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WORTH CALLING: THE NEW ‘GHOSTBUSTERS’

I am not a fan of remakes, by and large, but I don’t consider it sacrilege to have rebooted this 1984 comedy hit…nor do I think it’s foolish to have cast it with females in the leading roles. In fact, it’s the women who make the movie so enjoyable. The interaction among Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones offers a fresh take on the basic story and sets it apart from the original.

Writer-director Paul Feig has made a specialty of crafting good parts for women in recent years, including Wiig and McCarthy (in Bridesmaids and Spy), so it should come as no surprise that he has developed entertaining characters for these actresses to play.

As for the plot, there isn’t much to say except that ghosts have been sighted in New York City. This causes former science buddies Wiig and McCarthy, who had a falling-out years ago, to join forces again along with inventor-tinkerer McKinnon and proactive subway worker Jones.

Feig plays to the women’s comic strengths, and dots the cast with talented people like Ed Begley, Jr., Charles Dance, Katie Dippold, Steve Higgins, Nate Corddry, Andy Garcia and, in a running joke as a bumbling hunk, Chris Hemsworth.

My chief complaint about Ghostbusters is that as it becomes more involved in actual ghostbusting, during the second half, it gets so caught up in elaborate visual effects that it too often forgets to be funny. It’s never dull, and blessedly, not stupid or raunchy…but like any remake, it lacks the spontaneity and surprise quotient of the first movie. Even the cameos by the original cast members, while pleasing, seem inevitable.

In sum, Ghostbusters offers agreeable light entertainment, if nothing particularly hilarious or memorable. Compared to some of the other summer offerings this year, this one can certainly hold its own.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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