Anyone who has even a passing interest in the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters will know of the storm surrounding the movie. The trailer has become the most disliked trailer in YouTube’s history: three camps have emerged – people asking why remake a classic, sexist idiots who complained that the movie starred women and a group who denounced anyone who has reservations as misogynists. Paul Feig’s all-female reboot should put the skeptics in their place, including myself.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a scientist who is on the verge of making tenure at Columbia University when an embarrassing book from her past resurfaces. When she confronts the culprit, co-author and former friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), they end up discovering paranormal existence. Together Erin and Abby, along with nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), team up to investigate and study the ghosts. A villain (Neil Casey) is also going around New York awakening the spirits for his own purposes.
I will be honest, I was of the view that a remake of Ghostbusters was a pointless endeavor and was not won over by the trailers. Nor have I been a fan of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy’s previous movies. But I’m pleased to report my concerns were unfounded for the most part. It’s not as good as the original movie, but this 2016 version is a funny summer comedy amidst a weak summer movie season.
Ghostbusters (2016) has a different style of comedy to the original film – Bill Murray and company had plenty of confidence as the original squad, Murray particularly as Venkman with his deadpan delivery and disregard for authority. Wiig and McCarthy play their roles as social outcasts that have a more awkward approach as they try to avoid embarrassment or have something bad happen to them. Wiig as Erin gets slimed numerous times during the course of the movie, while McCarthy’s has a running gag about complaining about her takeout order. McCarthy has a reputation for being a crass and an abusive comedian – these characteristics aren’t present here, making her much more likable than usual.
McKinnon and Jones are the comedic highlights: McKinnon brings physical comedy and quirk to her role, and her enthusiasm is infectious. Jones as Patty has some of the funniest lines, and her joining the team is more important than Winston answering a job ad: she sees a ghost early on in the movie and acts as the group’s city historian, having knowledge about New York City and its buildings. Patty doesn’t have the scientific knowledge of the other women, but she is still a useful member of the team and willing to help with the experiments and research. Chris Hemsworth gets to show his comedic skills as Kevin the dimwitted receptionist, someone so wonderfully stupid that it ‘s unbelievable how he functions as a human being.
Feig’s previous movies are known for having crass, gross-out humor like the notorious bridal shop scene in Bridemaids. This was curtailed in Ghostbusters because of its PG-13 rating: the worst is a fart joke early on and where its source was. Feig showed he can handle action in Spy and when the ghosts appear there are solid sequences with the proton beams – especially for the final act. Feig also plays with the 3D format, giving us the pointy style where ghosts and beams pop out of the screen and the frame. It was similar to the theme park ride T2 3-D: Battle Across Time at Universal Studios.
Feig and his co-writer Katie Dippold at times are too reliant on self-referential humor and pop culture references like Patrick Swayze, The Shinning, and The Exorcist. There no great lines like ‘this man has no dick’ and ‘I’ve seen shit that’ll turn you white’. But there are witty lines throughout the movie, and Feig’s brand of humor is present, especially during the first part of the film – for better and for worse.
Ghostbusters plays it safe with its story: it’s a standard origins story like the original where the girls have set up their business, fight some ghosts, test some new equipment and have a big final battle. The reboot does borrow story element from the previous two movies – the first half is like the original, setting up the Ghostbusters business – while the creepy villain and the dead coming back to conquer New York is like Ghostbusters 2. The reboot is willing to be a homage to the original two movies, even its unwillingness to take risks – a wise decision considering the controversy surrounding the reboot before its release.
1984’s Ghostbusters is an enduring classic and its place in movie history is undisputed. The reboot is more a disposable summer movie which does not match its namesake but still has a strong dynamic with its four leads and Sony will want to capitalize on the series. If they make a sequel, please do not have the Ghostbusters going out of business and have to restart it again like in Ghostbusters 2.