DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig • PRO: Amy Pascal, Ivan Reitman • DOP: Robert D. Yeoman • ED: Melissa Bretherton , Brent White • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jefferson Sage • CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
It’s impossible to address Ghostbusters in a vacuum, because ‘the internet’ is determined to make this film some sort of litmus test of feminism/sexism/masculinity/intelligence and whatever else you want to throw in there. I am a woman reviewing the all-female reboot of a deeply beloved all-male classic…so let’s get this out of the way. The only time I’ll give to this whole male/female split is to say that for me, (a woman!) growing up as a massive fan of the originals, it was a genuine joy to watch women on the big screen playing these characters. I now have two sets of abnormal paranormal investigators to love. There have been countless reboots and re-imaginings of things precious to my youth – Spiderman, Superman, Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Annie, Star Wars, Footloose, The Karate Kid, Dawn of the Dead, Point Break, Transformers, Poltergeist… it goes on and on. Film execs are dredging the past for faint glimmers of excitement, and trying to repackage it and sell it to a new generation – this is what Hollywood, that churning machine of movies, does. But I’ve never seen unnecessary venom to this degree before a movie was even released – is it really so terrible to have a female cast? So, this is where I’m landing now: watch Ghostbusters and critique genuine movie-related things that you like or dislike; don’t watch it if you are terrified of somehow sullying your precious childhood by 114 minutes of women being funny. Problem solved. And now, to the movie!
The film opens with a slow-building ghostly scare, a la the Library scene of the original, before introducing our new Ghostbusters. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is an uptight academic, trying to deny her past work with ex-collaborator Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) in the widely-derided field of paranormal investigations. This is proving difficult, as Abby is re-selling their earlier book on ghosts and drawing unwanted attention to Erin at her stuffy university. Seeking to shut her up she instead gets caught up with Abby’s new engineer, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and the three set out to visit a haunted mansion – Erin to finally move on from ghosts, and Abby and Jillian to chase them. The mansion turns out to be very haunted indeed, and the excited women soon find their ghostly proof ridiculed in the science community and their jobs taken away. Meanwhile, creepy evil-doer Rowan (Neil Casey) is setting up ghost-boosters all over the city, amplifying resident spooks and ramping up their full torso free-floating apparition credentials. Just as Erin, Abby and Jillian set up a new business in busting ghosts the city seems to need their expertise more than ever. Hiring nice-but-dim Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth – a very two dimensional addition) as their secretary, and adding tough-as-nails Metro worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to the crew, the Ghostbusters set out to fight their biggest battle as Rowan’s nefarious plan threatens to destroy the entire city.
This Ghostbusters reflects the original in narrative – we have a similar setup, with the main scientists losing their jobs and focusing on their kooky field just as paranormal activity ramps up all over NYC. There are legitimate complaints that this isn’t a continuation of the original universe, with the characters as protégées or daughters of the first Ghostbusters. Instead of existing in a New York where a giant marshmallow Stay Puft sailor once stomped through Manhattan, these paranormal investigators are instead living in a city that initially ridicules them before realising – in dramatic fashion – that not only are ghosts real, but that only the Ghostbusters can save them.
A lot of the humour depends on your tolerance for Saturday Night Live – the original also had that edge of American-sketch-show to it, and the back-and-forth has high moments of comedy, though more time could have been spent on the Ghostbusters’ building up their business and getting to know each other. It’s also possible to pay too much homage, and sometimes the film does lose its own flavour in an attempt to recapture the original’s very particular brand – especially in regards to jarring cameos from original cast members. But there are great jumpy-moments, and it’s a genuinely funny movie – the chemistry and real-life friendship between the four lead actors is a solid anchor, with Kate McKinnon’s crazy Holtzmann, in particular, stealing the show. They are simply four hilarious comedians, and there are moments of side-splitting comedy for adults as well as kids – they all work so well together that their banter is seamless. Skewing a bit younger, however, this is also less frightening and a bit less involving overall than the original – smacking of being the first of many instalments, rather than a complete movie of its own.
With the vitriolic vortex going on since its announcement in 2014, I wanted so much for this movie to be absolutely brilliant – to silence the ridiculousness of armchair critics, YouTube downvoters and idiotic sexists. And it is a really, really good movie! But there’s just enough wrong with it to give shout-loudest critics vindication – and that’s sufficient for some people to dismiss it out of hand. Here’s my advice: if you loved the original, show it to your kids – laugh and scream with them at the Keymaster, the Gatekeeper, not crossing the streams, and cats and dogs living together (mass hysteria!). But take them to see this reboot too…because it has good scares, it’s a solid addition to a classic concept, and it’s so very, very fun. And I ain’t afraid of no female Ghostbuster.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Ghostbusters is released 15th July 2016