There are certain rules in nerd lore that pretty much stand in place – and one of those rules is don’t try to improve upon a classic property. When Ghostbusters released in 1984, fans enjoyed what Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and company did with the supernatural – so much, in fact, that they groaned when the team tried to do it again in 1989 with the somewhat average Ghostbusters II. (And, yes, it was average.)
Now, fast forward to 2016, when director Paul Feig (Spy), with four comedic actresses in tow, decided to take on the Ghostbusters legacy. I don’t need to tell you how much nerd outcry followed, with so many “Ghost Bros” explaining that the ladies couldn’t get the job done, and rumors running rampant that the movie was headed for bomb-ville, between on-set arguments with Melissa McCarthy and Feig and the sheer idea that Sony blackmailed Bill Murray into taking part in the film against his will.
Hey, I was skeptical, too. I have fond memories of the original film and I still enjoy watching it from time to time on my tablet. But I knew Hollywood was gonna do its thing anyway, so all I could do was hope that Feig and his young charges could get the job done. And you know what? God bless ’em, they kinda did. That’s not me saying that the new Ghostbusters is going to replace the old – not even close – but they pulled off a piece of summer escapism that succeeds where stuff like Warcraft and Independence Day: Resurgence totally failed. Plus, they paid a number of fitting tributes to the original film – and you can’t beat that.
The movie focuses on Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), an academic nut who finds herself booted out of college when she and her friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), along with the unpredictable Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) discover a spectral spirit. What follows is plenty of more ghastly encounters, with a subway employee (Leslie Jones) jumping into the fray, and a dunderheaded secretary (Chris Hemsworth, yes, Thor) also getting involved.
I won’t give too much of the plot away, but the pacing for the film is off a bit, especially when it comes to the villain. That would be Rowan, a nerdy kid who’s seen his fair share of bullying, and is prepared to make the world pay the price. That’s small potatoes compared to Zuul from the ’84 film, as well as Viggo from Ghostbusters II, and he’s probably the most disappointing aspect of the film.
That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, though. In fact, Feig and company execute quite a few good jokes here and there, particularly with Hemsworth’s character, who’s the male equivalent of a “bimbo,” so to speak. He can’t even operate a phone properly, and manages to spend a bit too much time wondering which of his topless photos to use for a headshot. Kudos to Hemsworth for having a lot of comical fun with the role, especially later on, when he really lets loose during the end credits. You’ll see.
Feig directs very well, and even though the special effects get a bit excessive (especially towards the end – watch out for a familiar foe or two), he still stays in the spirit that Ivan Reitman evoked from the original films, and that’s something. But the show belongs to the ladies, as each one contributes heartily to the film.
Wiig is probably the weakest cog in the machine (a scene where she freaks out in a restaurant seems a bit off for her character), but she has her moments, especially when she’s fawning over Hemsworth’s dim-witted strongman. Melissa McCarthy fares better as a fellow nerd, packing a punch in the heat of battle and even including a few zingers for good measure. And I thought Jones was great, slipping past the usual predictable comic set-up and instead providing a great deal of laughs, especially when a dragon at a rock concert decides to use her as a perch. (She gives a dirty stare to a couple trying to get a selfie and yells, “Really?!”…you might’ve seen it in the trailer.)
But, I tell you, McKinnon is a superstar. I loved her character – she’s definitely next level crazy, whether she takes a time to lick one of her toy guns, or gladly straps deadly equipment onto Wiig to test out, mainly because she “has the longest arms.” She’s a crackerjack, and I hope this is the beginning of an awesome film career for her – she deserves more roles.
The movie does go a bit overboard at the end – the sight of a gigantic ghost tearing through the city is awfully familiar, as the trailer might have shown you) – but it still plays for fun and mostly hits its targets. There are some groaners here and there, sure, but not nearly as many as you may think. (But why a female Slimer? Seriously.)
Plus, for the most part, the cameos are inspired. I’m not sure why Ozzy Osbourne needed to be here (probably justifying that, yes, he’s still alive), but it’s great seeing most of the original cast (save for Rick Moranis and the late Harold Ramis, who the film is tributed to) pop up. I won’t say who my favorite was, but given my appreciation for McKinnon’s nuttiness, you can probably make a guess by film’s end.
I just wish some characters were done away with. Andy Garcia doesn’t do much as the city’s mayor, and his press assistant (Cecily Strong) is even more annoying. Still, it’s nice to see things come full circle at the end, so I guess they justify their existence. Just a slight bit.
So do I believe that reimagingings of classic properties can be done right? Nah, I still believe in my nerd rule, as remakes being better than the original are very rare (looking at you, The Italian Job). But they’re gonna be done anyway, and it’s nice to see that some filmmakers, like Paul Feig, can still do an impressive enough job to prove most of the nerd elite wrong. Ghostbusters isn’t a game changer – and doesn’t necessarily try to be – but it has a good time with the material it’s based on; its lead actresses live up to every bit of their roles; and it’s the kind of summertime fun we’ve been in need of.
Let the Internet hate flow…because I ain’t afraid of no ghost.