“I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghosts” is a phrase most of you have probably heard before. But for the people behind the reboot of Ghostbusters, they’ve had to change that iconic catch phrase to one that references the even scarier corners of the internet. Yes, the World Wide Web spoke yet again that it was out for blood with this remake of their childhood favorite movie, and they were gonna hate it no matter what. But for the few of you that have boldly decided to have a mind of your own objective opinions and to give this movie a shot (unlike many who have seemed to), let me open up a can of Ecto-Cooler and give you an honest-to-Slimer, non-cash advancement or goal oriented take on this “ever so controversial” new Hollywood release.
Though this isn’t the exact beat-for-beat plot of the original script (written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis), the checkmarks between the two plots are pretty even: Set amidst a very non-New York looking New York, we meet Columbia professor Erin (played by Kristen Wiig), who dreams of getting her career up in the air and her “ghost believing” past wiped from existence. But when she discovers that her ex-best friend Abbey (Melissa McCarthy) is selling their paranormal research book online, Erin seems to get involved in a pretty weird string of events, one that begins to suddenly reawaken her deep nerdy dreams, gives her a group of new friends (Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones), and….oh yeah….makes her have to go and save the city from evil ghosts. Just another day in the fictional, movie version of the Big Apple.
Much more in line with its animated Real Ghostbusters rendition than its 1984 predecessor, this new movie incarnation of Ghostbusters has a unique, but safe take on the universe. Director Paul Feig allows the audience to leisurely escape the realistic notions of the world, and delivers a comedy much like his prior hits Bridesmaids and Spy, but with a tamer approach. These are not the typical raunchy comedies Feig is used to, and considering that this franchise is meant to cater to families and future customers (AKA little kids) it makes sense. Sometimes this obvious restraint seems to make Paul’s usually electric energy as a director seem to fall flat, but when it comes to the action sequences and even some very spooky scenes, Paul seems to reveal a card many wouldn’t expect to come from his usual “deck.”
This isn’t to say that the new Ghostbusters isn’t funny, because it certainly is – but this is a very different kind of humor than Bill Murray and company brought to the table in the original. The dry and reserved delivery of 1984’s version has instead been replaced with something more over the top, as evident by the zany performance of SNL darling Kate McKinnon, who portrays the very unique Jillian Holtzmann. McKinnon represents the kind of character that 2016 audiences find charming – she sometimes makes no sense, lives in her own bubble of confidence, and is willing to do anything to save the day – even make herself look like a complete lunatic. This is a character/aspect of this movie that will leave audiences divided. You’re either going to want to buy the Holtzmann POP vinyl figure or hope your aunt never buys it for you for the holidays. For me, I’m definitely team Jillian/Kate, and feel that she (along with a few other characters/actors) are the selling point of the movie.
Let’s take for example Leslie Jones as Patty, who is placed in the slot that represents Winston’s (Ernie Hudson) role in the original movie. Right from the start, Patty is a much stronger character than her 1984 male counterpart, and even though at times the script (co-written by Feig and Katie Dippold) lets her slip into the unfortunate stereotypes that Hollywood is still promoting, Jones performance shines above those frustrations. She’s much more well rounded, and has a lot more time to develop than Winston, and even seems to have her heart more in the right place (ex: Patty wants to protect the city, where as Winston from the beginning was more interested in the financial rewards from being a part of the team). Being an incredible history buff, devoted friend, and toughing through what is (in my opinion) the scariest scene in a movie, it is really – and I mean really – hard not to adore Patty. Favorite member of the new team? Possibly.
And then there’s Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) who takes over for Annie Potts as the receptionist of the Ghostbusters office. Much like the many male characters within this reboot, Kevin is about as dumb as one can be. His IQ is only a smidge above that of a piece of toast, and aside from his good looks, you wonder how he got by in life. But thanks to the brilliant and at times scene-stealing performance of Mr. Hemsworth, if you don’t fall in love with Kevin than you’re absolutely heartless. But when our handsome doof takes a turn for the evil side (which is hinted in the trailers), Hemsworth really proves his true talent as an actor, and shows more range than he has ever presented in his turn as Marvel’s Thor.
As for the other Ghostbusters, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are obviously the two big heavy hitters of the new group, and are very much the emotional focus of the film. Sadly, much of their friendship is built on exposition, the kind that would have been much better explained with a few tiny flashbacks or even a photo on a desk of the two scientists in their youth. But with what the film gives us, there’s enough to get a decent picture of their relationship – and when their friendship is tested, we root for them to make their dreams come true and finish their adventure with a big hug. But much of this is thanks to the performance of the two actresses, who in other hands might have come off as boring as a poorly made chai latte.
Unfortunately, that lame quality of certain corners of the script shows mostly within the villain, for which I won’t directly spoil, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the inspiration for said antagonist came from the very trolls that plagued this movie from the start. And with the evolution of this baddie being about as inventive as discovering that milk can turn into butter, it serves as yet another example that Hollywood is in a rut when it comes to creating truly great bad guys. It’s one thing to make a movie for a general audience and tone down on the diabolical elements for the kids, but that shouldn’t mean that the quality of your character’s progression into the ultimate example of evil should be compromised.
What also shouldn’t be sacrificed are the special effects, which in the case of this Ghostbusters aren’t the Oscar nominated variety of the original, but definitely have their moments to shine. From simple tricks of lighting to overly colorful CGi, the spooks of this movie might not be exactly as original nor memorable as their original, practical ghoulish brothers and sisters, but they certainly can be fun to look at, specifically that of the final “boss” ghost of the film, that if you couldn’t guess, is a tribute to a certain graphic we all know and love.
There are also quite a few loving (and sometimes forced) homages to the first movie. From cameos galore (the best being one involving Holtzmann’s teacher) to some awkwardly placed imagery, you can tell that the team on Ghostbusters really loved the original, almost too much. Don’t get me wrong, fan films have their place (even when they are ones in disguise like this project seems to be) but there are some that pay tribute better than others, and this new Ghostbusters might want to take a page from Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, which even made on a shoestring budget back in the late 80’s/early 90’s by teens in their backyard, had a bit more restraint than Feig’s movie exhibits.
But when you take this cinematic bag, filled with great talent all over, a script that has quite a lot of bumps and bruises, along with some other elements (including some chunky editing) that range from incredible to questionable, what exactly is left here? Well, to put it simply, this is a not-so-perfect and yet fun summer blockbuster that deserves a fair shake just like anything else released any summer of any year. It serves its purpose much like your favorite meal at a diner does. No, it isn’t exactly the best meal to ever exist, and will never replace the homemade pancakes your dad made you on Sunday morning, but it is still equally as delicious as it is familiar and inviting.
This is a new group of Ghostbusters that should continue for future generations to enjoy, and though they’ll never be the wisecracking foursome of dudes that made my childhood just a little bit more fun (and “spoopy”), why do they have to? 2016’s version of the movie stands on its own, girl-powered shoulders, and uniqually marches to the beat of its own Ray Park Jr. Remix. And as long as that won’t always be the one produced by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot (which thankfully isn’t the only take on the song that’s on the soundtrack) then that’s fine by me.