Critics Are Split on the Ghostbusters Reboot’s Laughs, Story, Originality

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Photo: Hopper Stone/Sony Pictures

Since the Ghostbusters reboot was first announced back in 2014, the film has generated absurd controversy due to its gender-swapped cast. Now that the movie has screened for critics and reviews are coming out, the charged dialogue surrounding the movie isn't likely to subside. The four female leads are garnering praise for their comedic chops, and many reviewers argue that the film is funnier and/or spookier than the original. But a lack of inventiveness and originality has nevertheless left most critics unsatisfied — which is to be expected, as the film has always bore the weight of comparisons to the beloved original.

It's worth noting that female critics seem to have had a better time watching the film than their far more numerous male counterparts. (Certainly, director Paul Feig would have something to say about that.) Here's a selection of review excerpts about the movie:

"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." ­—Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

"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. They do, which means that 'Ghostbusters' is also a female-friendship movie, but without the usual genre pro forma tears, jealousies and boyfriends. Friendship here, even at its testiest, is a given, which means that Mr. Feig doesn’t have to worry it and can get on with bringing the funny with his stars and toys, his ghosts and laughs." —Manhola Dargis, New York Times

"You can absolutely nitpick the story, and many undoubtedly will. It might have benefited from a couple more character beats and a bit more sense of the team dynamic (though re-watch the original and you’ll see that this quartet has similar development); there are a few scenes that drag, and some jokes that fail to hit the mark; there’s a sequel baiting post-credits sting in a trend that’s becoming far too common (although with these elements in place, a sequel should be even better). But this feels far more fresh than it has any right to do, simply because it’s casually feminist, unfailingly pacy and finds an exact mid-point between razor sharp and pleasingly dumb comedy. The haters can, to quote one minor character, suck it." —Helen O’Hara, GQ

"The movie glows with vitality, thanks largely to the performers, who revel in one another’s company, and not in a self-congratulatory, Ocean’s Twelve-style, 'We’re awesome movie stars, together' way. Some of their dialogue has a loose, loopy, unscripted vibe, à la Bill Murray’s poker-faced asides in the original. When the heroines take time out from their heavy-duty citizen-saving for an impromptu Patrick Swayze reverie, they’re inviting us right into the crystalline goofiness of the moment." —Stephanie Zacharek, Time

"McCarthy is amusing as always, but veers dangerously close to repeating her same old shtick, while Wiig is a poor substitute for Murray's horndog Dr. Peter Venkman, playing a brainiac incapable of maintaining a respectful professional relationship with members of the opposite sex. (It's one of the movie's more inspired gags to flip the sexual harassment in the other direction, offering up Thor hunk Chris Hemsworth as the group's straight man, an assistant too dumb to realize he's being objectified.) And yet the one-line idea that made the original such a success — a comedy team fights ghosts — is so rich that surely Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold could have taken the franchise in a totally new direction." —Peter Debruge, Variety

"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." —David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Rejoice! The new Ghostbusters is good. Very good, in fact. It had to be. No comedy has faced more advance scrutiny - even hostility – than Paul Feig’s reboot of Ivan Reitman’s beloved 1980s hit...The fanboys are right: we are a long way from Reitman’s original. How far is worth highlighting: after all, that first film opened with a strikingly pervy Bill Murray conning his way into a late-night date with a young female pupil. The second gave Sigourney Weaver nothing at all to do but worry about her baby’s safety." —Nigel M Smith, The Guardian

"There is an easy camaraderie and chemistry among the central quartet, a harmony that continues when Chris Hemsworth, charmingly stupid, enters as the phantom-vanquishing squad's receptionist. Yet the main performers rarely get to display their individual idiosyncratic strengths. It's particularly dispiriting to hear McCarthy, one of the most floridly gifted verbal riffers in comedy, have to utter frat-brah catchphrases like 'Let's do this.' That kind of lifeless, recycled language sounds even worse when Wiig, another performer who has perfected how to do things with words, cries out, 'Say hello to my little friend' before zapping a spook in the film's near-interminable final act, a glut of green beams that suggests nothing more than an f/x trade show." —Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice

Ghostbusters is a horror from start to finish, and that’s not me saying it’s legitimately scary. More like I was horrified by what was transpiring onscreen. How could so many talented, well-meaning artists, who clearly loved and respected the original, produce such a raggedy-looking, thuddingly unfunny, utterly unnecessary reboot?" —Richard Roeper, The Chicago Sun-Times

"Once the Ghostbusters are somewhat established, the film temporarily devolves into a series of disconnected improv scenes that go way too long for the comparatively few laughs they offer. Very little of the connective tissue has any bearing on or consequence to the main plot. It’s not that these mid-film beats aren’t funny (although some are not and one awful extended cameo single-handedly kills the film’s momentum), but it’s so obvious that these scenes don’t exist for any story or character-building purpose, and thus our interest dwindles." —Scott Mendelson, Forbes

"There’s been so much furor over this Ghostbusters reboot since it was announced, almost completely focused on the fact that all the leads are played by women. (And, indeed, the characters they play are women too.) So I went into the movie spoiling for a fight—I really wanted to like director Paul Feig’s reimagining, to prove all the misogynist online naysayers wrong. But Ghostbusters, quick and dull and weightless, offers very little to root for. It spends so much time doing battle with its legacy that it forgets to be its own movie, putting a talented cast to waste and marking another disappointment in this dreadful summer movie season." —Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

"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." –Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast

"Unfortunately, this quartet provides the hilarious center to a movie that otherwise has none — or, for that matter, much purpose beyond showcasing their charisma. 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." —Eric Kohn, IndieWire