The 1993 comedy “Ghostbusters” was a pop-culture phenomenon. For almost 25 years, legions of people have sung its praises and still watched the catchphrase “Who you gonna call?” roll through the airwaves.
But does the new “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” film sequel stand a chance to live up to expectations?
What’s the verdict?
People who spoke with The Washington Post were split on whether they’d see the movie.
While many said the movie is full of laughs, others slammed the latest film’s generic plot.
Post movie critic Ann Hornaday not only gave the movie a zero on her review, but she also lambasted its “silly humor, tired stereotypes and smarmy gags” in a two-star review.
Other critics were less kind to the movie.
In Slate, David Sims gave the movie just four stars, calling it “pathetic” and “insulting.”
He chided the movie for being so relentlessly one-note.
“It’s like the screenplay couldn’t come up with its first laugh,” Sims wrote. “The comedic moments come in late, mid-film when the characters must trade ironic joke banter and sly gags about psychology (admit it: it’s a much better idea to stage your comedy to a novel) than it is to mine genuinely shocking gags.”
Sims also accused the movie of trying to cash in on the original’s success.
“Let’s face it: ‘Ghostbusters’ is inarguably successful. It’s been successful at a time when few other movies in America are. It’s even made money off the knock-off sequels.”
But whether the movie was well-received or not, the heart of the film rested on the four new characters, wrote Stephen Galloway of Vanity Fair.
“Four leads with a rich back story, at least, aren’t a bad thing to have,” he wrote. “But with the reliance on humor that was part of the original, I found myself wanting more, wanting some breath of fresh air, of an entirely new cast that had the same chemistry and fleshed-out personalities. Instead, we’re saddled with a bunch of names from the 1980s or are distracted by homages to the original.”
Diana Nicoll of The Guardian also questioned the film’s formula, saying, “Apparent efforts to mix things up in the plot and the screenplay come up short.”
Ben Taub at Time Magazine agreed that “the sequel struggles to recapture the funny and the spirit of the original.”
Deconstructing the plot
Part of the problem is the comedy takes such a short-term perspective that it becomes monotonous, Galloway wrote.
He said the standard buddy-cop comedy plots “keep running headlong into the familiar endgame of a climactic crisis.” But the joke here isn’t really much of a joke. It’s just human beings in panic.
The other big problem for Galloway was how the movie pulls back a little on the past for a new generation.
He said it tries to reach “21st century relevance,” but the film “falls short on the complex politics and cultural critique that defined the original.”
A fresh take on the original
From reviews, critics seemed mostly unimpressed with the original storyline. They agreed that while the movie felt like a relic in 1993, it actually had some freshness to it. The problem, however, was that director Ivan Reitman rewrote some of the original’s best lines.
The humor in the movie didn’t fully extend beyond Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ jokes, Hornaday said.
There was “no ferocious momentum to the new work,” she wrote. “The gags hit at all the wrong times, and the heart flutters not long after the summer distraction begins.”
However, critics did not see too much of a difference between the original and the new film.
In her review, Hornaday praised one aspect of the movie that’s notable in the recent batch of reboots — the success of the franchise’s female ghostbusting duo, consisting of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones.
Says Hornaday: “If the first movie was about boys who keep protecting the world, the sequel is about grown women, who keep calling the Ghostbusters.