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Ghostbusters reviews roundup: Have critics answered the call?

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Hopper Stone

A beloved, hugely successful, iconic film franchise like Ghostbusters seems, on paper, perfectly suited for a contemporary reboot, right? Replace original actors Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson with four actresses, however, and the internet loses its mind.

Hostile, sexist reactions sought to dismiss Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters reboot four months before critics got their hands on it, as YouTube users quickly made the film’s trailer the most disliked video in the website’s history. But now that official reviews are in, many are praising the reboot as a rarity among mainstream Hollywood comedies. In his review, The Guardian‘s Nigel M. Smith gave the film four out of five stars, also noting that male-focused revamps like Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes faced little criticism as they retooled classically coded franchises.

“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 revolutionizing the blockbuster landscape,” Smith writes. “Let’s just hope everyone will enjoy the view.”

Though several writers disagree on the film’s overall quality, a consistent thread running throughout nearly all reviews for the film is praise for its ensemble cast. “No one performance dominates the new Ghostbusters, which is for the most part democratically comic (a Paul Feig signature), although Kate McKinnon’s magnificent, eccentric turn comes close,” The New York Times‘ Manhola Dargis writes. “That the new movie stars four women is a kind of gimmick, of course, but it’s one that the filmmakers and the excellent cast deepen with real comedy chemistry and emotionally fleshed-out performances, particularly from Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Wiig, who are playing old-friends-turned-sort-of foes who need to work some stuff out.”

While mention of the film’s leading cast primarily featuring women (sometimes in favor of, and sometimes against) is inevitable and appears in almost every review of the film published thus far, it highlights an important discussion that needs to be had, one that acknowledges Hollywood isn’t doing enough to push women to the forefront of big-budget spectacles.

Perhaps Sasha Stone, founder of Awards Daily, says it the best: “I enjoyed [Ghostbusters] about as much as The Force Awakens in that both movies are really about the fan experience as much as they are about making a new movie,” she posted on Facebook. “By that, I mean, it’s sort of Hollywood’s way of opening the door to let the girls in. Is it a great movie? No. Will Ghostbusters fans love it? Probably not. But it’s fun and funny and if you don’t go in expecting too much you will have a great time. My 18-year-old really loved it and that meant a lot more to me than anything.”

Check out more critical takes on Feig’s Ghostbusters revival below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)

“So why does Ghostbusters feel so restrained? For starters, it’s too slavish when it nods to the original (although its throw-back cameos are fun), and too flailing and flat when it strays from it (Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold introduce a ghost-unleashing villain, then don’t know what to do with him). Even the spectral f/x are oddly shlocky (seeing it in 3-D is pointless aside from one comin’-at-ya slime gag). McCarthy, of course, gets off some lunatic one-liners; McKinnon, the group’s loose cannon, can crack you up just by widening her wildcard eyes; Jones mixes her signature bluster with an air of gung-ho joy; and Wiig’s timing is as Swiss-precise as ever (that is, when she’s not being saddled as the film’s straight-woman). Even Chris Hemsworth, as the Ghostbusters’ dim, beefcake receptionist, is funny — for a while. But with a cast as daring and quick as this one, Ghostbusters is too mild and plays it too safe. Somewhere, I bet, there’s an R-rated director’s cut of the movie where these women really let it rip. I want to see that movie.”

Manhola Dargis (The New York Times)

“Sliding into theaters on a river of slime and an endless supply of good vibes, the new, cheerfully silly “Ghostbusters” is that rarest of big-studio offerings — a movie that is a lot of enjoyable, disposable fun. And enjoy it while you can because this doesn’t happen often, even in summer, which is supposed to be our season of collective moviegoing happiness. The season when everyone jumps onboard (whee!) and agrees that, yes, this great goof is exactly what you were thinking when you wondered why they didn’t make summer movies like they used to.

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)

“However, 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.”

Drew McWeeny (Hitfix)

“There are so many things that work that it doesn’t matter if the new take on the theme song is sort of terrible or if that one cameo doesn’t work. Robert Yeoman’s photography is lovely, Jefferson Sage’s production design evokes the original without merely aping it, and Theodore Shapiro’s score is solid, with just enough Elmer Bernstein in it to be impressive. My entire family, from my girlfriend to my kids, had a great time with it, and I feel like anyone willing to walk in with an open mind is going to immediately recognize this as the same Paul Feig who made Bridesmaids or Spy. He and Katie Dippold are a killer team, and they’ve been careful to give every character plenty to do. No one feels wasted, and no one feels like they’re superfluous. The original Ghostbusters will always be a classic that means something special to me. The good news is, there’s a whole new generation that’s about to feel that way about this one. And more power to them.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)

“Despite the misogynistic backlash suffered during the film’s promotion, the problems with “Ghostbusters” have nothing to do with its cast. Its undoing stems from the same issues that plague so many overproduced, market-tested products that masquerade as movies: For all the value that may be contained in an intellectual property, it’s worthless if it can’t make old ideas feel new.”

Terri Schwartz (IGN)

“Ghostbusters can’t decide whether it wants to be a completely new take on the property or a loving homage to the original, and because of that it’s trapped between the two. As much as Feig and Dippold remix the formula, there are too many callbacks to the original, from the cameos (only one or two of which actually work) to the catchphrases to the iconic songs to even the new film’s version of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. But when Ghostbusters is doing its own riffs on these elements anyway, the film becomes burdened by the ghosts of its past.

Nigel M. Smith (The Guardian)

“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.”

Jen Yamato (The Daily Beast)

“It’s those youngsters who Ghostbusters will serve best, the kids growing up in 2016 dealing with new realities like YouTube commenters and gender parity in the workplace and, sadly, domestic terrorism. And as a shot across the bow for women in Hollywood and girls looking for big screen role models that look like them, it’s a step forward. 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.”

Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)

“What’s most mystifying about Ghostbusters is that its two leads, Wiig and McCarthy, have done such strong work in previous Feig films. He knows how to work with these terrific actors, to coax loose, funny, strange performances out of them. Presumably the goal of casting them in this was to make more of that same sly magic, only with a ghost story built around it. But both McCarthy and Wiig spend the entire movie on mute, turning in bland, disconcertingly joyless performances that further deaden an already lifeless movie.

Peter Debruge (Variety)

“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.

Overall Metacritic rating: 59

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

Rated: PG-13

Length: 116 minutes

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon

Directed by: Paul Feig

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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