1 hour, 56 minutes
I was 11 when the original “Ghostbusters” came out — perfectly primed for that film’s mix of adult humor (which I only vaguely understood) and special effects (kind of clunky upon rewatching, but awesome at the time). I loved it, and have seen it many times in the three decades since it came out. I recently introduced my kids to it and they ate it up like a giant marshmallow man.
When I heard they were remaking “Ghostbusters,” I was skeptical. The first movie is pretty magical, but not even the original production cast and crew could capture lightning in a bottle twice. “Ghostbusters 2” is a pretty dumb movie.
I, however, was apparently not as skeptical as some. This new “Ghostbusters,” directed by genuine hitmaker Paul Feig, has stirred up a hornet’s nest among a small, but disturbingly vocal, group of middle-aged white men who absolutely hate, hate, hate the very idea of this new movie. And why? Because this time around, the ‘busters are chicks. Good lord.
Kristin Wiig stars as Dr. Erin Gilbert, a brilliant physicist, on track for tenure at Columbia University. Gilbert is a serious scientist now, but there was a time when she and best bud Abby Yates were seriously into ghosts and even wrote a book about it — a fact Dr. Gilbert would like to forget. When the book shows up on Amazon, however, Erin has to seek out Abby, played by current it-comedienne Melissa McCarthy, who is now working at a low-rent science institute with wacky particle physicist Jillian Holtzmann.
As fate would have it, the intersection of these three brilliant women occurs at just the right time. Turns out a disaffected weirdo has begun placing strange electrical devices at specific locations in the city, designed to call forth the departed in an effort to “break the veil.” With ghost sightings on the rise, the three women decide to go into business capturing spooks.
Soon they’re joined in their busting by enthusiastic toll-booth operator Patty Tolan and a dim-witted receptionist named Kevin, played by comedian Leslie Jones and Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, respectively. With the team securely in place, the spook count explodes and everything comes to a head with a major showdown in Times Square.
It’s amazing to me that a movie like “Ghostbusters” has stirred up as much controversy as it has. As soon as Feig announced his intention to make a gender-swapped version of the classic comedy, the hate began rolling out in earnest. Naturally, it’s all taking place online, insecure man-children hiding behind avatars and screen-names, but just because it’s silly doesn’t mean it’s benign. There were so many virulently misogynistic comments posted during the making of the film that the screenwriters actually address it in the film. Leslie Jones recently took Twitter to task, demanding that the company strengthen its policy on hate-speech after she received a deluge of tweets that managed to be violent, racist, and misogynist all at the same time.
All this over a movie about a bunch of goofballs that make wisecracks in between shooting rainbow-colored beams of light at silly-looking ghosts.
Is the new “Ghostbusters” worth all the online energy? I wish I could say it’s the best movie of the year, if only to stick it to all those idiots out there. Unfortunately, the film is merely adequate, not because of the gender of its leads, but because, like most remakes of classic films, it struggles with the balance between honoring the original and striking out in new directions. A sequel to this film, one that wasn’t so beholden to making call-backs to the 1984 version, would likely be more successful.
In fact, it’s the chemistry between the four leads that makes this film work at all. Hemsworth, who is also top-billed as Kevin, taking the Annie Potts roll as receptionist, is funny, if a little too broad in his portrayal of a dimwitted beefcake, but it’s the women who are the true stars.
Wisely, the screenwriters don’t make the four main characters carbon copies of their male counterparts, though there are definite correlations. Ostensibly playing the Bill Murray role, Wiig’s Erin Gilbert acts as the everyman, where McCarthy’s Abby is almost a combination of the wide-eyed optimism of Dan Akroyd and Murray’s cynicism. Kate McKinnon, as Holtzmann, steals the show with her manic, bizarre performance. She’s channelling Harold Ramis’ Egon, but she definitely makes it her own.
The most blatant bit of mirroring the film does is casting the lone black character as the non-scientist, as was Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore, but Jones is so funny and enthusiastic that Feig can be forgiven.
The first half of the film, where the team is coming together, is far stronger than the last half, and most of that is due to the hilarious and often touching interactions between these four women.
I like this new “Ghostbusters,” and during the first half of the film, I laughed out loud quite a bit. Unfortunately, as the film goes on and the ghost busting becomes bigger and the action ramps up, the film loses some of it’s charm becoming just another FX spectacle.
Also problematic, the cameos from the original cast are completely unnecessary and only serve to pull you out of the film. There are a few clever references, including the creation of the Ghostbusters logo and a very funny scene involving the original fire station location of the Ghostbusters headquarters, but overall this new film would have done better to try and make a fresh start.
I hope they do make a sequel to this film, because I like all the people involved, and at the very least, it would be a thorn in the side of all those vitriolic 40-year-old babies, spewing hate from their parent’s dimly lit basement.
“Ghostbusters” is rated PG-13 for occasional rude humor, brief language, and sci-fi scares.
Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.