By Bob Bloom
The new “Ghostbusters” is sporadically funny — and that has nothing to do with its cast.
The movie’s problem is that the script seems to have handcuffed its stars.
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are funny and talented performers.
It’s just that the script seems to take it for granted that casting this quartet would make for grand comedy without having to put too much effort into a screenplay worthy of them.
Watching “Ghostbusters,” you get a sense that the filmmakers myopically failed to see the full potential of having McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones on screen together.
The cast should have been set free to run wild. Director Paul Feig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Katie Dippold, needed to make the project broader to allow the women to be more expansive and utilize their full range of talents.
Alas, unchecked is what this “Ghostbusters” reboot sorely needed.
Forget the so-called controversy of redoing the film with an all-female cast. It is irrelevant and condescending. The actresses have the bona fides to carry the project.
And they almost do. But every time they seem to rise to a comedic crescendo, the script reins them in and cut them off at the knees.
“Ghostbusters” gets off to a good start, seemingly going its own way and not copying the 1984 movie. But about halfway through, the movie apparently takes a step back and retreads the premise from its predecessor.
The movie tries to have it both ways — blazing its own trail, while offering several references to the original with brief appearances by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver, as well as some iconic apparitions.
The chemistry between McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones is evident, mostly because they have all worked together either in films or in sketches on “Saturday Night Live.” And another “SNL” player, Cicely Strong, even has a small part as the assistant to the blustering mayor of New York, played by Andy Garcia.
Unfortunately, Chris Hemsworth as their dim-witted secretary, Kevin, gives a wooden, one-note performance that fails to add any real humor to the movie. He is simply there for needless eye-candy jokes.
And, at times, “Ghostbusters” feels as if it is comprised of sketches, sewed together by Feig and Dippold. The writing and direction seem timid and tentative, as if the filmmakers were uncertain what kind of comedy they wanted to make and how much rope and leeway they wanted to give their cast.
The movie’s finale hints at the inevitable sequel. Whoever writes and directs it, though, should learn from the mistakes that cut short the potential this movie had to offer.
“Ghostbusters” is pleasant and diverting, but not much else. And in this case, the fault lies with the filmmakers and not its stars.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
2½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), supernatural action and violence, crude humor