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Review: The ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot Suffers Most From Forced Nostalgia

ghostbusters review

2015 was a banner year for the “requel,” in that it boasted several largely successful sequel/remakes ranging from Mad Max and Jurassic World all the way to a new Star Wars.

Yet this year’s Ghostbusters is more akin to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in that it reboots the lore of the previous films entirely by placing its hapless group of ghost hunters in NYC at the very beginning of their story. Despite this clean slate, though, the movie really doesn’t want you to forget that there was another Ghostbusters movie over 30 years ago.

The best gags come in the very early scenes, when it’s established that two former friends and paranormal scientists, Erin and Abby (played by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy), reunite to help with a ghost problem in a local haunted house. They’re aided by Abby’s new engineer accomplice, Holtzmann (played by Kate McKinnon), who builds all the gear they use to subdue the CGI specters that have been unleashed all over town.

Later on, the “Ghostbusters” also recruit Kevin (played by Chris Hemsworth), a secretary with almost no other character traits aside from him being good looking and a total airhead, as well as Patty (played by Leslie Jones), a former MTA worker who lends the team knowledge over the historical nonfiction of New York, along with a new, sweet ride from her uncle’s funeral home.

ghostbusters review

It’s important to point out that this reboot works a lot harder than Ghostbusters 2 when it comes to rejuvenating what made the original 1984 film so endearing and an instant classic. But it does still contain a lot of the same story beats, because it is a reboot, after all. The idea of a mostly-female cast, however, is never quite used to its full potential, believe it or not, as a way to make this Ghostbusters feel like something all its own in comparison. For whatever reason, it’s nowhere near as smart as it probably should have been.

The main characters are still, for the most part, derivatives of the original cast, but with new actors who happen to be mostly women this time around. Granted, the comedic timing is a lot different as to be expected from a Paul Feig film (though Bridesmaids-level humor, this is not). Unfortunately, the majority of jokes read as some of the worst kinds of ad-libs you’d hear from an amateur improv group, rather than out of the mouths of SNL veterans, and a good number of the gags don’t extend far beyond the realm of generic slapstick and flatulence jokes.

In other words, this film won’t do any favors for harsher critics of last year’s Spy, for example, though that Paul Feig movie somewhat benefited from a more “uninhibited” McCarthy performance. Many of the jokes in Ghostbusters are surprisingly unfunny and ill-timed, many of them sounding like someone used the wrong punchline from another joke or bit.

ghostbusters review

And it’s not just the humor that feels a bit stifled and poorly executed. A good number of scenes were shoddily edited with very obvious cuts in the middle of humorous scenes that apparently didn’t translate well after shooting. There were plenty of moments when a scene would just end, without any sort of dialogue or transition you’d expect to be warranted.

The action, at times, is thrilling enough and benefitted by decent effects that let the movie go all out on its weird premise. To be fair, though, a lot of these action scenes are a lot longer than you’d want them to be, and it’s easy to find yourself getting quite bored as you wait for the ending, in no small part thanks to a weird lack of tension, even for a comedy.

The film is also distracted by its own overload of cameos and references to the original film, in a way that feels far too forced and hamstrung to carry any weight beyond, “Oh look! I know who that is!” Worse, the cast members they brought back for these cameos come off as positively bored and reluctant to even be here, save for Dan Ackroyd.

ghostbusters review

That said, the movie does have its funny, even engaging, moments, at least in the early goings. It’s hard not to be at least somewhat entertained by a Ghostbusters movie, after all, especially when you’re watching one with so many obvious callbacks to the movie you already love, as well as a funny joke once in a while. For a lot of people, though, these references and cameos will be painful reminders that they’d rather be watching the original Ghostbusters, instead.

To sum up, Ghostbusters is flashy, dumb, and shoddily made, which would be fine if it was at least consistently funny. And it lacks a basic fundamental of subtlety you didn’t know you expected from cheesy action comedies, in favor of forced nostalgia desperate to make billions of dollars out of a franchise. And even that’s been done to death already when it comes to Ghostbusters.

Grade: C-

Extra Credits:

  • There’s a lot more I want to say about this movie, both good and bad, which would be impossible without getting into spoilers. So if you’re interested a more substantial review, be sure to check out Monday’s podcast.
  • Dedicated to Harold Ramis. A nice touch, and well-appreciated by the fans in my theater.
  • Yes, there is a post-credits sequence that sets up more movies. And it’s about as cringeworthy as you’d expect.
  • According to Paul Feig, the original cut of this movie was over 4 hours long. And yeah, it shows.
  • Was there chemistry between the leads? Sometimes. But then you would have scenes where characters would start dancing for no reason, say something intended to be funny, and that would be the scene. I’m not sure if that’s chemistry or…anything.

 

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Podcast: Insidious 3, Spy, Movie News This Week

insidious 3 spy

Spy has been getting all of the praise lately, so what does Team Conspiring think about its success? Get ready for some heat, Paul Feig style.

We cover tons of movie news this week (including some comic news), along with some coverage of some recent trailers that just dropped. We also read your comments from the last episode and bring up this week’s topic of discussion.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is a movie that you hate, even though everyone else loves it?

Enjoy the show! Let us know your answers to this week’s question in the comments. Or just hit us up on Twitter! We’re @NowConspiring. And don’t forget to rate/subscribe us on iTunes or the Stitcher app if you feel like it.

Our Song of the Week is “Beat of My Drum” by up-and-coming band, Powers.

You also heard these songs in this week’s episode:

“Wish You Were Here” – Lee Fields and The Expressions

“Don’t Carry It All” – The Decembrists

‘Spy’ Review — Return of the Bridesmaids

spy review

I normally do Mini Reviews on this site, but I have a lot to say about Paul Feig’s latest genre experiment. I’ll do my best to keep this as short as possible, though.

Spy is an R rated action spy movie spoof starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne. It was directed and written by Paul Feig, who is best known for Bridesmaids and The Heat, which are two other films featuring Melissa McCarthy, and the former even includes Rose Byrne.

The movie centers around Susan Cooper (McCarthy), a timid CIA analyst who has to go undercover and on the field for the first time in order to stop a nuclear arms deal in a few long chase scenes around Europe.

The trailers would have you think this is Paul Blart Female Cop — an overweight, unassuming hero facing off against overwhelming danger. But really, this movie is a raunchy action comedy akin to this year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service. Unfortunately, I don’t consider Spy to be anywhere near as funny or witty as Kingsman. 

spy review

But I think I’ll be in the minority for that opinion. I also didn’t find the 21 Jumpstreet movie or its sequel to be that great, despite overwhelming praise from critics and fans alike. For the same reason, I think a lot of people will cling to Statham’s bizarre jokes and the gag scenes that earn Spy‘s R rating.

I actually found the trailer to be hilarious, and I was very much looking forward to Spy. But when I saw the movie itself, for whatever reason, the comedic timing just fell completely flat. It was nonexistent, even during scenes I had laughed out loud at during the trailer. The jokes themselves are mostly well-written, but something about the direction kept them from striking a chord with me.

There’s nothing worse than watching a comedy that you don’t find funny. When you strip away the comedy from Spy, you’re left with a boring plot that spoofs dozens of spy movies you’ve already seen before (so younger viewers will certainly find a lot to love).

Feig pulls of just one action scene that is both enjoyable and memorable. It perfectly utilizes the freedom they got with the R rating to show something interesting and novel. Every other action scene was pretty one-note, the film’s two big twists were pretty obvious (but not terribly so), and only scene actually made me cringe.

That’s the thing about Spy. It’s not a terrible movie. Most of it is pretty average, and at times, it surprises you with something entertaining. But if you’re like me, you’ll find Spy to be pretty boring and devoid of humor. If you do check this one out, I hope that’s not the case.

Grade: C. 

It’s not bad enough for me to warn audiences away from this movie. Read some other reviews and watch the trailers to see if the comedy will resonate with you. If so, then you might enjoy this movie a lot. But if you’re not the least bit interested, you might find Spy to be shrug-worthy.

Spy is now playing in theaters everywhere.

 

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