The controversy surrounding this year’s all-female Ghostbusters reboot reached unbelievably high points over the past few months leading up to its release, and unfortunately, the movie’s less-than-stellar trailers hadn’t done much to boost confidence from even hopeful fans either. However, with a promising creative team behind its back, including one of the most talented comedic directors working today in Paul Feig at the helm, and a stellar cast of female leads and supporting players, Sony has managed to create a mostly-effective reboot to one of cinema’s most beloved comedic franchises here.
Acting as a completely fresh start for the property, the new Ghostbusters picks up in a modern day New York City, as paranormal events begin to seemingly grow more frequent throughout it. This ends up bringing together long-time, but estranged friends Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), a duo of paranormal-obsessed scientists who team up to research a site that was apparently subject to some serious paranormal activity. Along for the ride comes Abby’s new partner, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), an engineer who revels in the ass-kicking chaos her inventions can unleash.
At the beginning of the movie, Abby and Erin are at completely different points in their lives, with the latter trying to solidify her career as a serious scientist to her boss (played briefly by Charles Dance) and colleagues, while Abby feels a bitterness towards Erin for leaving their paranormal investigations behind. That is, until the trio come face-to-face with some real life ghosts, giving them the confidence to create the Ghostbusters and eventually leads them to crossing paths with their fourth member, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), an MTA worker with a historical knowledge of the city who introduces the team to their main villain. From there on in, the movie goes full force into its ghost-bustin’ adventures.
Thanks to a very tense and surprisingly effective opening sequence as well, it becomes clear fairly early on in the film when you realize that the mostly abysmal trailers had been keeping a lot of the movie’s strengths secret, and it was nice to see Feig and co. pay so much attention to the franchise’s sci-fi and horror elements, while only sprinkling in brief moments of comedy at first.
Though the script (written by Feig and Katie Dippold) does struggle heavily to push through all of the necessary exposition and introductions in its first act, including establishing the pre-existing relationships between some of the characters. The dialogue was oddly clunky and out-of-place at times, and a number of the first act’s biggest flaws occur because of its rushed nature - it disappointingly lacks the patient pace that the original Ghostbusters had.
Unfortunately, the movie also falls victim to the same problem that a number of prequels do, for some reason feeling the desire to come up with extremely more complicated and often drawn out explanations and origins for the team’s logo and name, rather than just wisely skipping past it all like the original film did.
Luckily, after all the necessary set up and exposition has been given though, the movie enters into a strong second act, which finds the team gaining a larger reputation throughout the city, and not only was it consistently funnier than any other segment in the movie, it was also the most enjoyable, fun, and modern. The new Ghostbusters succeeds most when it allows its characters to have as much fun as it wants the audience to, and not when they get too caught up in the plot. It takes a little bit longer than I may have wanted, but when Ghostbusters actually begins to feel confident in being its own movie, rather than just a reboot of two classic predecessors, is when it’s actually able to have fun with itself.
A number of the movie’s most brilliant moments are thanks to the pitch-perfect casting of the its leads and supporting characters as well. Kristen Wiig being maybe the most obvious casting out of the four leads to begin with, and as she brings her usual awkwardness and shy nature to Erin, it’s not hard to see why it seemed like such a no-brainer in the first place. Melissa McCarthy luckily manages to get out of her usual schtick here also, though her Abby may be the most forgettable out of the four. Especially when she’s standing next to McKinnon’s Holtzmann and Jones’ Tolan, who are both criminally underused in the movie’s first act, but slowly are given more to do as the run time goes on, and are able to become more than just their weird ticks they’re introduced with.
The surprise of the movie belongs to Chris Hemsworth though, who’s introductory scene as the ladies’ first receptionist, Kevin, is easily one of the funniest in the film. Though the movie does beat his character’s idiotic nature into the ground heavily during its third act, the Thor actor brings enough charm and well, handsomeness, to the part that he very much feels like a suitable member of the team by the end of it all.
If the second act is the best, most cohesive, and original part of the movie though, then the third act is probably the strangest, as the movie devolves too heavily into just a montage of the Ghostbusters shooting their proton packs at legions of ghost clones and throwing out disappointingly bad one liners that rarely elicited laughs in my theatre. Unlike the final battle in the original 1984 movie, which wisely kept a self-contained wit about it, the climactic battle in the movie is the most generic and feels clunky compared to everything else that came before.
I couldn’t have helped but wish that Feig and co. had avoided relying so heavily on the visual effects in the final minutes of the movie than they chose to, cause it just ended up feeling too reminiscent of every other world-ending scene we see in every other blockbuster in these summer months, without doing anything all that new or original here.
With that being said though, it is difficult to go from the previous movies to this one and I think people often have a hard time whenever a franchise is brought back to life decades after its previous installment, and there’s no way to accurately describe how much the 1980s time setting and signature graininess is a part of the original Ghostbusters movies, in the same way that proton packs or Twinkies are. Making a jump from that to a high-def, glossy and visual effects-heavy update will always feel jarring at first, but Feig and co. manage to make a movie that attempts to both honor the original films that came before it, while also making a movie very much their own, despite being more admirable than effective sometimes.
In terms of franchise reboots, Ghostbusters is less Batman Begins and more like The Amazing Spider-Man. There’s a lot to like and have fun with in this movie, a majority of it being the talent of its lead stars, but there’s also large amounts of room for improvement and fine-tuning as well. I doubt I’ll revisit it or any of its jokes the same way that I do with the 1984 original, but if the goal of the latest outing was to make me interested and excited to see this team come together again, then I’d be willing to say that the Ghostbusters reboot is a success in its own right. Even if it’s only a minor one at that.
Ghostbusters is set to theatres on July 15th.
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