Ghostbusters Early Reviews: A Solid Reboot That Plays It Too Safe

Ghostbusters reboot cast and poster

A number of the blockbuster franchise revivals in recent years have taken on the forms of partial-continuations or "soft reboots" like Jurassic World and Creed. This year's Ghostbusters breaks away from that trend by offering a full-blown reboot of the paranormal comedy series, after Ghostbusters 3 - a proposed "soft reboot" where the stars of the 1984 Ghostbusters would have trained a new generation of specter hunters - spent numerous years in development before ultimately falling by the wayside (due to reasons like the passing of original Ghostbusters co-screenwriter/star, Harold Ramis).

The task of rebooting Ghostbusters falls to writer/director Paul Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold, the pair responsible for the hit 2013 buddy cop comedy, The Heat. Feig's reboot is set in modern-day New York, where a team of scientists (and one MTA employee) form a business in order to do battle with the paranormal. The film's cast is led by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (stars of Feig's raunch-com hit Bridesmaids) as well as Saturday Night Live veterans Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones; with a supporting cast that includes Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Cecily Strong (another SNL vet), Andy Garcia (Ocean's Eleven), and Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire) amongst its ranks.

No doubt, those reading this are familiar with the controversy surrounding the Ghostbusters reboot by now (be it due to the film's "gender-swapped" leads or the mere existence of this specific reboot) - but is the actual movie even worth getting worked up about, either way? The first wave of Ghostbusters reviews have now been released online, to help answer that question. Check out the SPOILER-FREE excerpts from the first reviews, below.

Slimer in Ghostbusters (2016)

The Wrap - Robert Abele

[Ghostbusters] boasts exuberantly funny performances from its key quartet — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones — and a satisfying blend of wackiness, camaraderie and paranormal pizzazz. One could even argue that “Bridesmaids”/”Spy” director-co-writer Paul Feig‘s curatorial sideline paying homage to the 1984 action-comedy juggernaut (via story beats, design elements, and many cameo pop-ups) almost becomes an unnecessary distraction.

Variety - Peter Debruge

All reboots are haunted by the specter of the movie that inspired them, but Sony’s new gender-swapped “Ghostbusters”... suffers from a disappointingly strong case of déjà vu. 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... in cameos that undercut the new film’s chemistry.

The Daily Beast - Jen Yamoto

[Ghostbusters] comes saddled with the trappings of 21st century studio filmmaking: lulls in pacing, kiddie-safe comedy, choppy editing, and the general sense that a sharper, ballsier version exists in an alternate Hollywood universe. Nevertheless, with a crackling sense of purpose and a surplus of reverence for their predecessors, new Ghostbusters Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Saturday Night Live standouts Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones plant their own flag on a beloved sci-fi comedy franchise - even if it’ll still take a miracle from beyond to convert the hypercritical haters.

Ghostbusters 2016 cast

/Film - Angie Han

At the end of the day, those who hoped the new Ghostbusters would be just like the original will probably be disappointed. The comedic sensibility is more Paul Feig than Ivan Reitman, the characters and their relationships to one another are completely different, and it all feels more like a 2010s blockbuster film than a 1980s comedy adventure (for pretty obvious reasons). But those willing to roll with the changes will find an entertaining comedy-adventure full of new characters, new gadgets, new monsters, and new possibilities.

THR - David Rooney

[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.

Den of Geek - Don Kaye

[Ghostbusters is] an amiable, moderately entertaining and intermittently amusing movie that in the end falls short of making a convincing argument for its own existence... The cast is the new film’s greatest strength, but as they go through their paces one starts to get the same feeling one had watching The Amazing Spider-Man a few years ago: why are we telling this story again, just with different people and a few remixed aspects?

Ghostbusters Reboot

Village Voice - Melissa Anderson

[Paul] Feig... has done more than any other filmmaker to expose the idiocy of an industry that still insists that women cannot carry big-studio-financed comedies. But his Ghostbusters... is too risk-averse, despite its nominally radical gender-switching premise. Ghostbusters 2.0 suffers from the anxiety of influence — or, more specifically, from the fear of not wanting to alienate the fans (Gen X'ers and others) of 1.0. It never strays far from the anodyne, generic humor that pervades the [original film].

EW - Chris Nashawaty

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... [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

Birth.Movies.Death - Devin Faraci

[The] pieces are in place. The movie, for the most part, works. It’s easily one of the funniest comedies of the year, and I loved hanging out with these characters (which is such a huge part of the success of the 84 movie). Even though it’s stuck having to wink and nod at the original... this film manages to carve out its own space, and I want to see [Paul Feig] and his cast return to continue exploring it and expanding it. And hell, their Ghostbusters II HAS TO be better than the original Ghostbusters II.

Ghostbusters (2016) official poster logo

While there are variations on the theme (some decidedly positive, others very much negative), the initial consensus regarding the Ghostbusters reboot appears to be that it falls on the respectful side of franchise revivals and/or reboots. In fact, the most frequent criticism made of director Paul Feig and his filmmaking crew's approach thus far is that they spend too much time on servicing longtime Ghostbusters fans with call-backs to the original Ghostbusters film - that is, despite having their own new talented cast with good chemistry to lead the series into the future (with Kate McKinnon receiving the most praise out of the four leads).

All things considered: if this Ghostbusters reboot is the success that Sony Pictures Entertainment is hoping for, then the next Ghostbusters installment could easily improve on its predecessor by venturing further away from tried-and-true ground for the franchise (and feeling less of an obligation to acknowledge its history). Of course, it shall be up to general moviegoing audiences to determine if the rebooted version of the franchise lives on another day... or if these new Ghostbusters hang up its proton packs after one time at bat.

Either way Sony is already planning ahead, with a new Ghostbusters cartoon TV series and a feature-length animated film already in the pipeline. We'll keep you posted on the situation - and be sure to check back this Friday for Screen Rant's own review of the new Ghostbusters!

NEXT: Paul Feig On the Challenges of Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters opens in U.S. theaters on July 15th, 2016.

Source: Various (see the above links)

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