"Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts"
Remaking or rebooting any film is a dicey proposition. The sheer number of hurdles a filmmaker must jump through in order to tell a coherent story while also being reverent to the source material is enough to scare away even the best in the business. Thankfully Paul Feig—who served as a producer on the similarly respectful Peanuts Movie last fall—has managed to strike the right balance between telling a new story and ensuring that no sacred cows were slaughtered in the process. Ghostbusters isn't just a success, it's an often hilarious and always intelligent riff on the 1984 original that stands as one of the best attempts to revive a franchise long thought dead.
Any doubts I had about the film were erased almost immediately, with two of the films funniest lines coming in the first two minutes of the film. The film deftly balances comedy and horror throughout, producing legitimate jump scares along with some hysterical exchanges between the three leads. Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a professor hoping to get tenure at Columbia University, when it's revealed that she once penned a book about ghosts with her former colleague Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). What starts out as a friendly visit to get Abby to pull the book from circulation soon finds Erin joining Abby and her new partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) on an investigation into a possible haunting at a historic home in New York City. Their contact with a ghost goes viral and Erin finds herself out of a job and ready to team up with Abby and Holtzmann and go into business for themselves as paranormal investigators.
Their team grows when transit worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) has a bizarre encounter with a weirdo named Rowan (Neil Casey, a.k.a. Discount Patton Oswalt), which further leads to her discovering a ghost in a subway tunnel and reporting it to the ladies. She joins their team, along with a dolt receptionist named Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), and they begin investigating the increase in ghost sightings throughout the city, all of which seem to be linked by the aforementioned Rowan and some sort of plan he has to unleash hell on earth. It's now up to these four ladies, dubbed Ghostbusters by a public skeptical of their profession, to stay one step ahead of Rowan and his evil plan.
The plot, thankfully, is secondary to tons of character development. I would never speak ill of the original Ghostbusters, as I think it's as close to a perfect film as films get, but one thing sorely missing from that film is their interpersonal relationships and how they came to form a team in the first place. It's not critical to the film, but a missed opportunity that this film seeks to remedy. The best thing about Paul Feig's films is that character is front and center at all times, and he never loses sight of that, even in the midst of a big budget special effects bonanza. He's always most interested how the events of the film affect the characters and their relationship to one another. It's not exactly revolutionary filmmaking, but it's something that most blockbusters are sorely lacking.
The supporting cast really fleshes things out nicely, with stalwart comedic talent like MAD TV's Michael McDonald, Upright Citizens Brigade's Matt Walsh, and a number of one scene cameos from actors like Ed Begley, Jr., Nate Corddry, and Toby Huss landing big laughs in minuscule roles. Andy Garcia is also surprisingly fantastic as the mayor, getting one of the film's biggest laughs when he's compared to the mayor from Jaws, and the cameos from all the big players from the original Ghostbusters—minus Rick Moranis, sadly—also land in a big way. Chris Hemsworth also comes close to upstaging everyone, showing off some surprising comedy chops that have been noticeably absent in other comedies like last year's awful Vacation reboot. In fact, see—or rather don't—that film for an example of how NOT to do a reboot.
Fans of both Wiig and McCarthy will be surprised to find them anchoring the film, more or less, as the straight women to McKinnon and Jones' more comical characters. It takes a truly brilliant comedic actor to volley rather than spike every time they open their mouths, and Wiig and McCarthy do so effortlessly. It was similarly refreshing to see them eschew the "Wiig is the Venkman" and "McCarthy is the Stantz," with both ladies adopting aspects of those characters. McKinnon and Jones are more boxed in by their characters, though they make them their own without relying on being the Egon and the Winston, respectively. McKinnon comes damn close to stealing the entire film, in fact, with her well-timed quips and general esoteric attitude. She's been the best thing about SNL for several years now, and seeing her get a big screen introduction like this is fantastic.
If I have any complaint at all about the film, it's that there are a few too many references to the online controversy surrounding the film. The first two or three references to it were chuckleworthy, but as they continued to beat that drum throughout the film, the jokes fell flatter. I think this aspect of the film will age the worst over the next thirty years, and detracts a bit from the timelessness of everything else. It's a minor complaint and one that feels almost petty to even bring up, but it's worth mentioning because it feels almost too much like sour grapes. Perhaps that's just me, but I felt as though it diminished the film more than it enhanced it. One other note, I would highly recommend seeing the film in 3D as they did some incredible things with the technology, often breaking out of the aspect ratio, and it's well worth the extra $3 to see.
The beautiful thing about this film is that it takes nothing away from the original Ghostbusters. It can exist quite happily on a shelf right next to that film without detracting from it or making it seem like a better or worse film by comparison. It's a smart, funny, and brilliantly executed companion piece to the original that hits far more often than it misses, and doesn't trample on any sort of sacred ground. It's not a soulless corporate product because it's been made by people with a genuine love and affection for the original film, who knew better than to try a straight up remake. Just as the original film piqued the imaginations and interests of so many people my age, so too will this new film create a generation of fans that cherish and adore it as much as the previous generation did the original.
Directed by Paul Feig
Screenplay by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, Based on 1984's Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Produced by Amy Pascal and Ivan Reitman
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong, Ed Begley, Jr.
Running Time: 116 minutes
Photos via Coming Soon