Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthey, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong, Neil Casey
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, (based on the 1984 film “Ghostbusters”) Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman
Running Time: 116 mins
Release date: 11th July 2016
Paul Feig’s reimagination of the classic 1984 comedy, Ghostbusters, has had a pretty rough ride. Ever since it was announced back in 2013, the film has been attacked by fans of the original, crying outrage as this was an all-female group of paranormal experts and that wasn’t in the spirit of Ghostbusting. Even when the first trailers started emerging, many feared that this was going to be terrible, relying on slapstick comedy and pathetic one-liners. I have to admit, after the first viewing of that initial trailer, I did have my doubts. Thankfully, Feig and his team of female stars can throw the negative criticism back in the face of its haters, as the new Ghostbusters is not only funny but has a heart too.
Wanting to become a permanent member of the faculty at Columbia University, wannabe professor Erin Gilbert finds her past rearing its head, in the days when she co-wrote a book about paranormal activity with her then friend and fellow ghost chaser, Abby Yates. When their book suddenly reappears, Erin goes to ask Abby if she could remove it so she could get on with her life. Erin’s life, however, starts to go backward when a ghost appears in a famous haunted house and she is asked to investigate it with Abby, along with mechanical genius, Jillian Holtzman.
Soon New York starts having ghosts popping up everywhere and Erin decides to join Abby and Holtz to investigate and possibly stop the spread of these activities. Hiring a male secretary, Kevin, and former subway worker, Patty, they soon become the Ghostbusters, as the spirits start to take over the city.
Feig has done a clever thing. He has taken a beloved franchise and tried to give it a new identity. Still keeping the spirit (excuse the pun) of the ’84 film, with occasional nods and winks to those in the know (settings, apparatus, and even cameos aplenty) yet by adding the new dimension of females, giving the characters a fresh, modern feel. These women are not only funny but they have feelings too, which they are not afraid to share.
They are also far more physical than their male counterparts, which is evident in the final showdown as the ladies throw themselves, literally, into the fight with ghosts coming at them from every angle. What you really want to know is if it works. Yes, it does.
You have to understand that Feig and his cast have a hard act to follow, especially when there was talk of a Ghostbusters 3 before Harold Ramis sadly passed away. There is huge affection for Bill Murray and his team, even some 30 years on. So to do a complete retread of what was out there already would be suicidal. They had to come at it from a different approach and luckily, they chose the right one. These girls work extremely well.
The film starts with a bang. A terrific pre-credit sequence that is far creepier than most modern horror films. Then it’s into the business of introducing the characters. Without lingering on details, we instantly recognize each one so we can get into the heart of the story, in which a strange loner has found a way of unleashing the spirits into the world. For the most part of the film, it zips along at a cracking pace, brimming with smart one-liners, a splattering of goofiness and, with most modern comedies, a few naughty jokes that never cross the boundaries of bad taste. All of this heads for the inevitable showdown, which becomes more a showcase for the effects department and sadly it lacks the tension, excitement of the wit of the rest of the film. It’s perfectly fine but compared to what had come before, it’s a bit of a letdown.
The cast is terrific, full of energy and determination that this will work. Melissa McCarthy seems to work best when with Feig behind the camera (see Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy for the evidence) but is even better when bantering with Kristen Wiig. The often improvised scenes between them feels natural, good-natured and, more importantly, funny. Leslie Jones’s Patty is like a bull in a china shop, in both personality and delivery, having a few gems which she fires out with aplomb. Yet the film is virtally highjacked by Kate McKinnon’s Holtz and Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin.
McKinnon’s wide-eyed, crazed mad scientist is hilarious. Always unpredictable, she relishes in her toys with the kind of gung-ho attitude that a soldier might have for a new machine gun. She also has the funniest, most unpredictable line of the whole film that could be my favourite of the year. Add to that a brilliant self-deprecating performance by Hemsworth as the “himbo” Kevin, who has problems with his words, cannot answer a phone properly and hates coffee. After seeing him all muscled up for Thor, it’s a joy to watch him in light mode.
Ghostbusters isn’t perfect. It lacks Bill Murray’s deadpan delivery and the finale does come across a little flat but these are minor faults. This is funny (I laughed pretty much throughout), energetic and incredibly good natured. It’s also a chance for Hollywood to start changing its attitude towards women leading blockbusters. With the right director and right cast, it’s equally as good as the male dominated billion dollar movies that infest our multiplexes. Did we need a new Ghostbusters? Probably not but as we have one, just enjoy it for what it is, a solid piece of entertainment that is fun. Who could ask for me?
NB: Stay till the very end of the credits for an additional scene that involves a blast from the past!