When remaking a film, classic or otherwise, the filmmakers goals should be simple; outdo the original in several ways, or create enough variations in order to give the remake its own identity. While Ghostbusters will hardly fall within the ranks of the worst remakes of all time, the film falls so much on retread to be unique. On top of that, the humor for the film drops off in the second half, and the overall lack of character development disservices the film’s attempts to honor the original.
Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wigg) has tried to distance herself from the study of the paranormal, but when her former colleague Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and her new partner Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) begin finding signs of ghost activity, they reunite to investigate. Teamed with a city worker (Leslie Jones), the new Ghostbusters hit the streets to protect the city, even when no one will believe them. It’s a decent retelling of the classic story, but the film relies heavily on several unnecessary callbacks to the 1984 original that make it impossible not to compare the two. On top of that, the second half of the film is rooted deeply in an over-complicated plot involving an awfully conceived villain, and focuses so much on the story that the humor feels secondary.
Kristin Wigg is good here; she’s funny, intelligent, and makes for a compelling lead that’s grounded in a character we care about. Leslie Jones is funny as well, giving by far the most laughs of the film, but Melissa McCarthy feels kind of boring and at points obnoxious in the role, and while Kate McKinnon definitely commits to character, she feels like she’s in a different movie from the rest of the cast. The problem though isn’t necessarily any of the performances, but the characters themselves; outside a few brief moments dedicated to Wigg’s character, there’s virtually no character development, making it hard to care about the story. The one bright spot in the film is Chris Hemsworth as the receptionist, adding the right amount of stupidity and lightness to the film, and proving once again Hemsworth’s viability as a movie star.
Remakes are tricky in every sense of the word, and while Ghosbusters can be criticized for innumerable things, from the poor CGI to the awkward cameos, it’s cardinal sin is not being funny. For each good joke in the film, and there are many, there’s an awkward moment or failed punchline. Failing to live up to a classic original is understandable, but the inability to forge a new identity is where the film falls flat. Grade: C