It’s refreshing when a project flooded with unnecessary controversy is finally released. Whether the pre-release backlash toward the reimagining of the beloved 1984 comedy “Ghostbusters” is rooted in Hollywood reboot fatigue or sexism is now a mote point. Director Paul Feig generates a crackling energy that makes this “Ghostbusters” consistently fun while still keeping his feet firmly entrenched in the formula established by its predecessors.
Comedy is, perhaps more than any other form of artistic expression, subjective. The dry humor of the original ’84 film, which in many respects took its ghosts and ghouls very seriously, is replaced with a broader improvisational tone. Fans of “Spy” and “Bridesmaids,” Feig’s previous directorial efforts, will find a lot to love here, even if it never gets to the R-rated shock value he often brings to his comedies.
Nothing in this new take belittles or negates the value of the original. For all of its cultural worth and iconography, the original Ghostbusters film is a popcorn flick at heart.. Perhaps a little more serious-minded than most comedies today, but its existence was to entertain audiences with light scares and a group of professional ghost hunters with the wit of SNL’s hottest stars, Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray. The new movie is an equally giddy romp, quick with humorous quips and light on plot. In just about every respect, it is in the same tradition as its predecessors, just with humor befitting the new cast.
The connection between all the members is not only lively, but also brings surprising warmth to what could have easily been a cold calculated affair. The history between two of the Ghostbusters on the team, Abby (played by Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (played by Kristen Wiig), brings an emotional sincerity to the film’s third act which manages to shine through even in the midst of an action-heavy conclusion. While Abby is passionate about her research in the paranormal, Erin wishes to put her past involvement in the field behind due to bullying and professional rejection. Both know that ghosts exist, but the ways which they have chosen to live with the knowledge is at the heart of the film.
The rest of the cast is nothing to slouch at either. Despite the early trailers seeming to indicate otherwise, Leslie Jones is hysterical as Patty, a subway station worker turned Ghostbuster after a near fatal encounter with an electrically charged ghost. Jillian is the oddball of the group whose middle-name might as well be ‘quirky’, but Kate McKinnon is clearly having a blast in every scene that she’s in, elevating what could have been a rather one-dimensional role in the hands of a lesser talent.
What is exciting about all these new faces is that there’s bound to be a whole new set of young fans, many of which could be young girls, who are going to fall in love with this new group the same way kids decades before fell in love with Bill Murray and company.
If “Ghostbusters” weren’t a “Ghostbusters” film, it would function just as well as its own independent entity. Of course, this would require changing some aesthetics and knowing references, but the comedy isn’t specific to fans of the series. There’s hardly a dull moment in the film’s entire runtime, but the pace is never so maniac as to draw focus away from the ghostbusters and their comradery. The team’s enthusiasm for uncovering the secrets of the unknown is the film’s most infectious element, just as it was in the original. Cameos from the original cast are sprinkled throughout, and while they are hilarious to those in the know, they aren’t going to confuse those not in the know either.
There’s frequently an attitude amongst franchise filmmakers that the audience will automatically know what they’re referencing and get dutifully ecstatic over it, such as the reveal of the Millennium Falcon in “The Force Awakens” or the T-Rex saving the day right at the tail end of “Jurassic World.”
“Ghostbusters” is not light on references, in fact they come fast and frequently, but they don’t make the film less accessible either. They are mostly nods and asides, with an exception given to Bill Murray, whose role is quite meatier than one may expect from a cameo appearance. Viewers who can’t tell a proton pack from a firehose will still find a lot to like.
When it comes to the near endless assault of reboots and reimaginings being sold as something new and fresh, Ghostbusters comes up as one of the most endearing franchise restarts in recent memory.
Expect a lot of smiling faces when coming out of the cinema from both men and women alike.
After all, busting makes everyone feel good.