- Directed by Paul Feig
- July 9, 2016 (TCL Chinese Theatre) / July 15, 2016 (US)
Four women join together to become Ghostbusters. Then they stop a ghost invasion of Manhattan.
One problem with Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is it pushes gags which are at best okay to begin with to the point of unfunny or just runs with ones that are bad to begin with until you are begging for the scene to end.. Sometimes you can turn something bad into good by running with it, but you must choose your battles and writer Katie Dippold along with Paul Feig do not know which battles to choose.
A prime example is their running gag involving wonton soup from the place Abby (Melissa McCarthy) always orders from. Here they try to answer how many jokes about wonton soup you can make in one film. And worse it is not funny the first, second, third times and by the fourth you are trying to figure out why they will not stop with this. What boob thought this was comedy gold?
They also dangle elements of the original and then yank them away in an apparent effort to be different. It starts primarily with the characters checking out the firehouse when looking for a storefront and continues on with cameos by original cast members as new characters that take you out of the story. Bill Murray thought a guest spot in this was better than some of the proposed sequels over the years?!
The surviving actors from the original films appear here but not as the characters they played. Bill Murray is paranormal debunker Martin Heiss. Ernie Hudson shows up as Patty’s mortician uncle Bill. Dan Aykroyd showed up as a cab driver better versed in the paranormal than our core characters. Annie Potts plays a hotel receptionist with an attitude. Sigourney “Dana Barrett” Weaver showed up as Holtz’s mentor. These were random, very noticeable cameos that took from the stride of the story they were trying to tell.
Ever want a specific toy for Christmas? It is the big thing and the one that all the cool kids are getting. You wake up Christmas morning and what you get instead is the generic knock off of that toy. It is pretty much the same thing, but it is not the cool toy. This is the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. It is the knock off of the cool toy.
The original Ghostbusters was a near perfect film with no significant flaws so the big question is why remake it? Why try to do it over? What can you do better? Nothing really it seems but you can do things similar or toss in references of one type or another to the original in order to cash in on that film’s goodwill. And most significantly, you can do things worse.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is the closest this film comes to Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). While she is cynical and a realist, she also comes off as desperate and needy with other traits popping up that do not necessarily fit with anything shown before. Murray made Venkman charming and capable despite his clearly shown character flaws.
Abby yates (Melissa McCarthy) is the Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) equivalent here. While juvenile, Abby lacks the innocence of Ray and at points demonstrates a mild mean streak and indifference to her friend Erin. Specifically she publishes a book the two had written together years prior and seems unaffected when Erin pleads with her to take it down because it could harm Erin’s chances at tenure.
Holtz (Kate McKinnon) attempts to fill the very large character shoes of Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). While Egon was an individual more comfortable in the lab than the field, Holtz is given to odd pronouncements and general weirdness.
Blue-collar Patty (Leslie Jones) is the equivalent of blue-collar Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Winston was an everyman who was just looking for a job (he answered their newspaper ad) and whose inclusion in the group only took a few moments while Patty just quits her job and somehow is given a job for reasons. His character was able to bring what was happening and being said down to the average viewer. Patty just shouts everything.
Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) tries to be the answer to Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), but I do not think they understood the question. While Potts was an attractive secretary, she was no insufferable moron and could give as good as she got. She had a personality. Kevin is just dumb and useless and contributes a big goose egg to the story. I guess his character is funny because he is dumb and attractive.
The villain of Rowan (Neil Casey) was clearly not working so they decided to remove him from the story and replace him by him possessing Kevin. Why? Somehow it allows Rowan to command the ghosts that he has been summoning via technology. However the change to the body of Kevin does nothing to help either character. The villain does not get more interesting. I think he just gets worse.
The thing is in the original events brought both sets of characters together. Though not obvious at first, Zuul and the Ghostbusters were set on a course to confront each other once Dana Barret stepped into the picture. Here the confrontation just was tacked on to wrap the movie up. More importantly in the original the villain was teased but not actually seen until the close of the film. Here Rowan is shown early on and comes off as rather underwhelming.
One thing the original did was accomplish a great deal with so much less than this film does. I am not talking about special effects. I am talking about establishing story and character elements. For example the establishment of the facts of the proton packs took under a minute and occurred in an elevator originally. In this version it takes several minutes and ends in a scene where the character is tossed around by the beam and her friends seem unconcerned about her.
And they just keep talking in this film. They make a joke and just keep going rather than give the audience a moment to react. You need to give the audience a moment to react. There is never really a pause.
This is a comedy without very many funny jokes so maybe that was why they did not pause. And the few funny jokes they do have, and I’m not saying they are side splitting but merely are mildly amusing, are muted because they are preceded by multiple bad jokes as well as the inability to let the audience react.
Reportedly Feig is a fan of improv and encourages it when making a film. That could be part of the issue. Not the improv but Feig’s apparent inability to know when to stop or simply pull his performers back. Not everything is gold. Sometimes you need to follow a script.
The film lacks an internal logic. Why does the beam that in one instance catches a ghost in the next kills it? And how do you kill a ghost? It is already dead! Or how does a subway train do anything to a ghost other than pass through it? And I go back to Rowan’s suicide. There is no reason why it needed to happen. Nothing given or hinted at.
When you have a legacy property like Ghostbusters it is important to respect the past. There is a reason people want more of a certain concept. This film rather than respecting the past tries to rip it off or just disregards it or even mocks it. It also does its best to subvert your expectations of what you might get and creates something significantly less than what it could have done.
There is a great deal to dislike about Ghostbusters 2016. Heck I am not even sure if there is anything to like about this film. I think in the end you can just skip this.