Man Seeking Movies: The all-female “Ghostbusters” is a comedic delight

Haters will hate, but this flawed reboot is sometimes thrilling and often hilarious.

Oddly enough, “Ghostbusters” might just be the most controversial movie of the summer. Devoted fans of the 1984 classic never wanted a reboot in the first place. Combine that disapproval with the casting of four female heroines and the result is many outraged fans.

Fortunately, Paul Feig’s ability to showcase comedic talents outshines the detractors. While it’s far from a perfect film, the new comedy adventure reverently relaunches the old franchise with fresh humor and energy.

Like the original, this reboot follows a few academics as they study paranormal activity in New York. Kristen Wiig plays the modest Erin, who has left her passion for the supernatural behind as she seeks tenure. While Erin desperately wants to be taken seriously, her childhood friend, Abby (Melissa McCarthy), has continued to fervently research the paranormal with the comically zany Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon).

On the cusp of earning tenure, Erin is forced to confront her forgotten passion and meet with Abby. Inevitably, their reunion thrusts the three women into the profession of paranormal investigations, where they are joined by Patty (Leslie Jones), a knowledgeable and outgoing subway employee.

Where some directors might boldly reimagine the original, Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold reverently recreate it, offering only occasional tweaks. Much of the premise setup and world building echo that of the 1984 classic both in spirit and in on-screen realization. Surely this strategy will appease fans, but it results in a film that is awkwardly caught between a Paul Feig comedy and callbacks to Ivan Reitman’s original.

In fact, if there is a major hindrance to this modern adaptation, it’s the unnecessarily shoehorned callbacks and cameos. These poorly handled fan services fall flat and humorless, cutting the film’s pace to remind viewers of the original. Yet the new “Ghostbusters” still manages to entertain and thrill, as these references are few and far between.

Paul Feig’s voice and style are stamped across each scene, reflecting his talent as a comedy director. Like his work in “Bridesmaids” and “Spy,” Feig knows how to give his actors space to shine with their hilarious riffing and bantering. From Wiig’s subtle comedic range to Jones’ loud, frenetic reactions, this cast, who have all been either featured players or hosts of Saturday Night Live, showcases their abilities.

No one in this film, however, rivals the performance from Kate McKinnon. To say that she steals the show would be an understatement as McKinnon’s wacky and witty Holtzmann is consistently hysterical. Her impeccable delivery makes each joke a hit, creating a character that is simultaneously outrageous and believable. Certainly, Hollywood producers will be taking note of her talents.

With its SNL cast, “Ghostbusters” often feels like a comedy first and a supernatural adventure second. Feig’s movie sometimes matches “Scooby-Doo” more in its farcical tone than the original. Characters comically overreact when they encounter ghosts instead of conveying real horror. This tonal shift may be the single greatest departure from Reitman’s 1984 film. Ultimately, it makes the movie less emotionally effecting, though it matches Feig’s particular abilities better.

While it may be hilarious, this reboot is far from perfect. The character arcs feel a little forced and unearned, as moments of true development are only occasionally dropped into the comedy. And visually, the film is uninspiring with a haze of blue and green CGI.

Yet Feig’s remake is pretty successful. Fans devoted to the original will surely find ways to nitpick and detract. The rest of us, however, can enjoy this classic’s modern adaptation that is sometimes thrilling and often uproarious.

MOVE gives “Ghostbusters” 3 out of 5 stars.

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