Ghostbusters (2016): Charming and Nostalgic, but Ultimately Unremarkable (Blu-ray)
For the past couple of decades, there was always a high demand for another “Ghostbusters” sequel. The original is considered a comedy classic, and while the second film didn’t quite live up to the first, the fans couldn’t wait to see our heroes reunite to take on more ghosts. However, even though the demand was high, another sequel was never made after the 1989 follow up. Instead, what we would end up with over 25 years later is a reboot that no one really asked for. After all, the original characters were beloved by a generation of film-goers, so how would they react to having everyone replaced for a new origin story? It seemed like a very risky move, but director/co-write Paul Feig decided to accept the gamble, delivering the simply-titled “Ghostbusters” for a new generation.
Upon discovering that his historical mansion is haunted, Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr.) seeks the help of Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a professor who co-authored a book on paranormal activity years before. Embarrassed that someone has discovered it, she denies that it was her and seeks out her old friend and collaborator, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who is now a paranormal researcher. While Erin tries to get Abby to stop advertising their book, she mentions the possibly-haunted mansion, which excites Abby and her research partner, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Shortly afterward, all three of them find themselves at the mansion, face-to-face with an actual ghost.
The experience causes them to start up their own ghost-hunting business, which is soon joined by Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a subway worker who leads them to another ghost sighting in a tunnel beneath New York City. Meanwhile, we are shown exactly who is behind all of the recent ghost activity. As it turn out, a man by the name of Rowan North (Neil Casey), a genius who works at a local hotel, has been attempting to amplify the paranormal energy around the city to help unleash a plethora of ghosts upon it. Obviously the Ghostbusters can’t allow this to happen, but will they be able to stop him before it’s too late?
I have to admit there was a large amount of personal skepticism when it came to the notion of a “Ghostbusters” reboot, especially after the trailers first came out, which made it seem as though the film was going to be a complete disaster. That being said, it’s at least slightly pleasing to say that the film is not the total train wreck that was expected, though the result is not exactly enough to get it up to “good” either.
For starters, the humor here is very hit or miss, with the majority of it landing in the latter category. There are times when it’s simply trying too hard to make you laugh, but the material simply isn’t funny, and even less so when they try to rub it in. The best example of this can be found in the character of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), a not-too-bright receptionist that the team hires because of his good looks. From there, it becomes a constant running gag of him not being able to do anything right. They clearly thought they had something rather amusing there,
but it just doesn’t work as well as they’d hoped.
You may recall that the humor in the 1984 classic was much more natural, and was delivered by great actors like Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, and while the characters here aren’t a total misstep, they just aren’t as likeable as the original team. It certainly doesn’t help that the material they have to work with isn’t nearly as good, but given that the screenplay is by Paul Feig (“Spy”) and Katie Dippold (“The Heat”), it hardly comes as a surprise.
However, again, the film is not particularly bad. The story is engaging enough, though it can’t quite help being what it is: a retread of the origin of the Ghostbusters, though with a far-less-intriguing villain. Speaking of the villain, that was something of a problem in itself. We have a genius who has been mistreated by the world, so he decides to unleash a ton of ghosts upon New York City as punishment. It’s one of those revenge plots that you have to try not to think too hard about, or else you’ll find yourself wondering why, out of all the possibilities, he would choose to pursue this one.
There is a certain charm that permeates the film, especially when it comes to the multitude of cameos that can be noticed throughout. I won’t spoil them here, but you should probably know who to expect anyway. However, some of them are so quick that if you blink, you just might miss them, so keep a sharp eye out. There’s also a good deal of nostalgia to be found throughout the storyline as our new group of heroes use their proton packs, traps, and other gadgets to fight the ghosts, which, along with other parts of the narrative, make it feel as though there was a good “Ghostbusters” film hiding in here somewhere, but unfortunately these filmmakers just couldn’t quite get to it.
What we end up with is a reboot that has a few things to like about it, but also a few too many things that are holding it back from being a satisfactory return to the long-dormant franchise. It really makes one wish that they had been able to get the surviving members of the original crew back together for another outing, updating us on how the characters have been over the last couple of decades, and giving the fans exactly what they’ve wanted for so long. Feig’s attempt to bring it back in this fashion wasn’t a terrible idea, and it certainly could have worked with better writers on board, but the result is merely a mostly-forgettable film that just isn’t able to recapture the magic that made this series so entertaining in the first place.
“Ghostbusters” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p high definition transfer of excellent quality. Throughout the film, the image does seem a little too bright at times, but for the most part, it’s clear and sharp, allowing for a fine viewing experience. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is outstanding, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in great quality. Overall, the film has been given pretty good treatment that will leave viewers satisfied.
Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Paul Feig and Co-Writer Katie Dippold: An intriguing commentary in which Feig and Dippold take you behind the scenes of the making of the film.
Commentary with the Filmmakers: A commentary in which Feig and several department heads explore many interesting areas of the film.
Gag Reels (15 Minutes): A pretty good selection of amusing outtakes.
Deleted Scenes (9 Minutes): A decent collection of deleted material that was easily cut from the film.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (21 Minutes): Another hefty selection of deleted material.
Jokes for All (35 Minutes): A large collection of interesting alternate takes.
Meet the Team (8 Minutes): A featurette that explores the new members of the Ghostbusters.
The Ghosts of Ghostbusters (14 Minutes): A featurette that takes a look at the ghost designs used in the film.
Visual Effects: 30 Years Later (15 Minutes): A featurette that discusses the film’s various special effects.
Slime Time (5 Minutes): A rather pointless featurette that talks about the slime used throughout the film.
Chris Hemsworth is “Kevin” (8 Minutes): A featurette that delves into Hemsworth’s character.
Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” reboot isn’t the outright disaster that was expected, for it does contain some humor that works and a good deal of charm and nostalgic value, but it still ends up being a mostly-forgettable outing thanks to a lot of jokes that miss, an unremarkable story, and a bland villain with a nonsensical revenge scheme. It wasn’t a terrible idea to bring in new characters in an effort to revitalize the series, but in the end it can only get so far with its lackluster screenplay, leaving behind a film that just can’t come close to the original’s legacy.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting today.
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