I didn’t mind Paul Feig‘s Ghostbusters at first. I actually didn’t mind it for the first 80 of its 116 minutes. Then Feig throws the corporate formula switch and Ghostbusters eats itself for the last 35. It does a major swan dive into the swamp of CG overkill, and the experience numbs your soul.

Jones, McCarthy, Wiig and HE’s own Kate McKinnon.

Going in I knew Ghostbusters would be a spirited, corporatized, digitally upgraded rehash of the ’84 original. Melissa McCarthy as Dan Aykroyd, Kristen Wiig as Bill Murray, Kate McKinnon as Harold Ramis, Leslie Jones as Ernie Hudson. And it is that. A “same but newer and splashier” approach — similar set-up, similar absurd story, same determination to de-fang and de-mystify the notion of actual ghosts by turning them into Disneyworld creations.

For what it’s worth, McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones hold their own and keep the ball in the air. I liked their company. McKinnon is the most internalized of the four, but I’d love to see her as a lead in something. (A smart lesbo or hetero romcom? I’m good either way.) Jones is a lot of fun. McCarthy and Wiig deliver their usual usual. And hunky Chris Hemsworth, as their mentally-challenged assistant, is inoffensively okay.

Variety‘s Peter Debruge has complained that Feig is too averse to potential new realms, saying that “the fault lies in the fact that this new Ghostbusters doesn’t want us to forget them, crafting its new team in the earlier team’s shadow.”

Well…of course! Movies like this are never about throwing away the roadmap and revelling in creative invention — they’re about cashing in by delivering mostly the same thing only re-stirred and re-fried with some fresh cream on top.

I haven’t seen the ’84 original for over 30 years, but this newbie struck me as a slightly funnier film. Dopier, I mean. I actually laughed two or three times. (My first chuckle came when a real-estate agent said that the monthly rental on the original Ghostbusters headquarters — Hook & Ladder 8 at 14 No. Moore Street in Tribeca — was $21K.) I don’t think I could call it “scary”, as noted, due to the franchise’s determination to avoid genuinely creepy vibes.

It’s formula bullshit, of course — what else could it be? — but if you can lower your standards and just sit back and take it, it’s 80 minutes of silly “fun” — fun defined as nodding submission to a super-budget presentation of a franchise concept that’s moderately amusing here and there and doesn’t piss you off.

The big “bad guy” (played by Neil Casey) is more of a psychopathic creep than a “mysterious, evil and powerful demon who can exercise control over human forms,” blah blah. You could call him “otherwordly”, I suppose, but he’s nowhere close to my idea of interesting. When he’s on-screen, I wanted him to be off.

And then, with 35 minutes to go, Ghostbusters becomes a massive CGI show to end all massive CGI shows — Zack Snyder‘s Man of Steel finale meets the Independence Day sequel meets the Pillsbury doughboy monster meets the end of the world meets a 4th of July spectacular. Because all expensive CG movies must deliver an explosive, super-gargantuan “knock your socks off” quadruple-whammo finale. Every corporately FX movie feels it has to deliver this shit, and it’s awful when it happens.

Why do movies like this always deliver the same kind of finale? Because the submentals and the Chinese won’t attend in sufficient numbers if they don’t. Or so production execs believe.

To repeat, the first two thirds of Ghostbusters is…what, a little better than tolerable? Mildly okay here and there?

A female friend: “I thought Captain America was worse because if nothing else I felt this movie took chances by having four women who aren’t necessarily fuckable and are actually doing something. It’s a good movie, a decent homage and a fun time. No point in critically dissecting it.”