Answer the call
Who you gonna call for the Ghostbusters re-boot? According to the Internet trolls, it certainly ain’t Bridesmaids (2011) director Paul Feig. With that said, I think people were a little too harsh on the guy in the lead up to the movie’s release. See, when Sony couldn’t get their s**t together for a third sequel to the 1984 classic Ghostbusters — which I’m sure had something to do with the passing of original helmer Harold Ramis in 2014 — the studio opted to go for an all-out re-make instead, this decision pissing a lot of fanboys off.
Then the first trailer dropped and boy was it ugly, the ad sending the online world into an epic frenzy, the likes of which it had never before seen. People complained that the film was being falsely marketed as a continuation rather than a complete overhaul, they raged about its unfunny gags and cringe-worthy dialogue, the trailer eventually becoming the most ‘disliked’ movie trailer in the history of YouTube, with one angry fan even going so far as to ask Sony Pictures to ‘cancel the movie’ entirely. Forums exploded and message boards went berserk, with some suggesting that the negative reaction had something to do with the flick’s all-female cast. If that wasn’t enough, British public speaker and media personality Milo Yiannopoulos was barred from twitter after a nasty feud with one of the film’s stars, Leslie Jones, all of the bad buzz threatening the picture’s box-office performance.
When the movie came out, however, its critical reception was actually quite fair, with most agreeing that Feig’s Ghostbusters was a refreshing divergence from its source, the flick paying tribute to the ’84 version with cameos, twists and in-jokes galore, whilst offering fans something a bit different and fun. The story follows Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), an über-serious Columbia University physics professor on the verge of tenure, who’s trying desperately hard to distance herself from her former interest in the paranormal, particularly a book she co-wrote with her old-partner, Abigail ‘Abby’ Yates (Melissa McCarthy), titled Ghosts from Our Past Both Literally & Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal. Alas, when she’s approached by Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr.), the current historian at the Aldridge Mansion Museum, about a spooky sighting at his aforementioned workplace, Erin learns that the book has resurfaced on Amazon.
In order to ensure that Columbia University’s dean, Harold Filmore (Charles Dance), doesn’t find out about her previous escapades, Erin tracks Abby down to ask her to take the paperback off the site. As it turns out, Abby is still chasing spectral activity and has since teamed up with an eccentric nuclear engineer, Jillian ‘Holtz’ Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). However, when Erin ends up mentioning the Aldridge Haunting, the ladies opt to inspect the manor, where they come face-to-face with the spirit of the murderous Gertrude Aldridge (Bess Rous).
Following their ghostly encounter, the women decide to open a business dedicated to the eradication of pesky spirits, setting up shop above a Chinese restaurant, Zhu’s Authentic Hong Kong Food, and naming it The Conductors of the Metaphysical Examination. They’re eventually joined by MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who gets the ladies a sweet ride in the form of an ’80s Ecto-1 Cadillac Hearse, the gals dead set on convincing the naysayers of New York City that ghosts are real. Now, armed with an array of unsound ghostbusting equipment (that lights up in bright, flashy fluorescence), the all-lady troupe find themselves in the midst of some serious supernatural activity as a local weirdo, Rowan North (Neil Casey), sets out to cause an ectoplasmic apocalypse of slime-covered proportions.
Written by Feig and Katie Dippold, The Heat (2013), this new Ghostbusters basically follows the same narrative structure of its precursor, with Feig keeping the flick dynamic and daffy throughout. We get several winks and nods to Ramis’ series including redesigns of the infamous ghostbusting gear and an origin story for the famous No Ghost logo. Even Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song gets another spin for the opening credits. The busters’ first job in ’84, at the fictitious Sedgewick Hotel (where we first met Slimer), has been substituted with a wild haunting at the Stonebrook Theater, where a flying creature interrupts a gig being performed by metal band the Beasts of Mayhem. Instead of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, we get a giant version of the Ghostbusters logo spook, the creature growing from traditional hand drawn animation into an enormous CGI building-smashing threat. And oh, the ghosts themselves have been gorgeously designed, too, each rendered in dazzling neon-glowing colors.
Additionally, cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), keeps each frame gleaming with excitement, a third-act battle that takes place in Times Square, which features re-animated hippies, pimps, hookers and Civil War soldiers, is a clear highlight, as is the large Burton-esque ringleader who conducts the transparent army.
In terms of cast, the girls — who are clearly struggling to keep their improv squeaky-clean — do their best within the confines of the film’s PG-13 rating, with only a quarter of the quips actually landing — needless to say, their performances have not ruined your childhood! Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids (2011), (whom I love) does a bang-up job as the goofy, somewhat insecure scientist Erin Gilbert, the 43-year-old comedian constantly being covered in sludge, Wiig enduring bucket loads of gloop for the part — ‘that stuff went everywhere,’ she says, ‘in every crack.’ Melissa McCarthy, Spy (2015), re-teaming with Feig for the fourth time, is quite subdued as Abby Yates, the paranormal geek who gets the ball rolling, McCarthy managing to make a running gag about shoddy Chinese takeout work. Breakout star Kate McKinnon, The Angry Birds Movie (2016), steals most of her scenes as the wackadoodle physicist (who doesn’t follow any social norms) Holtzmann, her crazy sense of style already making her a fan favorite, plus her solo fight scene is pretty darn badass — ‘you just got Holtzmanned, baby!’ Rounding out the team is Leslie Jones who portrays the gang’s street-smart member Patty Tolan, the Saturday Night Live star essentially doing her usual shtick, belting out slurs such as, ‘I don’t know if it’s a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell.’
The clear standout, though, is Aussie heartthrob Chris Hemsworth, Thor (2011), who plays the ecto-hunters’ beefcake of a receptionist Kevin, a hot, dumb living Ken doll, who wears glasses without any lenses (because they kept getting dirty), covers his eyes to avoid eavesdropping and has a dog named ‘Mike Hat,’ Hemsworth generating some of the flick’s heartiest laughs, with his character putting a unique spin on the archetypal bimbo secretary. The weakest link in the ghoulish ensemble is the villain of the piece, Rowan, portrayed by TV actor Neil Casey. With a sketchy back-story and crummy development this contemporary baddie pails in comparison to ’84s malevolent demon Zuul, Rowan’s evil scheme a little too far fetched for someone who just wants to wreak revenge on those who bullied in the past (I blame the script for this one). Elsewhere, Andy García, The Untouchables (1987), has a nifty little part as the city’s dodgy mayor, Bradley, while Cecily Strong, The Boss (2016), is forgettable as his highly-strung assistant Jennifer Lynch, who’s trying to keep a lid on public hysteria by discrediting all of the Ghostbusters’ good work. Thankfully, most of the original cast — Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts — appear in minor parts, too, with Aykroyd and Hudson scoring a couple of zingers!
A little too sleek and polished, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters lacks the grungy blue-collar aesthetic and outright fantasticalness that made Ramis’ ghastly endeavor such a monster-sized hit. Even so, this ‘spirited’ remake is way better than it has any right to be, thanks to its stellar cast and confident director, with Feig and co. clearly working tirelessly to leave their own stamp on the material, whilst celebrating what came before. While a Ghostbusters III would have been grand, it’s obvious that these guys ain’t afraid of no ghost!
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie