Phil Villarreal's novel, Zeta Male, is available at Amazon.
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The Chinese aren't missing out on much.
Banned by censors in China, the "Ghostbusters" reboot is a drab, strained rehash of the 1980s phenomenon. There's a climcactic scene that symbolizes everything wrong with the movie: From out of nowhere, a Macy's Thanksgiving parade style balloon of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man appears, only to collapse on the newfangled Ghostbusters and smother them, then suddenly pop and whither.
There's a lot of that deflating feeling going on.
It was a given that the movie had as little chance of replacing the classic in the hearts of children of the 80s as the Jaden Smith-Jackie Chan "Karate Kid" or the Nick Cannon remake of "Can't Buy Me Love." The best we could hope for would be a fresh, clever take on the old concept that hit its marks on scares and laughs.
The casting, even though it rattled fans of the original got things off on the right foot. It's impossible to match the zany genius and ectoplasmic chemistry of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis in their prime, so "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig tossed in a wildcard and drew on the female comic A-list (minus Amy Schumer) of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy. Tossing in able comic forces of Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, the foursome is so bubbly that it's tough to go wrong.
But Feig, sadly, found a way to screw it up.
The major flaw comes in relying on a hocus-pocus plot that twists the film into a mindless, overserious action movie more than a horror flick or comedy escapade. The original "Ghostbusters" films worked because they made fun of themselves as they went. This one drones on about the mechanics of electronic devices placed strategically throughout the city that power up evil spirits, bizarre weapons that destroy the ghosts rather than trap them -- why don't the destroyed ghosts spawn ghosts of their own to come back and haunt their enemies? -- and a cheap cure-all solution to wrap things up.
The few times the material thrives, it's when Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones are left to improvise and crack wise. It's these throwaway moments that make the movie, and you get the sneaking suspicion that the funniest moments on set happened just before and after Feig shouted "cut!"
Chris Hemsworth, as the Ghostbusters' clueless receptionist, steals away most of the laughs, mostly because his character is loose and ridiculous enough to mock the material. And there is much to ridicule.
The most agonizing aspects of the movie come when the film shamelessly trots out scenes, sounds and images from the first movie. The opening bars of Ray Parker Jr.'s theme blasts over the opening panoramic shot for now good reason. Slimer, along with brand new Mrs. Slimer, show up in a pandering, pathetic manner, and then there's the telling Stay Puft balloon confrontation. There are even cameos from several surviving original cast members, who end up solemnly haunting the film with a tired, solemn gloom.
Like the tormented souls that serve as the villains, the movie is an unwanted, hollow vessel, floating around as a sad, lifeless shadow of the past.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.