By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
For cinephiles, the word remake can be a dirty word, or at least an unwelcome one, but the ire and controversy that has snowballed over the new “reimagined” Ghostbusters has become utterly ridiculous, and in some cases, offensively sexist. Granted, the original 1984 Ghostbusters is movie that holds a special place in my heart and the hearts of other film geeks worldwide; however, that doesn’t completely mean that there is no room for a remake, reboot, reimagining, or whatever re-prefixed label one chooses to give a film. As long as filmmakers can offer a somewhat fresh take on a movie premise or concept, I am usually open to give them a chance.
In this case, I went into this film, open to a Ghostbusters team consisting of intelligent and funny women, as long as the writers and director didn’t retread tiresome and old story material. That said; I left this new Ghostbusters movie somewhat satisfied, but at the same time, not overly impressed. Writer/director Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids), co-writer Katie Dippold, and a talented cast have revitalized an old, but not forgotten movie franchise. They manage to make this Ghostbusters their own baby, while still honoring and respecting the original movies which inspired them.
Much like the original, this film focuses on a trio of highly intelligent scientists fascinated with the paranormal. After losing her job as a professor at Columbia University, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) reluctantly teams up with friend and former science partner Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) to investigate a possible haunting. Gilbert and Yates are joined by eccentric genius Dr. Jillian Holtzmann who has a brilliant talent for designing and creating equipment for detecting paranormal entities. After the three have an encounter with a furious ghost, they decide to go into the ghost hunting business. They are later joined by Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a former MTA employee who encountered ghosts in one of the subway tunnels, and the hilariously air-headed Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth), whom the women hire as their receptionist. As the team investigates more paranormal activity, they discover a malevolent plot that could destroy the city and possibly the world.
Though I realize the basic plot elements are nearly identical to the original film, Dippold and Feig give this film its own style and rhythm, and don’t even attempt to duplicate the characters of the first film. There are no female versions of Venkman, Stanz, Spengler, or Zeddemore here, Gilbert, Yates, Holtzmann, and Tolan have their own distinct personalities and quirks. Kevin Beckman is nothing at all like Janine Melnitz and the evil supernatural plot plays out differently from the plans of Gozer, Zuul, and Vinz Clortho. That’s what is good about this film. Dippold and Feig offer a different, almost alternate universe take on the Ghostbusters, and the results are fun and enjoyable.
Now, I wouldn’t be a good critic if I don’t mention the downside of all this. The comedy in this film, though quite funny at times, is not as sharp, smart and witty as the original film. Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon make for charming and highly likable characters, but there are no strong standouts in this team like Bill Murray in the original. Leslie Jones comes pretty darn close as the no-nonsense, more practical Patty Tolan. Her attitude and talent for delivering strong and funny lines does provide for much humor, but even her schtick gets a little bit stale in moments. The funniest character came as a surprise to me. Actor Chris Hemsworth is an absolute riot as the ridiculously dim-witted and inept receptionist Kevin. This was surprising, not because I didn’t think he has the chops for comedy, but because I didn’t expect his character to offer so many belly laughs.
As I previously stated, the film does offer much love and respect to the original film, with some jokes, nods, and cameos connected to the 1984 movie. All of these moments payoff nicely and actually make the movie more enjoyable. I’d rather not spoil any of these, as they are funnier and more lovable as surprises. The movie does stall a tad in the middle, but really picks up for the fun and exciting climax sequence. The visual effects also look quite impressive. For once I wish the studio had shown press the 3D version of the film because I get the impression that it could look amazing in that format.
And because the visuals are well done and because the movie is actually pretty good, I think the movie is definitely worth checking out at the cinema for a fun afternoon matinee. I can’t honestly say for sure that the 3D version will deliver and add to the experience, but the 2D format works well enough. As for all the skeptics and those unsure about the story, comedy, and characters, Ghostbusters 2016 doesn’t outshine the original, but is a decent attempt at restarting a lovable franchise for a new generation. As for the sexist detractors and whiners complaining about women Ghostbusters, they need to grow-up and get with the times. Otherwise, these ladies do not need their approval to do their own thing.