The reunion of director Paul Feig with actresses Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig would lead you to think that they are up for another touchstone success of the exact same magnitude that “Bridesmaids” (2011) enjoyed—both a commercially and critically successful film. The succinct answer, however, is an outright no. “Ghostbusters” (2016) manages to remain afloat, mostly because it has a lot of heart, despite its conspicuous problems.
The film shows that women can carry an entire film on their own, which we have seen happening more often. Particularly during the past five years, films such as “Frozen” (2013) topped the charts as the highest grossing film of the year ($1.2 billion), “Maleficent” (2014) was in fourth place (with more than $700 million) and the popular film series “The Hunger Games” (2012-15) is one of the highest grossing franchises of all time ($3 billion in revenues from five films). Nonetheless, “Ghostbusters” lacked star power, unlike like Feig’s “Spy” (2015), which also starred McCarthy. “Spy” had star power across the board, with movie stars such as Jason Statham, Jude Law and Rose Byrne. Not even “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon, who plays quirky nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, could translate her small-screen celebrity to enough power for the movies.
Not to say that the four main characters are not compelling—in fact, it is the complete opposite. Leslie Jones as Patty does an outstanding job. Meeting Patty is like meeting a real New Yorker. Not only does Jones bring a lot to the table, but as a character she is a pillar to the team. She brings ideas and contributes in many forms—she even brings her uncle’s hearse to serve as the Ghostbusters’ car. Despite the backlash that Jones received when the trailer first came out, she proves to be fully on board. The sole quibble would be that the other three characters, Abby (McCarthy), Erin (Wiig) and Jillian, are all doctors. They have knowledge on the subject of paranormal entities and all of them possess an extensive background in science, yet Jones’ Patty is just an MTA worker. Are those the sole standards for people of color?
The rest of the cast did an excellent job. The only surprise was McCarthy’s character, who was not very defined in this picture; she is all over the place. Feig could have decided to cut her out of the entire film and it would not affect it at all. Her lack of presence has to do with her jokes. It seems that Feig gave the actors a lot of freedom to improvise during many of the scenes, but the jokes just do not land. They should have kept improvising, and, unfortunately, the lamest jokes all come from McCarthy. It is a real pity because the original movie is charged with good jokes from beginning to end.
In terms of visuals, the ghosts all look very similar and have a theme park quality. On top of that, the cinematography is not very cinematic. It has an odd ’90s sheen to it that makes it inferior when compared to the previous film. It is fair to compare this “Ghostbusters” to the original one from 1984 because this new film version would not exist without its predecessor.
What infuses this “Ghostbusters” with heart was one of the last scenes (no spoilers) where no soldier is left behind, and this is as equally true for both women and men. It also has a valuable lesson that if you work hard, apply yourself, put yourself out there and chase your goals, you will succeed.
In addition, attention must be brought to the countless references and respect this movie pays to the original “Ghostbusters.” With cameos from three of the main co-stars, Dan Aykroyd’s was the best. There was also the fiasco attempt to rent the same firehouse that the 1984 cast used as their headquarters. The 2016 Ghostbusters ultimately had to back out because of its preposterous price—a realistic truth about the city of New York.
The film has its obvious flaws, but in a summer that has been nearly dead, “Ghostbusters” is a solid, entertaining summer movie.