Ghostbusters reboot a bust

Slimings run around in Ghostbusters.
Slimings run around in Ghostbusters. PHOTO: CTMG

Sorely missing in this reboot are funny human interactions among characters with insecurities

REVIEW / HORROR-COMEDY

GHOSTBUSTERS (PG)

116 minutes/Now showing/ 2 stars

The story: Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a physicist trying to find success in mainstream academia when her old friend, fringe scientist Abby (Melissa McCarthy), drags her back into the world of paranormal study. Helped by the contraptions of engineer Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and the New York trivia knowledge of Patty (Leslie Jones), the team takes on a ghost invasion.

Reboots are rarely good ideas, but this one is helped greatly by making its main cast all women - at least it feels like an attempt to cut a new path, instead of appeasing nostalgia crybabies out for blood.

Too bad then that the all-female Ghostbusters team is the only thing fresh about this enterprise.

Stuffed with fan service shout- outs and pandering cameos and a story template that copies so much from the 1984 original it could make the executives behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) blush, it wastes the shot that director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, 2011) might have had to kickstart a trend for big-budget, women-driven action comedies.

For this project, Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold dropped the engine behind comedies such as The Heat (2013), Spy (2015) and Bridesmaids: insecurity.

No one here frets about being inept, overweight or single; there is no jealousy or spite or any of those delicious emotions that make human interactions funny.

So the structural problem that makes so many action comedies weak, the problem that crippled Pixels (2015) and made other big special-effects spectaculars so unfunny, is much too present here: The jokes do not come from characters, but from situations.

We get the slimings, the bug-eyed screaming and running hither and thither; we get the ghosts that look like cartoon characters and the scientific gobbledygook about ectoplasm and protonic disturbances. We even get bits about flatulence (of course there has to be jokes about flatulence).

What we do not have are characters that feel like real people dealing with problems in their lives in a funny way.

Feig and Dippold might have created strong comedies in the past, but as they say in business, past performance does not guarantee future - or even present - results.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Ghostbusters reboot a bust'. Print Edition | Subscribe