Ghostbusters (2016) Review: Who were we gonna call?

Rating: What was that movie, again?


Hey, Everybody! Welcome to another review from I realize it’s been awhile since my last review. I was in the middle of a move and so finding time to put out new posts was tough. However, now that I’m properly settled I should be able to find more time to write reviews on the newest movies coming out as we head into the height of the summer movie season. So, without further ado, let’s dig into the newest release from Sony’s Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters.

Nostalgia is an interesting thing. The dictionary defines it as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” In essence it is a desire to relive the past.

This seems to have developed a special meaning for today’s internet driven society where people are constantly bombarded with information about how supposedly bad things are in our day and age. So they look for comfort in things that remind them of a “better, simpler time.” The irony is that while many people desire nostalgia, they also want to see something different and new and the clash of these two sensibilities can have odd, sometimes explosive results. Enter, Ghostbusters ’16.

Now, if you’ll indulge me in a bit of backstory, this film was conceived as a reboot of the original Ghostbusters which started in 1984. That film was a runaway success, spawning a sequel, video games, and even two animated tv shows. The premise was simple. Four scientists went about investigating paranormal activity and capturing ghosts that were giving people problems. The characters were fun; the adventures were corny but memorable and people latched onto both immediately. Even though Ghostbusters 2 was largely panned by critics the franchise continued on up until the end of the 1990s. However, while talks went off and on in regards to doing another sequel the franchise faded from the public consciousness.

Then in 2014 Sony announced their plans to do a new Ghostbusters movie and people went nuts over it. So many fans of the franchise had incredibly high hopes for a return to the glories of 1984. Then they learned there was a catch. The new film would be a reboot that would feature an all new cast of characters. They promised this new film would indeed bring something new and exciting to the table that would make people excited about Ghostbusters again.

Let me state right off the bat, that while I appreciate the original Ghostbusters and understand the perspectives of those who love it, I am not a die-hard Ghostbusters fan. I simply arrived at it too late. It didn’t shape my love of movies in any profound way. So when I went into this movie I went in looking at it from the perspective of a fan of movies and stories rather than as a fan of Ghostbusters.

So what’s the story? Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a physics professor who is an active believer in ghosts. Turns out this isn’t exactly good for one’s career as a serious academic, especially when her best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) keeps roping her into her hair-brained ghost-finding expeditions. However, when an evil villain (Neil Casey) threatens to unleash undead ghosts on all of New York City, they find they’re the only ones with the supernatural belief and knowhow to stop him. With the help of their eccentric, slightly unhinged engineer Jillian Holtzmann(Kate McKinnon), and street-smart subway cashier Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) they set out to stop this supernatural menace and save the city as the Ghostbusters.

There are definitely some things in this movie worth applauding. For one thing, I pleasantly found myself laughing at several of the jokes presented. An impressive feat as most of my family and friends will tell you, I don’t laugh at many jokes. At least, not ones you typically see in your average comedy film.

The acting overall from the cast overall was good and I especially got a kick out of Leslie Jones as Pattie and Kate McKinnon was awesome as Holtzmann(who has a super cool shootout action sequence in the third act). The two of them steal the show most of the time despite the larger portion of the movie being devoted to Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig’s characters, Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert. There’s also a running gag involving Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) where he plays their good-looking but incredibly stupid assistant that makes for some legitimately funny laughs including a sequence during the end credits that’s pretty hilarious.

Here’s the problem though. For all the laughs that this film did get right there were just as many that fell flat to me. I just wasn’t laughing as much as I expected to in a movie with so many well-known comedic names. There were a lot of movie references that I feel like I should normally have laughed at because that’s my kind of comedy. But they were so overt that I felt like the movie was slapping me in the face with them saying, “Do you get it? Do you get it? It’s funny. Do you get it? This is funny! THIS IS FUNNY!!”

This brings me to another problem that this movie has which plenty of other movies have suffered from as well: an identity crisis. This movie doesn’t know what it wants to be. Despite having some laughs, it doesn’t have enough all out jokes to be a comedy. Despite having a great spooky opening, it doesn’t have enough scares to be a horror movie. And despite having much better action in it than the original Ghostbusters it doesn’t have enough cool action beats in it to be an action film. A film that can’t figure out its own identity is going to have trouble conveying its narrative to audiences without confusing them because they aren’t sure what to expect.

The story is also a problem in this movie. Normally, if this were a bona-fide comedy I would be a bit more lenient because often comedies use their stories just as set up for jokes, putting more work into making people laugh than in making them cry. But because this movie suffers from an identity crisis it makes the flaws in the story harder to dismiss.

All throughout the film I kept getting this feeling of uncomfortable familiarity, as if I’d seen this stuff before. Then I remembered that…I had. In the original Ghostbusters movie. Putting aside the aesthetics and looking simply at the story, it is a beat-for-beat repeat of the original Ghostbusters movie with the exact same set up and an almost identical climax. It’s like what a lot of people complained of when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. “It’s too much like the original,” they railed. Well here we have an almost identical situation except for one thing. Where The Force Awakens followed a definitely similar story arc to the original it did so with characters that were dramatically interesting and intriguing and as a direct sequel the homages were put into the movie in a way that made sense.

In Ghostbusters, the characters who we’re expected to focus on are just not that interesting or well-developed and while I love Holtzmann and Patty, they don’t get nearly as much screen-time as the other two. As for the homages and references to the original, there is a metric ton of it paid in this movie. The problem is that this movie is supposed to be a reboot, meaning that according to this movie the original Ghostbusters of ’84 never actually happened. This wouldn’t be a problem if the little easter eggs they put in were subtle but instead they throw them right in your face constantly and I found it to be really distracting. It’s not a problem if you’ve never seen the original Ghostbusters but if you’re a fan of the original, be warned.

Conclusion: As I said in the opening, nostalgia is an interesting thing in this day and age when we seem to be reaching back more and more for the glories of the past. However, just because something can be nostalgic doesn’t mean it should be.

Despite people saying that “Hollywood has no new ideas” Hollywood has plenty of new ideas and we see them all the time. I think what people are talking about when they say this is they want new concepts, not ideas. It’s been said that there are only seven truly original stories out there and in my experience I’m inclined to agree. The key is not originality but inventiveness. It’s taking a well-known story and adding variations to it perhaps even refining the concepts that came before.

That’s the sad thing about this movie. It has no inventiveness to it. It’s utterly forgettable. It’s not a spectacularly bad movie like some were predicting but maybe it would have been better if it had been.

If you love horror-comedy and want to see something funny and bizarre, you’ll definitely get some laughs out of this movie but I’d personally recommend seeing the original Ghostbusters if you haven’t already. It’s much more creative and has much more memorable characters.

This is a Netflix movie for a rainy day when you can’t find anything else to watch. Beyond that, for me this is unfortunately an uninteresting disappointment.

What did you think of the new Ghostbusters? Do you agree with me? If not, why is that? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or contact me on facebook or twitter. Until next time, have a great weekend and May the Flick be with You!

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