GHOSTBUSTERS Review

I'd like to think there's not as much ignorance in the world as the internet tells me there is, but the small corner of the World Wide Web known as IMDb and more specifically the user reviews for 2016's reboot of Ghostbusters would suggest everything I've hoped to be true about this world is in fact wrong. Given the film has been out in wide release for less than 24 hours at the time of this writing it's astonishing how many harsh and outlandish tirades have been hurled at this film. Of course, we're not here to discuss the inability of what are likely now forty year-old men to share in the wealth of their childhoods, childhoods that provided such pleasures at the original 1984 film, and extend those same feelings of excitement and pure joy to the kids of today and moreover the young girls and women of today who have undoubtedly always looked to the portrayal of their gender in Hollywood and wondered why they were always so restrained. As far as I'm concerned and as far as I can tell (I was born in 1987 so I don't exactly "get" the hoopla that surrounds the original) despite how much the original Ghostbusters was a huge success and universally praised at the time of its release I've never understood the level of infatuation with it. Sure, it's a perfectly enjoyable comedy with a charismatic cast and unique premise, but in the thirty plus years since its release I can't help but think the film has lost some of its charm otherwise I wouldn't feel as out of the loop. With this new, all-female version director Paul Feig has both paid homage to the original film while creating a world and characters all his own. Written by Feig with the help of The Heat screenwriter Kate Dippold this new Ghostbusters universe doesn't capitalize wholly on the gimmick of the gender swap, but more it uses this basis of an idea to explore a familiar world from a new perspective. While no matter how good the film might have turned out to be there would undoubtedly still be people decrying the fact it exists at all, but that it is a lot of fun if not necessarily an exceptional comedy will surely only anger them more. To remain focused on those who take away from the unadulterated fun that Ghostbusters can provide though is to be reminded of the disappointment this world can be whereas to simply take the new Ghostbusters on its own terms can make you believe good does in fact exist among us. In short, it's a delight.

Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Erin (Kristen Wiig), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty (Leslie Jones) encounter a class 4 apparition in the new Ghostbusters film.
While it might have been easy and likely very tempting for Feig and Dippold to go the route of the reboot for the sake of not having to come up with a new story that continued as well as gave closure to what happened to the original team of ghostbusters (which would have only been more controversial I imagine) it also allowed them the option to more or less remake the original film which could have been a dead end as well. Essentially it is a lose/lose situation, but it is the straddling of this line-between reboot and remake-that Ghostbusters is able to find a solid balance that it walks most expertly. In one sense it pays homage to the source material with an abundance of references, nods in both design and sense of humor, as well as plenty of cameos, but at the same time-and if this was really going to succeed-Ghostbusters 2016 would have to stand on its own as well. Ghostbusters would need to create something that was just different enough to be new, but just similar enough to remind fans why they fell in love with the series in the first place. It's a tall order and one I can't imagine anyone being envious of, but it's clear from the cold open Feig has a finger on the pulse of the tone and comedy that he wants to convey in his Ghostbusters movie. More than anything, that tone is clearly intended to capture the fun of the original as the credits state that this new film was "inspired" by the 1984 one. And from the get-go, it is a lot of fun. We are introduced in nice succession to each of the four main characters as the actors are (mostly) given ample opportunity to flesh out their personas which each lend a little something unique to the group dynamic. Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert chases her academic dreams with hopes of reaching tenure making what everyone around her thinks of her of the utmost importance while her previous scientific partner and best friend, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), could care less if people believe she's crazy just as long as she can go on doing her work trying to track down the supernatural. Somewhat filling the void Erin left in Abby's life, but in a much different capacity is Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) who is something of a total psychopath, but is a genius that scraps together weaponry in the blink of an eye. Banding these three scientists, engineers, and paranormal enthusiasts together with the street smart Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) the film is off and running with a lot of chemistry to play with if not a little too much emphasis on the bigger names of the cast.

Ghostbusters is fun, no doubt, but that doesn't mean it's without its issues either. Chief among them is that it doesn't fully utilize the brilliant cast it has compiled. It's something of a given that McCarthy and Wiig would lead if not carry the majority of the film, but that we as an audience want to see more of McKinnon and Jones' characters is a detriment to the film as the script isn't nearly as resourceful with its second tier ghostbusters as it is even with Chris Hemsworth's character. Hemsworth, for what little I expected of him compared with what we get, essentially walks away with the movie. What that says about a comedy hell bent on solidifying that women are just as capable as men when it comes to comedy I'm not sure, but as the dim-witted secretary Kevin, Hemsworth is able to land every gag he attempts whether it be one concerning a lack of lenses in his glasses or that of explaining the logos he came up with for the girls and their "club". While Hemsworth is excelling though, McKinnon especially is given less and less to do despite clearly forming an insane but somehow still attractive presence in Holtzmann. There is clear potential here, but the film doesn't seem to feel like it has enough room for four leads and in bumping McKinnon and Jones' roles down to that of more supporting players it more or less disregards a huge amount of comedy potential as it is clear Jones doesn't have enough to do either. While I personally have found Jones to be a winning member of the recent SNL cast it is easy to see how she can be perceived as one note by others. The comedian turned actor is still clearly honing her skills when it comes to conveying real emotion in front of the camera as some of her line readings are off and unnatural, but this isn't what is most bothersome about her performance, but instead it is the fact she isn't allowed room to really let loose much less be as funny as she is so clearly capable of being. Of course, there are moments here and there where both McKinnon and Jones are allowed to flourish and we see what might come to more of a fruition should this film do well enough and sequels are made, but that they didn't throw everything at the wall in this initial outing is something of a letdown. Other than these character complaints the second biggest detractor is that the film feels like it loses some steam as it enters its third act-when it should be gearing up for the big final showdown. Up to this point the development of the plot and characters goes hand in hand, but in coming to the special effects laden finale it can't help but feel as if Feig loses his grip on where he was hoping to guide the conclusion to.

The Ghostbusters have something of a conundrum to deal with when it comes to their new secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth).
Speaking to plot, this 2016 Ghostbusters is something of an enigma that deserves cracking as we know the beats this thing is clearly planning on hitting after the first few scenes mirror the original in a clear way without being exact copies. It is a way of emulating the original while still allowing room for change and new ideas to seep into the narrative. Feig and Dippold take the most advantage of this when it comes to the films villain as no longer is there a demon dog waiting in someone's fridge, but rather an uber nerd and disturbingly lonely young man named Rowan (Neil Casey) who decides to seek vengeance on mankind for always shunning him. It's somewhat ironic given it is probably those who fit closest to this mold that are angrily sitting behind their keyboards spewing hate at the film for ruining their childhoods, but at the same time Feig and Dippold offer a sliver of sympathy for the bad guy who believes he is doing the right thing or at least the just thing. Casey's antagonist could have been developed a little more to elicit even more sympathy and make his master plan a larger part of the plot, but in that the script allows the team of ghostbusters to piece things together and deliver scientific/supernatural mumbo jumbo to draw conclusions on what Rowan may be attempting also allows for a shroud of mystery around the proceedings which helps up the tension thus allowing the comedy to shine through even more. Overall, the film has its ups and downs when it comes to the pacing as the first two acts are really solid in that they move the plot along and offer some great set pieces and visual effects with an abundance of comedy to string these moments together. The downside is that the attempted comedy doesn't always land and I ended up not laughing as consistently as I'd hoped to or how much I thought I would after the first act. This leads us to the question of day seeing as the original is hailed as one of the funniest movies of all time so, just how funny is this new Ghostbusters? There is a lot of heart on display and Feig's humor is hard to sum up as any particular brand, but the best way to describe it would be to say that it just flows and comes from unexpected places. It isn't necessarily inherent to the story always, but it lends the story his movies are trying to tell that aforementioned heart. This may be a movie about nerds trying to find a place for themselves in the world that contains body snatching dance sequences, but such things allow for Ghostbusters to land in an affectionate place that is worth embracing rather than rejecting.