At long last, the first Ghostbusters reviews are in. It’s weird to think that Ghostbusters of all things turned out to be one of 2016’s most controversial and biggest movies, but reaction to Bridesmaids and Spy director Paul Feig’s plans to reboot Ghostbusters have been intense to say the least. Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones lead the entirely new take on the franchise, which starts from scratch while still paying homage to the original series, with the official stamp of approval from Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson. But what do the critics think?
Well, somewhat fittingly, they’re kind of all over the place. Some hail the film as hilarious and inventive, while others decry the film’s dullness over-reliance on familiarity with the original. Jen Yamato at The Daily Beast has mixed feelings:
Unfortunately Ghostbusters also comes saddled with the trappings of 21st century studio filmmaking: lulls in pacing, kiddie-safe comedy, choppy editing, and the general sense that a sharper, ballsier version exists in an alternate Hollywood universe. Nevertheless, with a crackling sense of purpose and a surplus of reverence for their predecessors, new Ghostbusters Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Saturday Night Live standouts Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones plant their own flag on a beloved sci-fi comedy franchise—even if it’ll still take a miracle from beyond to convert the hypercritical haters.
Echoing pretty much every review, Yamato calls McKinnon’s character the true breakout of the film, and she also praises how the movie treats the original:
Ghostbusters die-hards might disagree, but the remake is conceived with more complex aims than the first two films. The greatest upside is a new generation of youngsters now have a Ghostbusters movie of their own, with a disparate team of adult women to idolize, that holds dear the rules and tone and sweet core of the original films. Ghostbusters is remake as homage, swapping the gender of its heroes while keeping the bones of the plot and signatures of the first film.
Jordan Raup at The Film Stage says while the movie doesn’t reach the heights of Feig’s previous films, it’s an ideal summer blockbuster:
Even if all the comedy and action doesn’t land, there’s enough charm to be had with the main cast. Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold even manage to get in a few compulsory jabs at YouTube trolls along the way, but perhaps the biggest triumph of all is that they’ve introduced a team one would actually like to see continue answering the ghost-busting call. This new version of Ghostbusters will rarely make one bowl over with laughter, but, like the first film, it has a consistent amount of lighthearted, amiable fun.
Over at HitFix, Drew McWeeny found the comedy much more effective and has a fondness for the way the film echoes the original Ghostbusters:
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is, above all else, a real Ghostbusters movie. If you’re a fan of the 1984 original (as most comedy fans are), one of the things that’s interesting as you watch this one is the way it echoes off of that film. It is no simple remake, but neither is it a radical reinvention of the core idea. It’s simply a different riff on the same idea, with a solid dose of fan service thrown in to help make the transition from the old to the new. The script, by Feig and Katie Dippold, does some big things different, and the choices they make are intriguing. First and foremost, though, Ghostbusters is a big fat slice of silly summer entertainment, confident and sometimes quite beautiful. It is the biggest stretch Feig’s made so far as a filmmaker, embracing the technical side of things in a way he never has so far, and stuffed chock full of affection for everything that makes Ghostbusters such an enduring favorite.
On the flip side of the coin, Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist found the film’s overfamiliarity—a trend also seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World—to be its biggest hindrance
And this is certainly the chief issue of the 2016 Ghostbusters, an unexceptional and even lazy update of a formula you’ve seen before. Comparisons to the original are unavoidable. And yes, it’s a reboot, but there’s a conspicuous absence of the charming oddball eccentricity that made the original film so endearing. Most of the characters are largely indistinguishable from the original archetypes. Kristin Wiig plays the skeptical Bill Murray character who has mostly given up on his paranormal researcher profession, Melissa McCarthy is the never-stop-believin’ Dan Aykroyd prototype, Kate McKinnon performs the nerdy Harold Ramis role with a pronounced gearhead bent and Leslie Jones portrays the urban, blue-collar outsider originally played by Ernie Hudson.
David Rooney at THR echoed Perez’s sentiments, particularly when it comes to the film’s blockbuster ambitions:
Although the new Ghostbusters follows the template of the original by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the witless script by Feig and his co-writer on The Heat, Katie Dippold, has no juice. Short on both humor and tension, the spook encounters are rote collisions with vaporous CG specters that escalate into an uninvolving supernatural cataclysm unleashed upon New York’s Times Square. It’s all busy-ness, noise and chaos, with zero thrills and very little sustainable comic buoyancy.
Over at Variety, Peter Debruge was less harsh but also criticized the film for not differentiating itself enough from the original Ghostbusters:
While both funnier and scarier than Ivan Reitman’s 1984 original, this otherwise over-familiar remake from “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig doesn’t do nearly enough to innovate on what has come before, even going so far as to conjure most of the earlier film’s cast (including Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) in cameos that undercut the new film’s chemistry.
Finally, Nigel M. Smith for The Guardian notes that while the CG-filled finale falters a bit, Feig mostly delivers an enjoyable blockbuster:
Feig falls down a little in the final Times Square spectacular. This is his first effects-laden enterprise and he sometime ladles on the CGI a little thick. Such huge-scale action should never risk overshadowing the tremendous chemistry of the four leads. That said, he mostly orchestrates the chaos commendably, with rambunctious use of 3D; the ghoulish critters sometimes spill out of the widescreen frame, or spring right at you.
Most crucially, the mean-spirited reception to the film before anyone had seen it does not seem to have put a dampener on the movie itself. Fun oozes from almost every frame; likewise the energy of a team excited to be revolutionising the blockbuster landscape. Let’s just hope everyone will enjoy the view.
So, yeah, mixed as all get out—which was probably to be expected when rebooting a franchise this iconic. But the film also takes time to single out those reactionary few who had a bone to pick with the movie from the word “go”, with nods to internet trolls and the like. And no, as Yamato notes in her review, it does turn this into “Lady Ghostbusters,” although it doesn’t ignore the fact that the leads are women:
The fact that they’re women never defines these heroes, but the way the world reacts to them reflects why the gender swap is significant. When these Ghostbusters are labeled delusional by a skeptical public and smeared by a city government that slanders them for the greater good, they’re not just crazy people—they’re crazy women, a pejorative far more loaded than it ever is when foisted on men. As the Ghostbusters have always been, they’re heroes who must prove themselves not just to their peers, but also to their audience.
Look for Collider’s own Matt Goldberg with his take on the film later this week, and click here for our interview with Feig in which he reveals an extended cut of the movie will be on the Blu-ray. Ghostbusters opens in theaters on July 15th.