Contemporary Review / Review

Ghostbusters (2016)

by Austin Goldghostbusters1Despite what you may have heard, the new Ghostbusters is not a remake, but rather a totally separate reboot. It has a similar structure, but a whole new interior. And it’s not just that they made the characters women — this isn’t Kristen Wiig as Bill Murray or Melissa McCarthy as Dan Aykroyd. These are completely new characters with completely new names and identities.

Physics professor Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig as the straight-woman on the edge of alarm), is up for tenure at Columbia University. It seems like a sure thing, but she panics when a book she co-wrote on ghosts and paranormal activity resurfaces on Amazon. She pleads with her co-author, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy as a less angry and more innocent version of her character in Spy), to take it down, but a report of an alleged ghost derails their conversation. The two of them as well as eccentric nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon in a star-making performance) investigate and come into contact with the ghost, who in true Ghostbusters fashion vomits green slime all over Erin. Holtzmann films the whole incident, which ends with Erin screaming into the camera “GHOSTS ARE REAL! GHOSTS ARE REAL!” That portion of the video goes viral and catches the eye of Columbia’s administrators, who proceed to fire her. Now unemployed, the three create their own business dedicated to researching and preventing paranormal activity in New York City.

This cast is a force to be reckoned with. Wiig is great as always and Melissa McCarthy proves once again that she’s best when not playing the slob. Leslie Jones, who is hired by the group later in the film, is typecast as the sassy realist but plays it extremely well. Then there’s Chris Hemsworth as their delightfully dumb secretary. His comic ability lands him some of the film’s biggest laughs. He might be the funniest surprise since Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder.

And I haven’t even started on Kate McKinnon. If it wasn’t clear enough from her work on Saturday Night Live, she’s set to become one of the biggest stars in comedy. Like John Belushi in Animal House or Steve Carell in Anchorman, her character isn’t given much to do plot-wise, but that doesn’t stop her from stealing nearly every scene she’s in. Even when she isn’t the main focus of a scene, our eyes immediately go to her. She has a rare ability where even the way she moves is funny. McKinnon nails her dialogue too. When Erin asks why she has to be the first to use untested nuclear equipment, her answer is very matter of fact: “Because you have the longest arms.” The comedic energy between the main cast and the cavalcade of great supporting actors (Zach Woods, Andy Garcia, Karan Soni, etc.) rivals that of the original film.

Where the original reigns supreme however is in the action scenes. The ghost apocalypse of New York City — a sequence that was both thrilling and funny in the original — falls flat here on nearly all fronts. As evidenced in Spy, Paul Feig is one of our finest comedy directors, but he’s not good at creating propulsive action. This was the main thing holding that film back and it happens again here. The ghosts look threatening (even if they are a little campy), but they aren’t that difficult to defeat. There isn’t a clever or impressive beat to be found — our heroes just point, shoot and win.

Just as bad is the fan service that the film pays to the original. Most of the cameos from the original cast halt the story’s momentum just to go “Hey, look! It’s Dan Akroyd!” Plus, there’s an unnecessary post-credit scene that seems designed to win over fans that feel betrayed by the fact that Sony greenlit this project in the first place (and there are a lot of fans that feel this way).

We were all taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, but for some reason we have trouble applying that logic to movies. When the new Ghostbusters was announced we threw up our hands and said it was proof that Hollywood was out of original ideas. But it’s easy to forget we said the same thing about The LEGO Movie. I’m not saying Ghostbusters is as good as The LEGO Movie (few films are). But in a movie climate where old ideas are being repurposed into darker and more serious versions, Ghostbusters is the rare reboot that stays in line with the big, silly heart of the original.

Oh, and to all the anti-feminist Ghostbros out there – shut the fuck up. If you think casting four women in a movie is ruining your childhood, then it’s clear you haven’t moved onto adulthood.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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