Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon
Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor
1 hr., 56 min.
Ever since its trailer surfaced online (to the record-flattening tune of nearly a million dislikes, a YouTube record), people have been hating on Ghostbusters, the much-maligned, all-female redux of the beloved 1984 paranormal comedy.
Yet if you’re going to despise this version — which stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the titular ghost-exterminating quartet — at least detest it for the right reasons: because it’s a remake, emblematic of Hollywood’s lack of imagination and impotence when it comes to crafting new ideas; because it’s Sony’s desperate attempt to resuscitate an ancient brand, with the crass commercialism of seeing the new Ghostbusters mugs on everything from ubiquitous billboards to boxes of green-cream-filled Key Lime Slime Twinkies.
Truth be told, this version of Ghostbusters is not a total bust, and misogynistic online hotheads way overreacted. After all, fans who have long been nagging for a third Ghostbusters in recent years (their hopes first dashed by Bill Murray’s refusal to participate, later squashed by Harold Ramis’ 2014 death) obviously forgot how bad Ghostbusters II was — and that sequel managed to reunite the entire cast only five years after the original.
So if Hollywood must release another Ghostbusters three decades later, better an all-female one than a cheesy next-generation Ghostbusters Jr.
Ghostbusters 2016 is livelier than the very disappointing dead-weight sequel from 1989. Maybe the studio could have taken the girl-power concept a step further and hired a female director instead of Paul Feig, but it’s obvious that with Feig’s track record directing some of these actresses (particularly McCarthy in her hit solo vehicles The Heat and Spy), the idea of Feig delivering a paranormal Bridesmaids makeover probably proved too tempting a wet dream for Sony.
This time around, the aforementioned comedic actresses play the phantom-catchers. The plot, which goes from origin to Rowan North’s (Neil Casey) scheme to open a portal and unleash ghost-havoc on Manhattan, follows the main story beats of the original. The devil here is in the details: Wiig is solid as the uptight Erin Gilbert; McCarthy’s Abby Yates gives us good PG-rated McCarthy; Jones sasses it up, delivering some of the movie’s best physical jokes; and McKinnon all but steals the movie from her co-stars with her oddball quirkiness. The movie also benefits from Ed Begley Jr., Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters’ lovable oaf secretary, and Karan Soni as running-gag of a delivery boy. Wisely, the surviving actors from the original — Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts — are handed different parts here. While their faces are very welcome, their roles are not particularly clever or funny.
This version of Ghostbusters gets very meta, no doubt a product of its time in which lightning-speed Internet interaction can influence a production. Throwaway lines refer to and ridicule the online haters. There is also a sizable shout-out to the spook from the original’s famous “no ghosts” logo.
Mildly vulgar, Ghostbusters may best be suited for millennials or kids who’ve never seen Ivan Reitman’s original. Oddly enough, this Ghostbusters reminded me a lot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in relation to George Lucas’ prequels in that it’s a reconfiguration and lesser version of GB ’84 but more accessible and entertaining than its sequel. There’ve been worse ways to spend a couple of hours in a movie house, and at the end of the day (a long one since we’re in the middle of summer), there are way worse popcorn films than this remake. As far as summer confections go, Ghostbusters musters just enough green energy to satisfy that sweet tooth . . . but eat those ectoplasmic Twinkies at your own risk.