A lot movies aren’t very good and most of them I have no interest in seeing. That list of nope-not-interested included the new Ghostbusters based on trailers that looked downright awful, and until about Wednesday, I hadn’t planned on going. But the early reviews looked good and my sons wanted to go, so we took refuge in some delicious air conditioning on a hot and sticky afternoon to see it.
It’s not a reboot (Batman Begins). It’s not a continuation (Creed, The Force Awakens). It’s not a remake either. It’s just another take on man-versus-ghost-in-NYC, but this time it’s woman-versus-ghost-in-NYC, and I’m happy to say that it’s definitely worth seeing.
Melissa McCarthy plays Abby Yates, an out-there believer in ghosts that keeps plugging away at her dream of actually seeing one as she toils away in a (literally) forgotten corner of a barely-accredited college, and Kristen Wiig is Erin Gilbert, a true believer turned company woman who is desperately seeking a tenured physics professorship at Columbia and chases down Abby to get her to stop selling their book about ghosts on Amazon. Erin wrangles a commitment from Abby to take down the book in exchange for visiting a haunted house with her and the her crazy-amazing techno-wizard Jillian Holtzmann, played by a fully-in-her-element Kate McKinnon… and you can imagine what happens next.
At every turn, McKinnon steals the show in her role with a standout performance that’s part wild-eyed zaniness, part mad scientist, part munitions genius, and part prankster-sister. Every line is delivered with a devilish and lovable look in her eyes and an unintelligible load of scientific gobbledygook, and her nodding-along-with-the-insanity and blasé yeah-who-cares deadpans after near-death experiences are just awesome. No one rolls out new ecto-toys and weapons like Holtzmann. She’s kind of like a mashup between a Pete Venkmann who doesn’t actually care about consequences and an Egon: Unchained. What a treat.
Leslie Jones, as Patty Tolan, almost steals the show, too, but she’s given less room to do so as an MTA worker who sees a ghost and signs up to join the squad. As we all know from SNL, she’s way funnier than she’s allowed to be in this movie. Those four are joined by a super-forgettable villain named Rowan North (Neil Casey), and by Thor Chris Hemsworth, who hilariously turns the sexy secretary character on its head with a pitch perfect performance as Kevin, an absolute hot mess (emphasis on the hot) of a receptionist that can’t do anything right.
The ghosts aren’t that scary (except the huge dragon-y thing that first possesses a mannequin and then awesomely crashes a heavy metal concert), and the CGI is a little much, but who cares. It’s funny, occasionally hysterical, and the actresses are tremendous. Clearly the ladies are having a good time out there, and the intra-cast banter and dynamic is as enjoyable, if nor more, than that of the original. And at the end of the day, this is a summertime movie and of all the movies out right now I dare anyone to tell me it isn’t on of the better ones. I mean, the last movie I saw was Independence Day: Resurgence, which was so unimaginative I couldn’t bring myself to spend 500 words writing about how disappointing it was.
With that being said, 2016 Ghostbusters won’t be a classic, and the script isn’t as clever as the original. I don’t think any lines from the new one will stand up over time like the ones from the 1984 film, which include gems like: “When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say YES”, “Are you the Keymaster?”, “Generally you don’t see that kind of behavior in a major appliance”, “I collect spores, molds, and fungus,” “The flowers are still standing!”, “Listen!…. Do you smell something?” the whole giant slor speech, and so forth.
Just like the original, this isn’t a movie about ghosts, per se, but about people and comedy and a band of brothers sisters doing crazy stuff together. It’s a solid 3 stars out of 4 and it’s a movie I’d love to see again, but more importantly, that I totally recommend that you go and watch. In the canon of all-time cinematic classics, the new film will never approach the legendary status of the original, but it holds its own. And while the cameo ghosts of Ghostbusters past (Murray, Aykroyd, Weaver, Hudson, Potts) enter and exit the film quickly, their presences were at best unnecessary… and at worst a distraction. I guess that had to be done, but if it were possible to fully free the new film from the shackles of the old one, it would have been better.
I guess we’ll just have to wait for the sequel to see that happen, but I’m quite certain we’ll like the next one a whole lot better than Ghostbusters 2.