With expectations through the roof, there is no way that Paul Feig’s iteration/reboot of Ghostbusters won’t be compared to the original, especially when the film invites the comparison. Make no mistake about it, this is a Ghostbusters movie – in tone, in effects, in comedy and character. It’s as if the thirty plus years between the original and this one have vanished (the less said about Ghostbusters 2 the better). But the question among fans remains – is this one better than the original? Is this trying to take the place of the original in people’s hearts?
The answer to both those questions is a definitive no. Ghostbusters (2016) doesn’t want to do either of those things. It wants to be its own thing, but it is also very beholden to the franchise before it. Much of the vernacular is the same, the comedic strokes are expansive, and director Paul Feig keeps the tone just right, which is the biggest factor. Some may view the callbacks to the original movie a distraction, but I think Feig is not only paying respects to what has come before but paving his own way, and keeping the faith and the spirit of the original intact. It’s not trying to be better than the original, but it does want to stay in the same room.
On those aspects, it succeeds. Wildly. Ghostbusters is raucously funny, full of great moments, wonderful characters which we come to love, and gives us a clear path forward. If Ghostbusters does well, we’ll definitely be seeing more of them, especially with the strange promise of the Ghost Corp. logo we see at the beginning. An entirely new generation can join in on the fun – girls, boys, everyone. This is one of the most inviting comedies in years – it wants everyone who sees it to have a great time. That joy, the pleasure of spending time with these characters, makes the film endure even through the rough patches of the third act, where the movie basically explodes into effects and frantic plot exposition. At that point, we’re invested in Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and even clueless lunkhead secretary Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth).
The speculation and the controversy ramping up to Ghostbusters’ release is unfair – this movie was pre-judged for practically years before release. The fact is, Paul Feig knows comedy. He’s made people laugh for many years. Ghostbusters was entirely safe in his hands. Even the previous cast, in their cameos, seem to give unspoken approval to what Feig and cast does here, especially Bill Murray, who swore never to do another one of these movies and yet shows up here in a fairly substantial role. It’s also strange how the film almost comments on the controversy. The villain, Rowan North (played with deep weirdness by Neil Casey), is practically a dudebro himself, only missing a fedora to wear.
But this cast brushes those controversies effortlessly off their shoulders. This cast is filled to the brim with very funny people, and some of those will surprise you – Hemsworth has a comedic tempo and banter all his own, and he’s given some of the film’s weirdest and funniest lines. Wiig and McCarthy make terrific friends and compatriots, and our audience surrogates, full of life and heart, and Leslie Jones is more than capable as the Ghostbuster who doesn’t have the scientific expertise, but makes up for it in New York knowledge and bravery, often jumping first into the breach. And then there is Kate McKinnon, who will surely go onto bigger things from her work here, which is almost a shame in a way – she’s so unique, hilarious, and spirited that I’d be very afraid that some other filmmaker would try to pigeonhole her into something she’s not. McKinnon is spectacularly, awesomely strange in this, and worth seeing again for her work alone.
Where the movie struggles the most is in the third act, when the movie gets big, but that’s also traditional to these movies. There’s a lot of thunder, noise, and cacophony in the film’s last half hour, but the main characters keep us excited and invested. The effects are terrific, and this one ups the wow factor when it comes to spectacle. But it’s not too much for even little kids to handle, and if anything they’ll scream and laugh along with the rest of the audience. Ghostbusters, like the original, is an audience experience, and I’ll need to see it again just to see the spectacle in 3D, but also to catch the jokes I missed over the laughter. Of all the movies released this summer, this is the most infectious and one of the most entertaining.
These women are real heroes in this movie, in a genre severely lacking in these kinds of heroes. They are smart, strong, capable, and most importantly, funny. Every one of these Ghostbusters brings as much joy and comedic talent as any in the original cast. I also love the cameos (look sharp for Harold Ramis in a very nice tribute to him), but they aren’t meant to remind you of the past, but take part in the present, and even, perhaps, the future.
Ghostbusters is terrific summer entertainment. I feel like Harold Ramis would approve, and support this new direction in storytelling. We’ll always have the original; I can see my copy on the shelf from here. It’s time for new blood to take a turn playing in these worlds, and through them, Ghostbusters endures. I am excited to see what the future holds for this franchise. Or, to paraphrase the original, in comparison to the rest of this summer’s releases, Ghostbusters is a very big Twinkie.