Ghostbusters (2016)

Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig

Ghostbusters is one of the most fascinating releases this year, not just because of its cinematic promise, featuring some of the best comediennes working today from the director of the very funny Spy and Bridesmaids, but also because of the tremendous amount of backlash the film seems to have already received (nearly 4,000 1 star votes on IMDb), even before it has hit theaters for audiences to judge for themselves. I could easily take the space of this review to rant about how much I dislike the people ranting about what an atrocity this film is for ruining and besmirching the beloved original from 1984, featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Harold Ramis. But I will pause myself from going down that road and simply say that I don’t see the apprehension towards this new take on the concept at all. These women are funny. This director has proven himself capable. And reboots or “lega-sequels” (credit to Matt Singer) are a great way to introduce films and ideas to a new generation of audience.

With big shoes to fill from fans of the original, Ghosbusters follows some familiar steps while doing so in markedly different boots. The film opens on Columbia University science professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) discovering that her childhood friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), has made their pet project about ghosts available on Amazon, threatening her chance to make tenure. In confronting Abby, Erin finds out she is still researching ghosts with new colleague Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When the trio encounters a ghost at an historic mansion, they team up to investigate the supernatural, adding Patty (Leslie Jones) after she leads them to discover a mysterious device helping ionize these spirits. The team, with limited help from their handsome, but idiotic secretary (Chris Hemsworth), soon uncovers a plot that threatens all of New York.

It’s difficult to categorize this film as a remake, reboot, sequel or otherwise, as many fans of the original are, I am sure, curious. It’s not a remake because it doesn’t tread the same plot as the original, although it does have many similarities. In fact, the film does a nice job in balancing staying faithful to the original and paving its own path. The story is similar, but still ultimately different, and the cast of characters each has their place in the ensemble, as in the original, but the humor here feels different than that of Aykroyd, Murray, Ramis and Hudson. This isn’t a reboot or sequel either, as there is no indication that the events of the original happened in the past in this universe, as this new installment takes place in current day New York. With this in mind, I see this new Ghostbusters as more of an homage, simply inspired by the original.

And it succeeds in being extremely funny at times throughout, even if the two main stars of the film, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, feel more stale and well-trodden in their comedic stylings than they ever have before. They each still have funny moments sprinkled throughout, but it’s Leslie Jones and especially Kate McKinnon who bring plenty of laughter to the proceedings, and perhaps this is precisely because they are newer faces to the big screen comedy world and therefore feel fresher. The plot overall, however, does not feel all that fresh. It fails to be as funny as Feig’s previous outings, especially Spy and Bridesmaids, and it fails to capture the same type of horror comedic magic the original Ghostbusters seems to. Perhaps this can be owed to the fact that, well, we’ve seen something like this before.

In the end, Ghostbusters does enough to warrant its existence, which is perhaps too large a concern of many fans. But it does manage to be funny while crafting a team of characters that are fun to spend time with. Any attempt at heart in the form of preaching about following dreams, etc. falls a little flat and ultimately feels tacked on, but for existing in a Ghostbusters universe, this version of the film succeeds enough at being entertaining, interesting, and just different enough to be worthwhile. It’s not the greatest thing released recently, or even this year. However, it works as a showcase for Kate McKinnon, who will hopefully get more roles as a result of this, and even though the climactic sequence feels familiar and overlong, and the effects are mediocre, Ghostbusters shouldn’t be blindly dismissed. It will satisfy many a moviegoer this summer.

*** – Good

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