Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Ed Begley Jr., Zach Woods, Charles Dance
There’s a line in the classic Ray Parker, Jr. theme song that states, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.” I’m here to say that you shouldn’t be afraid of this movie. This new take on Ghostbusters will have you laughing from start to finish. Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a nervous university professor who has put her days of tracking the paranormal behind her. She was firmly under the impression that her book, “Ghosts from the Past” was long forgotten until the head (Dance) of the Aldridge Mansion Museum comes to her office looking for help. Apparently Erin’s co-author, Abby Yates (McCarthy) has placed the book back in circulation. Erin is forced to confront this part of his life even if it risks her chance at tenure. The reunion between Erin and Abby isn’t all roses and daisies, but they team up with Abby’s assistant Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) to investigate the mansion. While inside they come in contact with a full-blown Class 4 apparition who spews slime all over Erin.
The Aldridge Mansion isn’t the only sighting of ghosts. MTA worker Patty Tolan (Jones) catches a creepy dude (Casey) lurking along the subway tracks and spots him placing a device on the wall. It’s a homemade portal he’s made to unleash ghosts onto the city. She calls upon Abby and Erin to get to the bottom of it and ultimately joins their team. Word spreads in the media about the viral videos they’ve created with their sightings, and they are branded the “Ghostbusters” much to Erin’s demise.
The first piece of advice I would have to anyone going into this is to not to compare it to the 1984 film. It works better when you just take it as its own property and not make any sort of comparisons or judgments. It feels like a fresh contemporary take on the world created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis without feeling the need to recycle jokes or references. It completely stands on its own without any mention of the human characters or events that occurred in the first two films. Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man do pop up but are not used as the film’s main villains. Now that being said, if you’ve recently watched the first two films or know them like the back of your hand, you will notice some subtle touches along to way that are treated like homages versus a blatant rip off of a punchline or plot point.
Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) has partnered with Kate Dippold on the writing duties. She previously wrote The Heat for which he directed and starred Melissa McCarthy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that Feig knows how to write and direct for his actors. He has four of the funniest women working today with McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, and the film really utilizes their specific brands of humor. All four are Saturday Night Live vets so there is some caricature style acting versus realism, but this is a movie called Ghostbusters, so take that for what you will. Audiences are probably more familiar with McCarthy and Wiig, and the two of them aren’t doing anything different than what we’ve seen from them before. McCarthy has her usual blunt, borderline mean attitude but Feig knows how to keep it reined in so it doesn’t feel like it’s gone too far. Jones and McKinnon have been breakout stars of SNL in the past few years and both of them should hopefully become household names after this film due to their scene-stealing capabilities. Jones is a sassy force of nature not to be reckoned with, while McKinnon can play kooky like none other. McKinnon’s scene involving a punk rock wig still cracks me up after watching it multiple times now.
Another surprise in the film is hunky Chris Hemsworth as their nerdy secretary, Kevin. He has great comedic chops that have been very underrated until now. He’s hosted SNL a couple of times, and I’m glad he’s finally able to really show off that side of him. Outside of Thor, he hasn’t always found the right roles for him as the leading man. In the Heart of the Sea, Blackhat, and The Huntsman didn’t showcase him in the best light. Ghostbusters plays on that idea of him being objectified for his body despite being a complete moron. It’s a great play on the countless movies that find the bimbo blonde hired for her beauty instead of her brain.
I wanted my review to stay clear of the idiotic backlash the film received from internet trolls. They claimed their youth would be ruined with a reboot of their precious 1984 Ghostbusters. According to them, nothing could ever top that, especially with four women as the leads. It’s such misogynistic thinking that it depressed me to think that these four women had to deal with it. Well, low and behold the film has a running commentary on how the Ghostbusters need to defy the naysayers who are out to prove they are a hoax. Every public incident is dealt with a PR women, played by SNL’s Cecily Strong, who must find a way to spin their story against them. There were specific lines of dialogue that made me question how much was added after the backlash occurred.
Speaking of the original Ghostbusters films, there are many cameos from previous actors. Rumors started swirling about how they would come into play, and I’m not about to spoil that here. All of the main players come back except for Harold Ramis, who has since passed away, and Rick Moranis who has retired from acting. Unfortunately many of them come across as gimmicky leaving an oddly sour taste as I was eagerly anticipating their arrival. Of those returning, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson felt the most natural.
I remember when I first saw Ghostbusters as a kid that it was a bit scary. Those growling dogs, Zuul, and Gozer still freak me out. The 2016 version winds up being far less scary and plays more for the comedy thanks to its nutty characters and the chemistry of the four leads. It plays into nostalgia but doesn’t try to rely too heavily on what’s come before like other recent reboots like Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Creed. You have to go in the same way you would with a new James Bond or a new Batman. It’s the same background but looked at with a whole new lens. Yes, it’s not perfect. Some of the jokes don’t land, and it’s another contemporary comedy where it feels a bit more improvised to find the right punchline. The film’s villain, Rowan, is oddly weak and not all that memorable. It’s the women who rock out and will no doubt make you laugh. I hope it will do gangbusters at the box office and prove there is room for a potential franchise. Make sure to stay through the credits as there is a delightful post-credit sequence.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? May just be one of the funniest movies of the summer
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS