A lot to like in "Ghostbusters," but with serious flaws

In this image released by Sony Pictures, from left, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones appear in a scene from, "Ghostbusters." (Sony Pictures via AP)
Josh Presley

Perhaps no movie in the history of cinema has provoked such strong reactions before people even see the film than the reboot of “Ghostbusters.” On one side you had the “ew, girls” collective of mouth breathers, and on the other side you had the “if you don’t like this, you’re a sexist monster” cult. Again, none of these people had seen the movie. Now Paul Fieg’s lady-led “Ghostbusters” is out for mass consumption — or mass hysteria — and we can finally maybe start judging this movie based on, you know, the actual movie and not harebrained political agendas or the perceived ruination of someone’s childhood.
If you don’t want to read any further, this new “Ghostbusters” is pretty good, but not great, and has some definite problems. It can’t be an easy task to tackle something so beloved as “Ghostbusters,” which has endured as an icon of pop culture for more than 30 years now. Paul Fieg deserves a medal for even trying, and producing a pretty entertaining movie to boot.
“Ghostbusters,” much like the original, sees three scientists — Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon — join forces with a streetwise subway worker (Leslie Jones) to combat an outbreak of paranormal activity in New York.
If the movie gets nothing else right, it’s the casting. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones, along with Chris Hemsworth as ditzy receptionist Kevin, are great, and their chemistry and humor drags the movie out of some of its more egregious lulls. Some, not all.
This “Ghostbusters” is more of a traditional comedy than the original, and in that respect, it’s a success. This is a genuinely funny movie. Having said that, some of the jokes fall flat, and some of the jokes that are actually funny devolve into line-o-rama improv that kills whatever humor a given scene might’ve possessed.
Fieg deserves all the credit in the world for putting this together, but his direction is probably the movie’s biggest failing. After a pretty solid opening act, the middle portion of the film devolves into “we just shot a bunch of stuff without knowing where it would go.” At less than two hours, the movie dragged several times in the middle, though thankfully things picked back up for the final act.
The movie is also occasionally bogged down with references to the original, as well as cameos from the stars of the 1984 film. Some are more fun than others, and while I appreciate this reverence to the source material as a fan, the callbacks can occasionally get in the way of the new cast and story.
The climax of the film sees some pretty thrilling spectacle, featuring a plethora of fun with the concept of ghost busting that the original would have been unable to accomplish with the technology of the day.
At the end of the day, we have a pretty good movie with serious, but not fatal, flaws. Though it’s a bit scary for younger children, there were several kids in the theater during my screening, and they seemed to love the movie.
As far as ruining anyone’s childhood? I don’t think so. If anyone’s childhood was going to be ruined, it would be mine — a cursory glance at my toy shelf would out me as a serious Ghostbusters fanatic (this is why I’m single, and have no friends, right?) — but I think four-year-old Josh would have loved this movie. The 1984 original is still sitting on my shelf where it’s always been, and it isn’t going anywhere.