You don’t have to be afraid of this reboot! Most films struggle to match the hype the internet doles upon them. The flip side of that is the 2016 version of “Ghostbusters” is no where near as bad as all the vile comments on the web would lead you to believe. In fact <gasp> it’s actually pretty good.
First off, we should clear up exactly what this film is and is not. The trailers for the movie seemed to intentionally confuse us on what it is. A sequel? A Remake? A Reboot? The closest comparison would be to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek, which existed in an alternate reality and started fresh but didn’t dishonor the memory of the original cast. While the new Ghostbusters doesn’t share the same names or personalities as the ‘84 ‘Busters, the original crew does exist as doppelgangers that randomly appear in cameos through the film. (These cameos and homages range from show-stoppingly awkward to hilarious or touching.) The trailers also intentionally featured clips that appeared to mimic iconic scenes from the 1984 classic. Rest assured this is an entirely new story. Those ghosts swirling around the top of a NY skyscraper have nothing to do with Zuul, and the giant white puffy guy crashing through the city streets is NOT our favorite marshmallow man. Even more shocking, the main antagonist is <gasp!> human!
All the negative hype around this female spectre-seizing summer-flick has been a distraction from the pedigree that is helming the movie. Dan Aykroyd has been trying to get another Ghostbusters film made for decades. One is finally made and he has top billing as executive producer. There’s no way he’d allow it to go sideways. Joining him is fellow comedian and Ghostbuster Producer Alumi Ivan Reitman. They tapped Paul Feig, the creative mind behind “Bridesmaids,” “Spy,” and “The Heat,” to write and direct it. Feig’s only restriction being the PG-13 rating, he’s forced to rely on fart jokes in lieu of other bodily functions. (To be fair, that first fart joke is legitimately funny.) Last but not least, let’s not forget the casting. Yes, the team is made up of women; Some of the funniest women in TV & Film. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are already well established in cinematic humor. Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon may be unfamiliar to those who gave up on SNL years ago, but don’t underestimate them. Jones seems more at home in this film than she does on the sketch series, and McKinnon steals every scene she is in, if not the entire movie. She nails ever comedic line she has with a surgeon’s precision, and when she doesn’t have dialogue, her face is in constant motion, displaying hilarious, yet appropriate faces. (For an mildly insane genius.)
The first two acts of the film are very well made. The storyline is new, and as long as you consider the antagonist to be a Macguffin, and not the underdeveloped two dimensional character he is, it works. The cast has incredible chemistry, and all are very likeable characters. Even the dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) is gleefully likeable. One of Feig’s talents is the ability to include a full range of humor within his scripts. There are moments of slapstick, blunt reverse-sexism jokes, and humor that is so obscure and subtle that it’s easily missed. It may be sacrilegious to say, but there are arguably more laughs in this film than those that inspired it.
Unfortunately, for all of Feig’s efforts in the first 2/3rds, he takes the easy way out on the final act. It eventually boils down to the same lazy, FX laden, standoff that almost every modern blockbuster feels necessary. Our heroes stand in virtually the same spot, Times Square, while busting ghosts with a variety of gadgets. Thankfully, McKinney saves this clunky scene with some hilarious action moves and general badassness before the climax settles back into a disappointing reliance on a pure chance. It’s frustrating since it would’ve been easy to write the scene with a sacrifice that would build character development instead of relying on a ghost doing something specific, with something specific, in just the nick of time.
Is the 2016 version of “Ghostbusters” the film fans of the original have been waiting for, a viable replacement to the classic for a new generation? No. Is it a fun, hilarious summer popcorn flick that honors its roots (even if it’s a bit awkward)? Absolutely. Is it a better film that “Ghostbusters II”? That’s best discussed amongst friends.
*Note: This film proves there’s no reason movies need to end with a boing black background behind the credits.