Nutshell: a remake will never re-capture the lightning in a bottle of a classic. But this reboot has a certain charm and goofy fun all its own. Sure, a strangely ill-used Hemsworth adds a certain je ne sais WTF. But Kate McKinnon as crazypants Holtzmann more than makes up for that. This film is perfect summer fun fodder, and stands on its own. Enjoy it as such. Grade: B+
“Welcome to the glory days of New York City. Have fun!”
So. It’s time to take a peek at the all-laydeez version of Ghostbusters. With so many folks hating on this film before they’ve even seen it, I figured it’d either be amazing, or a complete suck-fest. And while this reboot doesn’t capture the zeitgeist in the way the original did, it’s still a rip-roaring good time.
New York City. Tons of history. TONS of ghosts. Sniveling weeny Rowan (Neil Casey) decides if he can’t fit in with the world, he’ll open up a portal to The Other Side and get spirits to tear this bitch up. One problem. Okay, four. Four female problems. With proton packs. Light ’em up, y’all!
Ghostbusters takes typical horror tropes – government officials who don’t want the true story getting out, heroes getting the shaft, the disbelief of the gen-pop – and folds it into modern day feelings of unease. Yeah, of course officials are shady. Naturally everything you see on YouTube is faked. This brings a sense of realism to all of the batshit crazy stuff going on all around our heroines.
Speaking of. Holtzmann is the bad bitch I’ve always wanted to be. And I’m absolutely obsessed over the necklace she wears; a circle with a screw through it, and a huge “U” over top. (Get it? GET IT?) McKinnon goes all-in, and this is sure to be her breakout performance…y’know, for the three people who don’t already know what a kickass comedic actress she is. (And while I’m as straight as the next boring-ass ladygal, McKinnon has a certain charismatic hotness that makes me wonder if…)
The foursome of McKinnon, McCarthy, Wiig and Jones work exceptionally well together. They’re a believable group, and their camaraderie feels natural. Probably because of the whole SNL alumni thing they’ve got going on. Or maybe it’s just because these actresses know what they’re doing. So do their characters, each one a specialist in their own field. From science to history, they come together to form a cohesive working team.
That’s not to say this film doesn’t have its glitches. Chris Hemsworth, as the group’s beefcake receptionist, is hobbled by a straight-up weird characterization, and oddball lines that fall flat more than they hit home. It’s obvious there’s a Grade A comedic actor in there – his sense of fun and ability to poke fun at the Pretty Vacant cliché shines through even the stalest of screenwriter hiccups – but I found myself wincing at the strangeness. Felt needlessly tacked on just to make a point…that never came across. Sweet and vacuous works. Sweet, vacuous and odd for absolutely no reason, doesn’t. Take a note, screenwriters.
Screenwriter Katie Dippold and writer/director Paul Feig have worked weirdness perfectly in goofy fare like Spy, MadTV, and Parks and Recreation. But in a film about ghosts and weird stuff, piling on more weird is an embarrassment of riches. Not enough to hobble the film, but enough to pull me out of the proceedings and pull a Scooby “huh?” Then there’s their obvious shoehorning of favorite quotes from the original – along with a few other famous line from other films – that fall flat thanks to a too-obvious need to please. The director could have snipped them out, and should have.
Ditto for the Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver cameos, which feel like something Feig was dying to add in, rather than scenes that add to the story. Both cameos suffer from characterizations that are too odd (seems to be a running theme), and unveiled with too much of a “TADA!!!11!” flourish. Other cameos from the original cast work well though; I won’t spoil ’em by mentioning who…or what. But let’s take a moment to appreciate that OMAR IN THE HIZZY! (Ahem; that’d be Michael Kennety Williams, of course, who plays an FBI agent here.) Feig could have made the product placement for Poppa Johns a bit less in-your-face. The Pringles one works well though.
Still, there’s more pluses than minuses here. A lot more. The creepy-funny opening scene at the Aldridge museum – complete with doors that open on their own, ectoplasm up the ying, and a cliffhanger that cuts straight to a title shot – sets the tone of the film nicely. The reasons why ghosts are everywhere around NYC is woo-woo, but with just enough grounding to make it believable in context. And once the ghostly things get going, the plot flows beautifully from one scene to the next. Not to mention the 21st Century upgrades to the FX that really bring the shiny to all that spooky. Which makes the film’s climax suitably upgraded, and if I’m being honest, 20% cooler.
There’s not as much Ghostbuster bonding in this film; those moments are replaced with James Bond-like gadget playground scenes that make more sense in a film about women who for the most part have known each other for years. The table-turning with the original’s receptionist/Buster crush is a nice change, and Wiig plays the besotted gal with just the right touch of wolfish glee. (Meanwhile, Hemsworth is allowed to portray just enough intelligence to know when he’s being ogled, and that dynamic is a hoot.)
There’s also bits of fun at the expense of the real life all-female cast haters, and glorious end credits complete with mini gag reel, “deleted scene” Thriller-esque dance off (yeah you wanna see Hemsworth bust a move) and a post-credit tidbit.* This Ghostbusters may not be the original, but it’s one of a kind. And that ain’t bad. In fact, it’s downright groovy. Sorry, haters.
* Fans of the original may want to pay particular note to this post-credit scene, which pays glorious tribute to the original while hinting at a possible sequel.