GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL review by Mark Walters – Paul Feig attempts updating a classic

GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL review by Mark Walters – Paul Feig attempts updating a classic


A few things up front here. When I was 10, way back in 1984, GHOSTBUSTERS became like a religion for me. I fell in love with the movie, which arguably might have been just a tad too mature for someone my age at the time, and during it’s year-long theatrical run (popular movies stayed in theaters way longer back then) I saw it 50 times on the big screen (not kidding) – mostly by myself, my parents would just drop me off and go shopping for two hours. I loved the characters and the comedy, but I was mostly taken with the science of it and the imaginative special effects orchestrated by Richard Edlund. That movie is what got me reading magazines like Starlog and Cinefex, trying to learn how they made it, and who all the folks behind the scenes were. To me it wasn’t just a movie, it was a work of art. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I was not very much on board with the idea of Paul Feig remaking the comedy classic with a gender swap angle, and not for the childish chauvinistic reasons some of the online haters displayed. I just thought the idea felt like a studio boardroom gimmick, like this was the “mixing it up” play that got the top brass to loosen the purse strings, rather than a thought-out and calculated plan of necessity. Listen, I’m all for female-driven projects in Hollywood, but why would you take something as beloved and cherished as GHOSTBUSTERS and do something so risky and inevitably upsetting to a passionate fan base? It’s almost like they wanted this to be controversial. I would also point out that none of the trailers or clips served up ahead of time did much for me. Not one laugh, and that’s coming from someone that likes all four women involved. I specify all this because while I acknowledge there is large percentage of folks out there who don’t want to give the new movie a chance just because it’s women in the lead, I think it’s safe to say there are also quite a few who just haven’t been impressed with anything they’ve seen in the marketing thus far. Many have predicted the reboot to be disaster in the making, so how does the end result come across? I saw it with a packed house and my review is below… take of it what you will.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is trying to adjust to her desired life of being a College professor at a prestigious University, but her paranormal past is following her in the form of a book she co-wrote coming back into circulation, brought in to her by a man (Ed Begley Jr. in an extended cameo) claiming to know of a real haunted house. Erin doesn’t want to believe in ghosts anymore, so this is exactly what she doesn’t need. This leads her back to old friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who spends her days at a less-prestigious school doing paranormal research with her eccentric lab partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Abby wants to check out the “haunted” house tip, so the trio go to investigate, and they find a very legitimate ghost. With Abby documenting everything on camera, Erin proclaims very excitedly that ghosts are real, and the video finds its way online leading to Erin losing her teaching job. The trio decide to work together and find out why supernatural phenomenon is showing up all over New York City. They’re visited by Subway employee Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who knows more about the city than just about anyone. As a group they confront a Subway spirit on the tracks, and realize they’re going to need some powerful equipment to capture these specters. Holtzmann engineers them some proton packs, Patty gets them a car from her uncle, and the team must figure out what is causing all this havoc before it gets way worse. Helping them on their journey is a rather dumb secretary named Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), hired purely for his looks, and at one point the mayor of the city (Andy Garcia) gets involved telling the girls that while there is a definite threat, the city cannot and will not acknowledge it or help.

GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL actually starts off rather funny, and finds some pretty good character moments in the first few acts. There’s also a rather effective sense of serious dread playing as an undercurrent throughout most of the running time, giving a dark and gritty feel to the proceedings. Certain moments play quite well, such as their first big victory at a rock concert… but a cheesy cameo puts a button on that scene feeling like it was thrown in just for fun, yet actually comes across like an ineffective gimmick. All four leading actresses do their best to bring sincerity to the performances, and at times the chemistry does feel like it’s working. Wiig’s character even has a pretty creepy back story that gives us shades of how this could have been played much more serious. But one of the things that made the original GHOSTBUSTERS so good was the charm in each member’s personality that made them inherently flawed and yet likable. Sadly, Feig never finds much charm among his leading ladies, at least not past the basic audience expectations. McKinnon fares best out of the leads, playing a fun and quirky character that really sells what you would expect a Ghostbuster to be. Chris Hemsworth also gets some fun laughs playing the naive dolt of a receptionist. The weakest character is the villain of the story, played by Neil Casey. He’s a man who feels ignored or shunned by the world, so he hopes to unleash hell on the city that wronged him. But in truth, the character feels like a not-so-subtle jab at the Internet trolls who claim this reboot is somehow a slap in the face of their fandom – when he sees the Ghostbusters, he’s repulsed by them, and mocks them and their abilities when they all finally meet. There’s a moment at the end where this motif becomes rather obvious, even playing off the concept of women leads somehow emasculating the male fan. At some point the symbolism becomes a little too forced for its own good.

Where the movie loses its luster is in the final act, specifically the final 20 or so minutes in which the big finale takes place. The climax of the film is so over the top and littered with excessive CGI, it just feels like the movie is overcompensating. It also takes a fun character from the story and makes them into something less fun and more silly, which hurts the dynamic a bit. And then there’s the shoehorned-in cameos by the original cast, which are very hit and miss, and at times feel more obligatory than inspired. Some of the biggest missteps include the subplot of the mayor’s office interfering with the actions of our heroines, as this plot thread is played very matter of fact and doesn’t feel anywhere near as antagonistic as it could have been. Remember William Atherton in the first movie, giving our heroes the business and going out of his way to cause trouble? That’s what the mayor plot here could have echoed, but instead it’s just a side story element that never feels necessary or important… and what a waste of Andy Garcia. Another big failing comes in some major logic flaws in the final moments – I’ll keep this as spoiler-free as I can – we see buildings destroyed, cars thrown around and crushed, and rooftops smashed to pieces… and then at a certain point everything is just back to normal, no explanation given. One of the things that made the original GHOSTBUSTERS so cool was that our heroes were affected by (and sometimes the cause of) major destruction in the city. Their actions left their mark, whereas here the roads are spotless when all is said and done, and they really shouldn’t be! Oh, and there’s also a MATRIX-like fight scene in slow motion that really feels tacked on and out of place, though it did get cheers from the audience I saw it with.

If it wasn’t for some of the adult humor it would almost feel like Paul Feig made a GHOSTBUSTERS movie for kids, and maybe that was intentional at the request of the studio, but there’s just no maturity here. The original film is heavy on the slapstick, but still has a layer of dark humanity to it, which was one of the things that made it so good and so much fun to revisit. While I wouldn’t say this version is completely terrible, there’s nothing here that makes me want to see it again, certainly nothing on the level that kept me coming back for more in 1984. I feel like maybe there was a good movie in there at some point, but the overblown bloated ending kind of kills the potential. Even the end credits come across like a amped-up energy drink commercial rather than a sensible close out. Feig may have tried to find a good balance to reboot this concept properly, but in the end he’s trying way to hard, and it shows. And just for the record, had the four leads here been dudes, I doubt it would have felt any different.


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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.