You have had to have been living on a remote island with no internet access for the last year to not know there is a new Ghostbusters movie hitting the big screen. You probably also know that from the second the project was announced with an all-female cast of ‘busters, the interwebs has been set afire with a type of vitriol usually reserved for warring political parties (and we’ve had plenty of that too). There will be those who refuse to see the move on prinicple — and seriously, people, it’s just a movie! — there will be those who go to “hate watch,” and there will be those who are genuinely excited to see the film either out of curiosity or just because it’s been decades since we’ve seen a new Ghostbusters movie. And, for the most part, they will be pleasantly surprised.
The story unfolds as Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is about to get tenure at the university where she teaches. Approached by a man who asks her to help investigate a haunting, she is horrified to learn that a book she co-wrote with her friend Abby Yates about the paranormal is available on Amazon.com … without her permission. The two reunite, along with Abby’s new assistant Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and are drawn into the haunting case … which results in Erin losing her university gig. But coming face to slime with a real ghost, the trio begin busting full time, meeting subway employee Patty (Leslie Jones) in the course of another investigation. Patty joins the group, and the four must uncover what is behind the sudden increase in ghostly activity in New York City.
The best way to really enjoy the new Ghostbusters is to first not think of it as a remake. It’s not a remake of the original. It has its own story, and most importantly, it’s set in its own universe where no other Ghostbusters movie (or characters) exist. And with all but two of the original cast making cameo appearances as alternate universe versions of their characters (there is a nice little nod to the late Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis refused to participate), it’s easier to accept this film on its own terms.
While it is necessary to divorce the new film from the old, it still manage to hit many of the same beats and evoke the original, especially in the terrific opening scene that reminds one of, but doesn’t completely ape, the library scene from the original. Instead of Zuul and Gozer seeking to destroy the world, this time we have Rowan (Neil Casey), a nobody who had been bullied all his life but who is also a genius who has found a way to unleash the dead from another dimension to walk the earth again and destroy mankind as vengeance for his treatment. It’s up to the Ghostbusters (not a name they originally chose) to stop Rowan and save the world.
The script, by Kate Dippold and Paul Feig, mixes laughs and a few good scares pretty well, and finishes things off with an epic battle (which some are saying is too over-the-top but if Ivan Reitman had had today’s CGI technology at his disposal, his finale may have been just as epic). While the movie does have a few big laughs, it’s more consistently humorous than laugh-out-loud, and I’m fine with that. I’d rather smile and chuckle all the way through a comedy than wait for a good laugh between long slogs of attempts at humor. I also enjoyed the bits early on which seemed to address the bad internet buzz in clever ways.
The cast is also very good. McCarthy gets to play a nice, down-to-earth person who has a passion for ghost hunting. It’s been a while since she’s played someone like this and it’s refreshing to see her play someone who seems closer to her own persona (or at least the one she trots out for talk shows) than some of the more unpleasant character she writes for herself (and her excellent track record with director Feig still stands with this, their fourth film together). Wiig is also terrific as the more mild-mannered and sensible of the quartet, although she does go a little goofy whenever Chris Hemsworth is around. McKinnon’s tech genius was a bit grating at the start, seemingly just weird for weird’s sake, but she grew on me as the film went on (and she refrained from making her trademark crazy eyes that she relies on a bit too much on SNL, and Leslie Jones does her Leslie Jones schtick … and I love it. She made me laugh the most. Hemsworth’s Kevin is dumb as a bag of hammers, and he plays it to perfection, but he also gets to do a 180 later in the film.
Feig’s direction keeps the film constantly rolling forward with no extraneous information to slow down the plot. He keeps the cast in check, let’s the laughs come naturally and stages the epic showdown with aplomb. I may have expected to laugh more just based on how funny Feig’s last three movies with McCarthy have been (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy), but I really have no complaints about Ghostbusters. Of course, not everyone is going to accept the movie on its own terms, and that’s up to them. But, I think if you go into the movie with an open mind, you’ll find it to be an enjoyable experience and a fun time at the movies.
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