Since the announcement of an all-female Ghostbusters reboot, the internet has been rife with controversy. There are those who find it a disservice to the original and those who find it a bold affirmation that women can have leading roles.
I was raised on the original Ghostbusters. The first movie I saw in theatres was Ghostbusters 2. I had every episode of the cartoon recorded on VHS and every toy. My first word was Egon. So when I say that the film holds a special place in my heart, you know I mean it.
While I held out hope that this would be a welcome return to the paranormal investigators walking around with unlicensed nuclear devices, I was also worried that the film couldn’t possibly capture what made the original such a staple of pop culture.
So what is the verdict when it comes to Paul Feig’s attempt to reinvent what is considered to be one of the greatest comedies of the eighties?
Let’s start by looking at the cast. The leads in the film have some serious comedic chops and their chemistry is undeniable. Kristen Wiig is wonderful and charming as the straight laced Erin Gilbert and her relationship with the more excitable and confident Abby Yates, portrayed by Melissa McCarthy, is equal parts heartwarming and surprisingly relate-able. The rift that has formed between the friends is not milked for drama, but instead plays out in a way many of us will recognize. They are two people who have grown apart but still hold each other dear.
While Wiig and McCarthy may be the leads, it’s Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzman and Leslie Johnson as Patty Tolan who really stand out among the team. Kate McKinnon takes a character with much less focus and makes her stand out in every scene. It is almost impossible not to laugh at Holtzman’s antics whether it is casually eating chips as a ghost emerges or goofily dancing with blowtorches. Leslie Johnson manages to make the only non-scientist character one of the funniest with her enthusiasm and at the same time pragmatic reactions to the goings on of the story.
The real surprise here is Chris Hemsworth, as the group’s dimwitted secretary Kevin. His idiotic and air-headed actions, his blatant use as eye candy for the leads, and his ridiculous charm are on full display. While Chris Hemsworth may not find success as an action star, hopefully he will decide to try his hand at some more comedy. Just kidding.
What really stands out about the characters is that rather then gender swapped versions of Stanz, Spengler, Venkman and Winston, we are given a cast unique in personality so that they serve as companions rather than an attempt at erasure.
The plot bears little resemblance to the original Ghostbusters. Instead of ancient gods, the team must deal with a misanthropic scientist who is using a version of their own tech to bring about an apocalypse with ghosts. It’s a fairly standard story and unfortunately, as much as Neil Casey may make his character Rowan come off as odd and creepy, he is still largely forgettable.
There are a few scenes that seem to be missing something in between. These scenes are not prominent enough to completely ruin the movie, but they are noticeable in the moment. The missing link is easily forgiven in these cases since they are surrounded by some of the movies funniest moments (the girls meeting with Mayor for the first time, followed by Holztman showing off some of her new gadgets).
The plot also seems to fall on clichés, such as the massive battle with the ghosts we get towards the climax. While the scene has some great moments of awesome (again Holtzman in particular) it still feels largely by the book. Again the scene has some redeeming qualities (Patty getting some payback on the ghost that plagued her earlier in the film, Abby using the new melee gadgets) but feels just a little too expected.
One redeeming quality that goes heavily towards my favorable view is that the end defeat of the big bad relies on the Ghostbusters getting creative to shut down Rowan’s plan. This is important because one of the best parts of Ghostbusters has always been that it doesn’t rely on the heroes punching their way out of the situation like so many other action films. It relies on them using their tools and talents to stop the monsters. This is why the mass melee against the ghost army also feels odd, since aside from it the Ghostbusters have always had to be creative and smart.
As far as the creature CG effects go, these are another area that can be hit or miss, but tends to succeed more than it falters. Some creatures really stand out to the point where you almost wish they had been the overall big bag (the tall skinny ghost glimpsed in trailers commanding the ghost army gives you some chills, as does the Gertrude Aldridge ghost that is our first onscreen monster) but others such as the army of pirate ghosts and other random cannon fodder just feel like the creative team gave up towards that point and needed some mooks for the heroes to fight.
My last note is one the homage paid to the classic film. The entire surviving cast (less Rick Moranis, who has retired) makes appearances. The cameos are welcome plays on elements of their previous characters for the most part (Ernie Hudson is still an average guy, Annie Potts is still an abrasive manager, and Dan Ackroyd still aint afraid of no ghost), Bill Murray particularly stands out in a reversal I won’t spoil here. Even Harold Ramis is given a proper nod as his bust appears in a moment to remind you of the comedic genius who has passed on. While Slimer and Stay Puff show up, Stay Puff feels largely wasted and Slimer is still great to watch as he wreaks havoc.
Overall the film hits a lot more then it misses. The plot is enjoyable, but has a few moments that could elicit a shrug. The villain is a far cry from Gozer the Gozerian or Viggo The Carpathian.
Ghostbusters has never been about a mind-blowingly good plot though and this is why the movie is in my opinion still fantastic. These women are very much comedians, at the prime of their career with great chemistry and creating memorable personas. This is what Ghostbusters is about and what it has always been about and why I find this movie to be a welcome introduction of this story to a new generation.
+Great cast with great chemistry
+Funny in all the right ways
+Holtzman and Patty
+Proper tribute to the creators
Nick Ramirez still has an old school proton pack and will occasionally try to catch his bird who always makes him cross the streams. You can follow him on twitter @Dare_to_geek.
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