1984’s Ghostbusters, brought to us from the comedic talents of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman, did a terrific job of merging the supernatural and comedy in an endearing way, making it a classic to many. Flash forward 32 years, and now that classic has not only been remade, but has been given a complete make-over. The male-centric cast has been replaced with a female one. The smart, wise cracking secretary played by Annie Potts has been replaced with the dim but hunky Kevin, played by Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. A new villain sets the stage (a disenchanted and former bullied loner creates devices to blast a hole between the world of the living and the dead, rather than an ancient malevolent demi-god). The supernatural mayhem is upped and made more chaotic as spirits wreak havoc in New York City thanks to a generous use of CGI effects. But still some familiar beats remain, with the four main characters sharing a strong chemistry and a very gigantic enemy formed from something that was initially more friendly appearing during the movie’s climax.
So, with the mix of the old and the new, how does this 2016 version of Ghostbusters fare? Despite all the naysayers and those who mounted a hate campaign following the release of the film’s first trailer, Paul Feig’s movie performs quite well on its own. It may not match the original, but its comes respectably close, and as long as you don’t go in fully prejudiced against the remake you may very well find yourself being nicely entertained. If the movie has a fault, it’s that Feig places a bit more emphasis on the supernatural action than on the comedic lines, going for big set pieces rather than big laughs. That’s not to say this new Ghostbusters lacks in humor. Things start slow enough, but once the cast settle into their roles some very funny bits emerge, adding some laughs to the action movie thrills. Some well placed cameos by both former cast members and two well known ghosts from the original just enhance the movie rather than detract from it.
As with the original, things start off with a spooky encounter (a tour guide in a mansion steps in for the librarian this time around). Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is trying to earn tenure at a prestigious school, putting her past as a co-author on a book about ghosts behind her. After being approached by someone with a copy of her book, Erin goes to seek out her co-author and former friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). She finds Abby working at another school in a forgotten department with her inventor assistant Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon). An encounter in the mansion brings the pair back together, and when both are fired from their respective schools they seek to establish their own place where they can continue to study the paranormal. Meanwhile, we learn of a loner, Rowan North (Neil Casey), who seeks to herald in the apocalypse, and we meet Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a subway worker who has an encounter of her own. Patty joins the other three, along with dim-witted male secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). An event gain the group the namesake and the attention of the mayor (Andy Garcia) and his aide (Cecily Strong), who want the group to accept being discredited to avoid panicking the city. Naturally, things go awry, and the ladies need to step in to save the city from supernatural destruction.
The plot works fairly well for the new film, even bringing in current day agencies like Homeland Security. It is a predictable moment when the malevolent spirit of the deceased Rowan posses the dim Kevin, but Hemsworth revels in the part, making the transition from bumbling office idiot to villain with comedic ease. The four ladies have a great chemistry together, each working off the other quite well. McCarthy and Wiig have this down pat, having worked together before. McKinnon provides a lovable goofiness to her inventor-scientist, and Jones is very funny as the street wise and historically knowledgeable Patty. Casey makes for a creepy enough villain prior to his demise, and Garcia plays his bit role as the denying politician nicely. The comedy, unlike the original, takes a little time to gain its footing, though once it does the laughs are nicely spaced throughout the movie. Feig stages some nice action bits with the girls, allowing them (and their stunt doubles) to play hero against the supernatural forces. The action scenes are bigger than those in the original, giving a more overall threat to the city. Missing though are some of the comedic relationships that worked well in Reitman’s 1984 film, like those between Murray’s Peter and Sigourney Weaver’s Dana. Despite this, we still get some nice scenes of the friendship between Erin and Abby, with that playing a crucial role in the movie.
The cameos also do their part in helping to shore up this remake/reboot. Bill Murray’s smarmy disbeliever Martin Heiss evokes William Atherton’s Walter Peck from the original movie. Annie Potts recreates her smart mouth role, this time as a hotel desk clerk. Dan Aykroyd’s character revisits a classic line, and Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson do nicely in roles that relate to a couple of the newer characters. The former human actors are the only ones from the 1984 film to do cameos. A couple of well known ghosts appear as well. Subtle changes, like the Ecto-1 being a refurbished hearse instead of an ambulance and their office being located above a Chinese restaurant instead of the old firehouse (though the firehouse does have its place in this new movie), work nicely, as do the updates to the Ghostbusters arsenal against the spooks and specters. A couple of funny scenes showing the four try out their new gadgets is handled well, and takes things beyond the proton packs of the original. The ghosts here are bigger and a bit nastier, though no less slimy. Wiig’s character of Erin bears the brunt of the slime, and those scenes work in part to Wiig’s willingness to be covered in the gooey substance as well as her cast mates reactions to her being slimed. The special effects provide some very good visuals on the big screen (not all were spoiled in the trailers), though the newer versions of the Ghostbusters theme song don’t seem to come off quite as well. That may just be nostalgia talking, as the new versions aren’t horrible. It just feels like they lacked some of the charm of those from the 1984 movie.
In all, the 2016 version of Ghostbusters proves to be quite an entertaining experience. The female cast share a good chemistry, and Hemsworth makes the most of his comedic role, nearly stealing the spotlight from the ladies. The special effects and action make for a nice spectacle on the big screen, even if the laughs don’t seem to come as often as they did in the 1984 version. This is still a funny film, and it easily holds your interest for its 116 minute run time. Be sure to sit through the end credits, for both an entertaining way the credits are played out and a post credits scene that hints at what the sequel may hold. It may fall a little short of the beloved original, but if you go in with an open mind you may find this new Ghostbusters to be very entertaining and an enjoyable visit to the theater. The ladies have answered the call, and it’s worth your time to see them in action.
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