by George Wolf
Just weeks ago, Dan Aykroyd set the trollosphere into a stage 5 tizzy when he dared to suggest the new Ghostbusters just might be scarier – and funnier – than his 1984 version.
He’s not really wrong.
Simmer down, I’m not saying this new one is a better. It doesn’t match the freshness or overall attitude of the original that, when combined with generational nostalgia and Bill Murray’s ascension to beloved icon, has propelled the film to a slightly more lofty pop culture perch than it deserves.
But, the 2016 GB’s do battle more frightening ghosts and do deliver a solid amount of laughs.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is chasing tenure at Columbia University, and trying to forget her days chasing ghosts. A report of a local haunting reconnects Erin with old partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her new tech wizard Jillian Holtzman (a scene-stealing Kate McKinnon). The trio gets a close encounter of the slimy kind, brings the feisty Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) on board, and sets up shop in modest digs above a Chinese restaurant, which somehow still doesn’t help them get lunch any faster (delivery guy: “I have bad knees.”)
Director/co-writer Paul Feig gives each actor both the material and the space to carve out distinct characters, and it isn’t long before casting that smelled like a gimmick feels not only inspired, but perhaps the most sensible way to reboot such a classic team.
Giving the ladies an air-headed piece of beefcake named Kevin for a secretary (Chris Hemsworth, having a charming bit of fun with his own image) isn’t a bad move either. The comic benefits are obvious, but it’s also one of the devices the film leans on to throw subtle shade at the misogynistic vitriol that’s been spewing since the female leads were announced.
Stars from the ’84 film make effective and well-placed cameos (extra points for the clever way the late Harold Ramis is included), but eventually the amount of homage feels excessive for a film blazing its own trail. A similar penchant for excess bleeds into the finale, as our heroes face off against a number of spectacular ghouls in a fireworks-laden battle, but can’t wrap it up before an unnecessary serving of schmaltz creeps in.
McCarthy and director/co-writer Paul Feig again prove to be a reliable comedic team, but can’t quite match the sustained hilarity of Bridesmaids or Spy, which is actually a bit ironic. Similar expectations dogged Ramis and Murray after the successes of Caddyshack and Stripes, but initial concerns about their ghost-chasing epic got vaporized in a New York minute.
Can the new look GB’s repeat? They’re off to a solid start, and be sure to stay through the credits for a clue about who they ain’t gonna be afraid of next.