I love Ivan Reitman's Ghost Busters. Not a transient love, the kind of love where you wear lens-less glasses for about a year of your childhood and refuse to answer your Mum unless she'd address me as Egon or Dr Spangler. When I heard that director Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids) was taking the reins of the flick with stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon getting a chance to don the overalls; I was excited. Unlike the community of insecure white guys’ intent on fighting the battle of Hollywood mining successful properties for remakes on the grounds of the Ghostbusters firehouse; I loved the idea that these badass ladies could carry the torch of hilarious misfits and unlikely heroes. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a hair away from becoming a tenured physics professor at Columbia University in NYC. When her former scientific partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) publishes their thought to be buried book on "figurative and literal” ghosts, she has to go and get her to remove the book from circulation to maintain her reputation. As she attempts to squash this figurative ghost from her past, some literal ones change her plans.
It was going to be impossible not to address the circumstance of the trials of this remake, even if inadvertently (see a few choice prods at the online trolls), but writers Katie Dippold and Paul Feig take that elephant in the room and shoot it right in the dick with a proton beam. The quartet of ladies don't have the same arc as the original crew that inspired them. Instead of the surge of spectral activity infecting New York creating a Regan era wet dream of a new service monopoly in Ivan Reitman's original film, Dippold and Feig's heroines are constantly refused glory. Despite behind closed doors affirmation from a hoard of metal heads praising their intervention, government agencies actively manipulate the media to make these ladies feel illegitimate. They have to battle for validation, no matter how maddeningly obvious their breakthroughs and bravery has become. The original Ghost Busters is about weirdo outsiders isolated for their passions and beliefs that are eventually redeemed. What's probably disturbing to the point of baffling is that in 2016, it's actually necessary for a reimagining of the premise with all female characters is such a source of derision and opposition.
Feig's Ghostbusters are up against some pretty terrifying ghouls. The only difference between the wraiths that torment NYC and say the James Wan's antagonistic spirits from The Conjuring series; is vibrant neon colouring, spectral smoke that looks like it's being lit up at a concert; and of course - slime.
Kate McKinnon's Holtzmann is going to be everyone's favourite mad scientist and gadget guru. McKinnon is so wonderfully unpredictable in her delivery of every line that it's a near miracle that her co-stars were able to remain composed in the scenes across from her. It's probably not since Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects that a potentially 'basic' part was so unforgettable. She'll interrogate Abby's (Wiig) bow-tie in one moment, introduce herself as a reporter from the Radio Times without skipping a beat and lick her pistols like Scarface. One of my favourite comedians Joe Rogan has an amazing joke that I think validates how damned necessary Leslie Jones' character Patty Tolan is in this movie. The joke is about 'bigfoot' but swap the word bigfoot out and add ghosts. "Here's what you don't find when you're looking for 'Bigfoot'...black people. In fact you are more likely to find 'bigfoot' than black folks out looking for 'bigfoot.'" Jones keeps the science and the occult grounded in the quartet; she's got a practical smarts that brings the character of the city to life and the necessary natural scepticism that instantly validates the fact that Abby, Erin and crazy Holtzmann haven't completely lost it.
McCarthy and Wiig headline the quartet and they're not simply female avatars for their predecessors; they are lifelong friends whose mutual beliefs in the paranormal allowed them to overcome being labelled as outsiders or weirdos. Wiig's constantly searching to fit the mould and be accepted; and flirting with receptionist Kevin. McCarthy is stubborn embraces the outsider role. Chris Hemsworth delivers such a great turn as "himbo" Kevin. One can only imagine that he had an incredible time with the extremities of Kevin's stupid; holding his eyes closed when a noise is too loud was my personal favourite. Connecting this guy with Taiki Waititi is like throwing a Mentos in a Diet Coke. As you would have heard the original team join the film in a variety of cameos. While I won't spoil it for you, I will say function half way between cheerleaders and former Presidents endorsing a new candidate. And keep an eye out for Andy Garcia, who crushes it as the oblivious New York Mayor.
There are highlights amongst the traffic jam like Holtzmann (McKinnon) doing anything, Kevin (Hemsworth) being imbued with an evil ghostly presence; the final act is the weakest of the film. The spectacle, the wrap-up the culmination of the characters' journey feels interrupted and slightly rushed.
Ghostbusters is a riot. Ghostbusters is a property that makes sense to be reinterpreted. And the best thing about the original Ghost Busters is the indelible and enduring impact it had on the kids (big and small) who loved it. Ghostbusters now faces the endurance test.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold & Paul Feig
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth,
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.