What the critics are saying about Ghostbusters

The first reviews are in for Paul Feig's much-anticipated Ghostbusters reboot starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. The early verdict: not as terrible as the pre-release backlash led many people on the internet to believe. Still, not all of America's top critics necessarily think that this version of Ghostbusters is the second coming of, well, Ghostbusters. Before you buy your tickets, find out which critics loved it, hated it and loved to hate it.

The New York Times

One of the biggest raves for Ghostbusters came from the occasionally hard-to-please Manohla Dargis of The New York Times. "Sliding into theaters on a river of slime and an endless supply of good vibes, the new, cheerfully silly Ghostbusters is that rarest of big-studio offerings—a movie that is a lot of enjoyable, disposable fun," she writes. "And enjoy it while you can because this doesn't happen often, even in summer, which is supposed to be our season of collective moviegoing happiness. The season when everyone jumps onboard (whee!) and agrees that, yes, this great goof is exactly what you were thinking when you wondered why they didn't make summer movies like they used to."

Dargis goes on to describe Feig's reboot as "satisfyingly familiar" yet "satisfyingly different" from the 1984 classic starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis. She admits that casting four women in the lead roles this time around is "kind of gimmick," but fortunately "one that the filmmakers and the excellent cast deepen with real comedy chemistry and emotionally fleshed-out performances." "Now, if we could just get women and men to be funny together, that would be revolutionary," she concludes. Indeed.

The Hollywood Reporter

Sadly, not everyone is a fan Take David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter, for example, who called the movie a "bust" and an "unfunny mess" in his flat-out pan. "The fact is that an estrogen-infused makeover, particularly one with such a comedically gifted cast, was a promising idea. Sadly, that's where the inventiveness ended," he writes.

What makes the movie so bad? According to Rooney, a lot of it has to do with its script. "Short on both humor and tension, the spook encounters are rote collisions with vaporous CG specters that escalate into an uninvolving supernatural cataclysm unleashed upon New York's Times Square," he writes. "It's all busy-ness, noise and chaos, with zero thrills and very little sustainable comic buoyancy."

Shockingly, Rooney also claims that there is a "shortage of chemistry among the four leads," particularly between McCarthy and Wiig. "While the actors worked together effectively in Bridesmaids, there's minimal evidence of a connection in their scenes here, which are often flat and sagging under the weight of dead air. Concept suffocates comedy at almost every step."


Writing for Variety, critic Peter Debruge argues that, like so many high-profile reboots before it, Ghostbusters falls flat because it spends "far too much energy channeling the original to establish its own identity." "While both funnier and scarier than Ivan Reitman's 1984 original, this otherwise over-familiar remake … doesn't do nearly enough to innovate on what has come before, even going so far as to conjure most of the earlier film's cast (including Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) in cameos that undercut the new film's chemistry," he writes. In fact, he claims the movie tries so hard to honor the original that it could eat into its box-office returns and potential for a sequel.

Although he puts much of the blame on the film's script and direction, Debruge didn't really take much of a shine to the cast, either. While he found McCarthy "amusing as always," he says she "veers dangerously close to repeating her same old shtick." Wiig, meanwhile, is simply a "poor substitute" for Bill Murray. Which, let's face it, is never something comedy lovers want to hear.

Entertainment Weekly

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly was also soft on the movie, mainly because he felt the laugh quotient wasn't up to the level of talent involved in the project. He expressed similar complaints about the film's desire to honor the original while trying to stand on its own two feet, writing, "It's too slavish when it nods to the original (although its throw-back cameos are fun), and too flailing and flat when it strays from it."

But what really might have killed the fun was the decision to go for a PG-13 rating rather than the raunchier R featured in movies like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy. "Somewhere, I bet, there's an R-rated director's cut of the movie where these women really let it rip," he writes. "I want to see that movie."

The Wrap

Although he, too, harps on Ghostbusters' endless desire to tip its hat to the original, Robert Abele of The Wrap was still willing to give this one a thumbs up. "For a movie slimed well in advance of anyone actually seeing it, the new female-driven Ghostbusters wins by sheer dint of being exceedingly good-natured and skillfully made, having the sharp sense to tickle us into submission before the ubiquitous hammer of CGI comes down," he writes.

Abele also has high praise for all four women on the ghost-fighting team, writing, "[Ghostbusters] boasts exuberantly funny performances from its key quartet … and a satisfying blend of wackiness, camaraderie and paranormal pizzazz.

"It's understandable that this franchise relaunch would want to remind you of the original, but there's no getting around that this new A-team of ghostbusters are fresh and funny enough to have earned space in the summer comedy firmament," Abele adds. Which brings him to a pretty natural conclusion: "Should it come to further installments, improving on Ghostbusters II wouldn't be that hard."

Vanity Fair

As he admits in his review, the pre-release backlash made Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair really, really want to like the movie. Unfortunately, he writes, the final product simply isn't good enough to defend. "Ghostbusters, quick and dull and weightless, offers very little to root for," Lawson writes. "It spends so much time doing battle with its legacy that it forgets to be its own movie, putting a talented cast to waste and marking another disappointment in this dreadful summer movie season."

Similar to other critics, Lawson was let down by all four lead performances. "McCarthy and Wiig spend the entire movie on mute, turning in bland, disconcertingly joyless performances that further deaden an already lifeless movie," he writes. He also writes that Jones feels like she's trapped in a movie from the 1990s and that McKinnon's popular Saturday Night Live shtick "proves grating and incoherent in movie-length form."

Also failing to live up to expectations are writers Fieg and Kate Dippold, who "seem hampered by what I'm guessing is a combination of studio pressure to focus on action and special effects, and a reflexive fear of the long shadow cast by the original film," Lawson argues. "It's a real bummer that these filmmakers felt they had to be so careful—with beloved I.P., with a female-driven movie," Lawson concludes. "It's the dumbest of ironies, really, that they do, in the end, seem pretty afraid of a ghost."


If there's a glimmer of hope in all these mixed reviews, it may lie in Drew Mcweeny's rave for HitFix. "I don't know if it's a lady thing or a comedy thing, but I laughed like hell," he writes in his A- review. "Ghostbusters is a big fat slice of silly summer entertainment, confident and sometimes quite beautiful. It is the biggest stretch Feig's made so far as a filmmaker, embracing the technical side of things in a way he never has so far, and stuffed chock full of affection for everything that makes Ghostbusters such an enduring favorite."

Yes, he admits that the reboot spends a little too much time paying tribute to the original Ghostbusters, but in the end, it simply does not matter. "There are so many things that work that it doesn't matter if the new take on the theme song is sort of terrible or if that one cameo doesn't work," Mcweeny writes. "The good news is, there's a whole new generation that's about to feel that way about this one. And more power to them."