Ghostbusters: Answer the Call

Posted by Joel Copling on July 14, 2016

Reader, I must confess something: I am not among the legion that embrace Ivan Reitman's "Ghostbusters" as a perennial classic. In truth, I find the film's mix of low comic energy, unspectacular (even for the period) visual effects, and general lack of creativity surrounding the titular spirit beings to be an underwhelming one. It was inevitably going to be remade for a new generation, though, with plenty of room for improvement, and this time, in the place of four funny men (in case you've been out of touch with reality, the likes of Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson alongside the film's screenwriters, Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis) in the lead roles, we have four funny women. It's a clever casting coup that never once pays off, because "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call" (The subtitle annoyingly pops up just in time to lead into the ending credits roll) is a pretty disastrous piece of nostalgia-pandering claptrap.

The new screenplay has been co-written by its director, Paul Feig, with Katie Dippold, and the pair is entirely unable to figure out whether it wants to pay homage to the original (through callbacks and a series of depressing cameos from three of the original film's leads and two supporting female presences) or disparage it (The entire film asks the question of the female characters that the series' fan base has been asking for two years, and I'm not entirely sure it comes to a different or less demeaning conclusion). Whatever the case, by the time the climax offers little more than random blotches of garish visual effects colliding together while the team of the surtitle aims for the nether regions of the main ghost, who has become a massive id of the cartoonish logo that everyone has come to know and love, it doesn't really seem to matter.

The human counterparts of this battle are those four funny actresses saddled with such joyless drivel: Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, two scientists formerly obsessed with the supernatural after a childhood experience with a ghost left Erin shell-shocked and Abby was the only kid on the block who believed her, Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann, whose mugging performance here consists of making funny faces for two hours before a single line hints at some reason for her existence, and Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan, a subway worker and expert in New York history whose entire being is constantly ignored so that she can be the awkward, yelly black stereotype. Their secretary is played by Chris Hemsworth for the purpose of another gender swap, but all he does is act remarkably dense, to the point that he becomes more believably human as the events of the climax play out. Their quarry is a creepy loner type named Rowan North (Neil Casey), who works as a janitor while he isn't plotting the release of hundreds of ghosts.

The two major problems that plagued the 1984 picture are present here, too, just increased by several exponents. The chemistry among the actors seems as strained as it did among the old guard, with only McCarthy perhaps making it out with her dignity intact, and the ghosts are once again asked to appear in order to showcase visual effects (although at least in the older film those effects were somewhat practical, whereas here it's a lot of incredibly accentuated blues and greens, not helped by 3-D that darkens the image during a climax set at night) and not much more than that. There wasn't much that "Ghostbusters" did with its premise involving separate personalities joking around while lassoing ghosts and saving the world, and there's even less that "Ghostbusters: Answer the Call" does with it. It's pretty embarrassing.

Film Information

Kristen Wiig (Erin Gilbert), Melissa McCarthy (Abby Yates), Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan), Kate McKinnon (Jillian Holtzmann), Chris Hemsworth (Kevin), Neil Casey (Rowan North), Andy Garcia (Mayor Bradley), Michael Kenneth Williams (Agent Hawkins), Cecily Strong (Jennifer Lynch), Matt Walsh (Agent Rorke), Zach Woods (Tour Guide), Charles Dance (Harold Filmore), Ed Begley Jr. (Ed Mulgrave), Karan Soni (Bennie), Steve Higgins (Dean), Bill Murray (Martin Heiss), Michael McDonald (Jonathan).

Directed by Paul Feig and written by Feig and Katie Dippold, based on the 1984 film "Ghostbusters" directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

Rated PG-13 (supernatural action, crude humor).

116 minutes.

Released on July 15, 2016.