The reboot of “Ghostbusters” with female leads hits theaters Friday, but the bomb-sniffing merchandisers at Target already sense something. Action figures have been marked down for clearance (although the chain officially denies it). Critics have been as negative as they could be and still keep their PC cards.
Peter Debruge, Variety: “All reboots are haunted by the specter of the movie that inspired them, but Sony’s new gender-swapped Ghostbusters – which substitutes comediennes Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones for the previously all-male paranormal exterminator squad – suffers from a disappointingly strong case of deja vu.”
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: “The unfunny mess that hits theaters Friday, like a big goopy splat of ectoplasm, will no doubt make … naysayers feel vindicated. But 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.”
Eric Kohn, IndieWire: “By blatantly reworking the dynamic of the earlier films, Ghostbusters is more explicit in its progressive agenda and admirably achieves at least that. Its flaws lie elsewhere. At the end of the day, no amount of culturally enlightened intentions can rescue another undercooked studio product.”
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times: “How could so many talented, well-meaning artists, who clearly loved and respected the reboot, produce such a raggedy-looking, thuddingly unfunny, utterly unnecessary reboot?”
The first two Ghostbusters movies came out in 1984 and ’89 and were hilarious with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in the lead roles. But all they had to do was catch ghosts, not promote a feminist agenda, as Sony Pictures and director Paul Feig chose to do.
Online distaste for this picture has been off the charts, starting with the trailer on YouTube. The basic PR campaign strategy has been to label any criticism as the product of “haters” and “misogynists.” Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman had to haul out the old chestnut that any publicity is good publicity: “We’re in the national debate, thank you. Can we please get some more haters to say stupid things?” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
This argument will not drag on long, because legendary Irish critic Word O’Mouth will soon check in. Sony ponied up north of $150 million to make the movie and likely will know by Sunday night whether it was well spent. If “culturally enlightened” results are mediocre, the media will try to spin it into a hit. If it lays an egg the size of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the storyline will disappear fast.