Review – Hang Up the Phone (“Ghostbusters”)

Ever since director Paul Feig announced that he was doing an all-female remake of Ghostbusters, there was outrage. I’m talkin’ pure hatred. His trailers were met with vile comments and trollers were everywhere condemning the movie without ever seeing it. Oh sure, remakes have been done before, but they were never met with such a backlash like this! Why all the hub-bub, bub?
It’s NYC and physicist Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is about to make tenure at Columbia University until her estranged paranormal book partner, the radical scientist, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), pulls her into her crazy scheme of finding and then capturing ghosts. Joined by Yates’ techno-whiz, make-anything engineer, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), the three get a rude awakening into the ghost world at a creepy old house, which gets Erin fired for her YouTube excitement. No matter, some nastiness is afoot in town when a creepy hotel bellhop named Rowan (Neil Casey) decides to cleanse the Earth by bringing about the Apocalypse using resurrected ghosts. Looks like he’s managed to make the devices to do that, too!
As the girls decide to enter the paranormal business game, they hire former MTA worker Patty (Leslie Jones) and a hunky (but completely inept) male secretary named Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). After some trial ‘n’ error, they manage to capture and secure a large dragon-like ghost at a rock concert. The problem is, the Mayor (Andy Garcia) doesn’t want the public to take the Ghostbusters seriously. They could cause mass hysteria, y’see, so he discredits them, but secretly has them keep working, which is good ’cause Rowan has one last trick up his sleeve. As the Ghostbusters go to bust him, he commits suicide and becomes a ghost, entering different bodies at will.
His cataclysmic plan succeeds and all the ghosts are released, causing not only widespread panic, but a parade of ghost-balloons (one of them being the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man). Rowan himself even turns into a Godzilla-sized ghost! Will the girls foil his plan? Will cameos of some of the original cast make an appearance? And is that a bust of Harold Ramis in the college hallway?
Working with a mediocre script by director Paul Feig and Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Recreation TV show), the movie suffers from a lack of what the original movie had in abundance: spontaneity, fun, and unpredictableness. The flat dialogue struggles way too hard to be funny and only occasionally hits its mark, thanks to Hemsworth’s dorky guy and McKinnon’s loopy eccentricities. The story borrows many elements of Ghostbusters 2 and R.I.P.D., and instead of the smooth school-teachers-to-hunting-ghosts transition (like the 1984 film), you have choppy, scattershot vignettes that feels more like a filmed storyboard that’s missing a few pages. It’s all cool gadgets and gizmos with no heart to it.
I will say that the SPFX are particularly good. The CGI ghosts are very nice (and the practical weapons tech) and it’s cool to see Slimer get an CG upgrade, but what about the leads? Two of my favorites, McCarthy and Wiig, should have been great here, given their natural ability to really tear into a part and do it justice. McCarthy killed in Spy and The Boss and Wiig nailed her part in Bridesmaids, so what happened here? Restrained, tied to an iffy script, and looking uncomfortable, they didn’t generate the usual on-screen chemistry they normally do. I kept hoping for the undeniable electricity that Murray and Ackroyd had, but the two never quite got there.

The brainchild of Dan Ackroyd and the late Harold Ramis, this paranormal comedy become a cultural phenom that spawned Saturday morning cartoon shows, hit record sales, catch-phrases galore, gadzillion toy sales, and is beloved by all. The sequel, although an iffy after-thought, is still regarded as okay. So why, oh why, do a remake? That decision sparked one of the hottest controversies in film histories since Paul Greengrass’ vomitous 1998 shot-for-shot remake of Psycho.

You already KNOW the story (and who doesn’t?) Three scientists and an employee go out and catch ghosts for a living through a business called Ghostbusters. They are: loopy team leader Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), techno-wiz and engineer Egon Spengler (Ramis), paranormal expert Ray Stantz (Ackroyd), and fresh of the street hiree, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Not to mention their irascible secretary, Janine (Annie Potts). Together, the guys form a team using nuclear-powered Proton Packs strapped to their backs and go out vanquishing ghosts (like the green glob “Slimer” in a posh hotel) and store them safely in their containment facility back at their old firehouse station.

BUT! There’s trouble brewing when Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) is threatened in her apartment by a mysterious entity called ZUL and the boys go to investigate, causing horn-dog Venkman to fall for her. As ZUL’s power ever increases, more troubles comes by way of total dick, EPA lawyer Walter Peck (William Atherton) who wants to shut down the Ghostbusters, citing their toxic containment system. When he does this, all the previous ghosts are released, ZUL takes over Dana’s body, her nerdish neighbor, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) is infected too, and the guys must defeat ZUL in human form… plus a Godzilla-sized Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Ivan Reitman directed this iconic movie that never fails to put a smile on your face, no matter how many times you watch it. There are SO many lines you can quote, like in a Rocky Horror midnight show; it’s that funny. Plus you have Murray, Ackroyd, Ramis, Hudson, Moranis, Potts, and Weaver all at the top of their game here having as blast. Sure the sequel wasn’t all that good, but it still had the same team!

TIDBITS: Ackroyd originally wrote this movie with John Candy and his buddy, John Belushi in mind, but Belushi died prior to filming and Candy declined. The original script was called “GhostSmashers” and the team could travel through time, space, and inter-dimentionally to hunt down ghosts. Also in the original script, Zeddemore was introduced an ex-Air Force demolitions expert (which Hudson loved about his character), but that was cut out later. And Gozer the Destructor that you see played by slinky Yugoslav model Slavitza Jovan? It was originally supposed to be Paul Rubens (that’s right, Pee-Wee Herman) in a plain suit! Yikes!

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