Do you remember seeing a movie as a kid and wanting to run out and play like you were the characters? The remake of Ghostbusters starring an all-female ghostbusting team inspired that level of delight in me.
I’m sure you know the plot of this film, but here’s a quick snapshot: Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is up for tenure at Columbia when she discovers that her former partner, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) has re-released their book on the paranormal. Not good for Erin’s academic cred. Quickly, however, Erin gets roped into some ghost hunting with Abby and her new partner, Jillian “Holtz” Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When footage of their investigation goes viral, Erin loses her job and joins Erin and Holtz in their study of the paranormal. Also joining them are Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), an MTA worker with endless knowledge of New York history, and the prettiest, but worst receptionist, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). As the frequency of ghost sightings in New York increases, they uncover a plot by evil nerd Rowan (Neil Casey), who is trying to break through “the barrier” and bring about a ghost apocalypse.
Initially, my expectations were lowered by the distractingly choppy editing in the first 30 minutes. The film also lacks much urgency, or a good villain. Rowan is not funny, weird, nor evil enough to make much of an impact. The character is actually at his best when he hijacks the body of Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin. That is not a ringing endorsement for the performance of Neil Casey. He is no Rick Moranis. That said, when I thought about it more, I realized that the real conflict of the story is the Ghostbusters’ struggle to be taken seriously. First, they are rejected as scientists. Then, they are made to look like frauds publicly. Then, their warnings about Rowan’s plan are dismissed. In this way, the struggle of the film’s plot mirrors the struggle of the film’s production. Most of the publicity—for better and for worse—around the film centered upon the question of whether or not there was any need or merit in making a film about female Ghostbusters. To me, the most curious facet of this controversy was the reverence with which the original film was treated. There have been all-female productions of Richard III. Why can’t we have female Ghostbusters? In the end, however, just as the women Ghostbusters deliver and save New York from an army of ghosts, the film delivers on its comedic promise. It has a different tone than the original, but it also does not try to reproduce the original. Instead, it offers its own laughs and fun based on the comedic styles of the women in the cast. And Chris Hemsworth.
The performances make the film. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig anchor the ensemble. It was refreshing to see McCarthy in a funny, physical role that did not use a single fat joke. Her leadership, slapstick, and deadpan style shine through. Wiig’s performance is not her strongest, but she stills gives some good laughs, thanks to her anxious quirks. Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are fantastic. The way that Jones depicts Patty inserting herself into the Ghostbusters and providing her own affectionate leadership sells the notion that the rest of the group would just accept her help and look at her like family by story’s end. Her warmth, charm, and line delivery make Patty a delight. Kate McKinnon’s performance is the most hardcore. As Holtzmann, her facial ticks, dry wit, and mad scientist antics were my favorite part of the film. Then there’s her part in the fight scene.
When the Ghostbusters theme started to play as Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann went into full-on combat mode with her inventions, I had to wipe away a couple of tears of pure joy stemming from my innerchild—a little girl who ran around with the neighborhood boys and loved the Spice Girls. In a piece for Vox, “The second I stopped wanting Ghostbusters to be perfect, I loved it,” Caroline Framke expresses similar feelings: “a movie being perfect is far less important than if it can inspire that incredible stomach swoop over 30 perfect seconds? When you’re feeling something beyond logic, sometimes the only thing that matters is that you’re feeling it, right in your guts.”
I am filing this review, then dragging my husband back to the theater to see the movie with me. It will be my second time in the same day. Beyond my criticism, and the minor ways in which the film faulters, I cannot overlook the response I had to it. I rate Ghostbusters 4/5 stars.
Ghostbusters was written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, who directed, based on the 1984 film by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis. It runs 116 minutes and is rated PG-13.
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