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‘Ghostbusters’ review: Playing it safe to preserve the movie’s legacy

WATCH: The second full-length 'Ghostbusters' trailer.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

With all the brouhaha surrounding this Ghostbusters reboot, it was difficult to view the movie without any preexisting opinions.

As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, the original ghostly comedy was a frequent replay in my house; when news of its remake began to surface and the trailers started to appear, my stomach sank at the thought of a childhood gem being corrupted or made into a joke.

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Rest assured, that does not happen, even though it feels like much of the audience wants it to flop. While the new Ghostbusters has a completely new, all-female cast, it doesn’t make a lick of difference to the plot or the film’s proceedings. Instead, Ghostbusters does what Star Wars: The Force Awakens did eight months ago: essentially take the formula that made the original great, tell the same story (and even feature some of the same scenes), but give the franchise an update.

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Better effects, more relevant jokes, nods to the original — the gang’s all here. Director Paul Feig and the writers (he also co-wrote the script) played it very safe, not wanting this reboot to be the next Total Recall, Poltergeist, Carrie, or whatever other abysmal ’80s remake has soiled the screen over the last decade. Changing the cast’s gender was perceived as such a big deal (again, in reality, it’s not), it feels as though the production was obligated to stick with the source material in virtually every other form.

The result is a scattered effort, with some funny parts and others falling flat, especially a meandering third act. To its detriment, in your mind you tick off all the boxes of the original (that happened, oh, it’s like this scene, so soon we’ll be doing this). People who’ll love this film most are those who’ve never seen the 1984 version.

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Are there throwbacks to the original movie?
There are many. Some are awesome, others not so much. It’s all fun to have cameos and cute references to quotes from the original movie, and I’m sure die-hard fans appreciate it, but at certain points it becomes pandering. Even most of the ghosts are knockoffs of the original, the worst of which is the big baddie at the end. Venture off on your own, grasshopper!

Is it funny?
At times, yes. At times, no. There were awkward gaps of silence in the theatre when the audience was very clearly supposed to be laughing. Chris Hemsworth, who stars as the dumb-as-rocks (seriously, one of the dumbest movie characters in recent memory) receptionist, delivers laughs, and comedic pros Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig usually land their lines, but they’re all just OK. Leslie Jones’s loud one-liners definitely break the monotony, but her character feels as tacked on as Winston in the 1984 film.

How is the cast?
As above, it’s sufficient. At certain junctures, the script feels like a long-lost Saturday Night Live skit, replete with self-deprecating humour and cynical mumbling. The weakest character of the foursome is Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann, the 2016 version of Egon Spengler. She invents all sorts of gadgets and weaponry, which we see in action, but her schtick grows irritating even after the first scene. The one positive about the character is her technological knowledge and know-how, which is always a great thing for little girls to see on-screen. But it can’t be a good sign that it’s difficult to remember the characters’ names, right? I can’t even recall the name of the movie’s villain, and I had to look up McKinnon’s.

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Is this for women only? 
Absolutely not. If you read any review that suggests that’s the case, then you’re reading gibberish.

So, what’s the bottom line?
In its quest to appease Ghostbusters fans, the reboot doesn’t stray far from the source material. Had the film ventured out on its own and followed a different plotline, there may have been uproar, but at least it would be spared the carbon-copy critique. Today’s kids might be the ones who enjoy this the most, since they haven’t, in most cases, seen the original. It’s a fine summer movie that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but if you’re so inclined, relive some movie memories and don’t take it too seriously.

Oh, and one more thing: this movie could have used more ghosts.

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‘Ghostbusters’ opens in theatres across Canada on July 15.

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