Much has been made about director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot, in which he gender-swapped the four primary roles, casting some of the leading comedic actresses in the business. Most of the uproar was early fanboy whining, being unable to accept a film without the original cast or just from those living in the women-suppressing-past.
But even I, a vocal supporter of the project since its inception, started to get worried after the release of the first two trailers – both lacking any real laughs and bearing a confusing tone. Turns out things weren’t quite as dire as they seemed, as the new Ghostbusters movie is much funnier than expected, providing big, summer blockbuster fun – but not much else.
Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is a scientist trying to regain respectability (and tenure) after spending her early career writing a book with lifelong friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the existence of ghosts. Just as her life was about to settle into the normalcy she’d long sought, she’s thrown back in with Abby and her eccentric partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) as ghost sightings begin appearing all over the city. Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) works for the transit system and saw a particular nasty spectre in the subway, which leads her to seek out the team and help document the growing threat.
The four females certainly aren’t a major part of this film’s problems, and are still inspired casting choices for Ghostbusters. McKinnon in particular is having an absolute blast while selling plenty of lines and interactions that probably weren’t much on paper beforehand. McCarthy is the cutest and most likable she’s been in recent memory as the nerdy heart of the team – a refreshing change from most of her in-your-face roles lately.
Wiig also co-anchors the film and the team nicely as the neurotic spaz of a leader that just can’t quite be cool in any situation. Even Leslie Jones – who couldn’t have been more obnoxious in the trailers – was much more palatable in the context of film and added a surprisingly nice dynamic to the team in a few scenes.
The film is noticeably lacking in a few areas, most detrimental being the lack of frights or real growing tension. Besides a wonderful opening scene with a tour guide’s (Silicon Valley‘s Zach Woods) paranormal encounter within a creepy old historical house, most of the haunting scenes seem like video game shoot-em ups rather than creepy ghost hunts.
I promise I’ll only compare this film to the original this one time, but this new Ghostbusters is missing scenes like when Ray and Winston had a conversation about the Book of Revelations while riding in the Ecto-1. They both were so rattled in that scene it made things feel big, and this film is missing interactions with that kind of weight.
What the film lacks in frights, it makes up for in laughs – which has always been Paul Feig’s strong point. Chris Hemsworth plays dim-witted, hunky secretary Kevin for the Ghostbusters and is a gut-busting riot in every scene. His lines were great, his delivery was perfect and he was utilized just the right number of times. The rest of the gals, especially McKinnon, get their share of really funny moments too.
Getting back to the weaker aspects of the film, the film’s main villain Rowan North (Neil Casey) is mostly a flat and forgettable character. The real stars are the glowing multiple shades of neon that are the ghosts unleashed on NYC – I pretty much hated how Slimer was used in this movie, albeit his role is thankfully small – but the rest provide fodder for the ladies to kick a little ass with their new arsenal of proton weapons created for the reboot, and once again McKinnon’s Holtzmann is the standout as she revels in the carnage.
Lastly, yes – just about everyone from the original 1984 film is given fun and clever cameos and Ghostbusters is overflowing with love and references to that film. There have been a few complaints about this film being a carbon copy of that 1984 original, but I was impressed by how many times this film forged its own path – in particular with smaller moments, like a sequence with the new team setting up their office.
Ghostbusters was never going to be a better film than the original and it’s unfair to put those expectations on it – but could Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters have been better than it turned out? Absolutely, but it does manage to be a lighthearted, legitimately funny popcorn movie. A post-credits scene hints at a familiar threat looming and as long as this film isn’t at total flop (and it most likely won’t be), these female Ghostbusters should get a shot at more adventures, and deservedly so.