Ghostbusters

(2016) ** 1/2 Pg-13
116 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Paul Feig. Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong, Zach Woods.

/content/films/4936/1.jpgEven though you should totally read this whole review, let’s bottom line it. Should you see Sony’s new Ghostbusters remake? Yes. Yes, you should. Will you be entertained? Yes. Yes, you will. Will you also be a little annoyed? Well, yeah, probably. But that’s what you get for going to a blockbuster summer comedy, circa 2016.

With significant help from co-writer Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd developed his idea for Ghostbusters back in the early 1980s. The 1984 film, helmed by Ivan Reitman, became a smash hit starring Bill Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as a team of paranormal “exterminators.” Now revived for the Age of Reboots by co-writer/director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold, Ghostbusters has become a vehicle for a quartet of funny women: Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Contrary to contrarians (a.k.a. internet cranks), this is a great idea for two reasons. 1) All four women are comedically gifted actors, and 2) Ghostbusters now boasts the guaranteed bonus of boosting STEM education for girls.

Wiig plays physics professor Erin Gilbert, who finds her bid for tenure terrifyingly threatened when her erstwhile research partner Abby Yates (McCarthy) re-publishes their book “Ghosts from Our Past—Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal.” In short order, both women found themselves laughed out of academia, just in time to investigate a rash of new ghost sightings in New York City. Joined by crazed cyberpunkette Jillian Holtzmann (standout Kate McKinnon) and, eventually, streetwise subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Erin and Abby find themselves heading up the only group qualified to save the city from a paranormal apocalypse.

There’s a lot to like about the Ghostbusters relaunch, starting with a healthy respect for the fundamentals of the franchise: funny people, a well-established special-effects aesthetic (dazzlingly upgraded here), and science-fiction and horror tropes simultaneously taken seriously and interwoven with comedic conceits (Aykroyd, ceremoniously credited as executive producer, surely enjoyed this film’s recommitment to pseudoscience, from ghost traps to claptrap, including ley lines). Feig gets the most not only from his leads, but from a supporting cast that includes Chris Hemsworth as the ghostbusters’ objectified himbo receptionist, Andy Garcia as the mayor, Cecily Strong as his assistant, Zach Woods as a hapless museum guide, "hey, that guy!" veteran Neil Casey as sketchily conceived baddie Rowan North, and many, many more.

The new Ghostbusters runs into trouble in a few areas that intersect, like those ley lines, at the point of modern Hollywood comedy. As wild as the original Ghostbusters was, it was also loose and textured and, strangely enough, grounded in ways the new one can’t manage: elements like the funny-sexy courtship of Murray and Sigourney Weaver allowed Reitman’s picture to breathe in ways Feig’s never does. This Ghostbusters is out to entertain you, to be sure, but almost desperately so, beholden as it is to its comedy-classic predecessor and curdling its own breezy-funny front end through please-love-this cameos from the original stars and straight into a dazzling but numbingly chaotic Times Square climax that just won’t quit, all the way through the most manic credits roll you’ve ever seen (bonus footage stretches all the way to the post-credits, so stick around).

It’s 2016, so like it or not, you’re going to get too much of a good thing, slick as water off a duck’s back, and loud and colorful enough to wake the dead (no question: this is Feig's most visually accomplished comedy feature to date). It’s all a bit too self-consciously self-conscious, with jokes about nasty internet commenters (like those sexists who’ve stupidly pooh-poohed the film sight-unseen) and even whether McCarthy or Wiig is the lead actor. It's unfortunate that Feig's balance tips more to mayhem than well-scripted comedy, but this respectable remake musters enough yuks to be worth its while. Certainly, it seems poised to rake in cash and usher in a new Ghostbusters II.

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