it's geared to an unconventional female audience*. I found this approach refreshing and internet trolls found it despicable causing exhausting tirades. Bottom line: the female-led cast is the best thing about the film, and its shrewdest move.

However, the wobbly script desperately needed to call a genre writer. Even one of the funniest bits (ahem, Chris Hemsworth) that was ripe (ripped?) with possibilities went nowhere (I heard an audience member say, "What the point of having a Hemsworth in a movie with his shirt on?). And the stakes in the final act aren't all that dire since we don't have the Bill Murray/Sigourney Weaver-type characters in peril/love/hate. Other notable missteps, were the "special cameos" (lovable as they are) take you right out of the moment. Also, the villain is So. Typical. I would have loved if a well-read but spoiled 13-year brat was responsible for the ensuing mess.

I saw the film in 3D and was mightily surprised that they treated the format with new respect. I hadn't seen this before in a 3D film but they created a "false frame" around the film (the black bars remained on top and bottom of the projection). Then some – but not all! – the 3D elements broke that frame creating further depth to the effect. It was a spectacular touch that really drove home the gimmick and worthy upgrading to a 3D ticket.

Ghostbusters is an entertaining popcorn flick that's perfect for a breezy summer evening, and I'd love to see another one with these magnificent ladies wearing the proton packs. Although for the next one, cut them loose and let them do their thing.

(*By comparison, I imagine someone trying to remake The Notebook for a male audience by setting it in an apocalyptic space world with aging robots that have finally discovered a neural process called "love". Flashback to the manufacturing plant on Pluto where a scantily-clad Cosmoscientist Megan Fox solders a memory chip onto the N.O.A.H.  Any agents out there? I'll get you my treatment for The Notebook: Reckoning immediately.)