There’s a sense that Paul Feig’s gender-swapped reboot of Ghostbusters has to be a success. As if the grotesque, exclusively male, bandwagon of haters (unprecedented in comparison to other movies) may be right in their sexist frustrations if it fails.
Thankfully, many of the reviews are in. The criticisms of this incarnation are primarily teething issues rather than gross misjudgements on the filmmaker’s part. Between the fast-moving plot and electric central team, Ghostbusters is a welcome fresh take on the series with enormous potential for the future.
Abby Yates (Kristin Wiig) teaches at a respected University and she’s shocked to discover that an old friend, Erin Gilbert (Melissa McCarthy), has revived an are-ghosts-real? book the two penned years before. Their fraught reunion is disrupted when, with fellow engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), they witness a slime-spewing ghost in a spooky old house. Due to YouTube videos and a desperate, rejected request for funding, the three find themselves out of their respective jobs. But, with a dumb receptionist (Chris Hemsworth) and a metro-savvy New Yorker in Patty (Leslie Jones), they form a team dubbed by the press as ‘Ghostbusters’. Suffice to say, a sad loner (Neil Casey) is slowly connecting our world to the underworld, and the city only have the Ghostbusters on the front line to save New York.
Let’s tease the alternative. Three aging Ghostbusters, steeped in nostalgic 1980’s references and call backs to the original film pass the baton to another set of sprightly youngsters who imitate their predecessors in contemporary fashion. In 2016, between Independence Day: Resurgence and Creed, we’ve seen this “requel” (reboot-sequel) enough. Writers Paul Feig and Katie Dippold took the supernatural genre and pumped it full of new blood, without ignoring the anticipated call-backs and nods to the original movie. There are cameos from almost every actor who appeared in Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters but they’re disposable and, strangely, they often pull the film to a screeching halt. Rather than throwing us into an established world, it is clear that Feig delivers his Ghostbusters as an origin story.
It’s a from-the-ground-up rebuild of the series with everything feeding into a secure future for the Ghostbusters. The iconic logo itself is central to the story while the entire “ghosts released from the underworld” finale inevitably sets the stage for the odd ghoul who stays behind (stay back for a post-credits sequence teasing the next instalment). Crucially, I’m looking forward to the next film. Sometimes, Ghostbusters overdoes the slapstick humour (a particular scene involving McCarthy, criticised in the trailer, as her head rotates, fails entirely) and the neon colouration is a preference some may find unappetising. But this self-aware style and family-friendly tone absolutely suits the action-comedy. The chemistry between all four characters is likeable because of their respect for each other and their mutual-appreciation of over-complicated pseudo-scientific lingo. They’re intelligent people, who laugh at themselves and make mistakes. Laughs at Chris Hemsworth’s clueless receptionist and McKinnon’s unhinged, but passionate, proton-gun maker is deftly handled, and it only makes us enjoy their company more.
While Ghostbusters is far from flawless, it is a laugh-out-loud, entertaining ride. I’d watch it again in a heartbeat and, judging the screams, cheers and claps at the end of my screening, I’m clearly not the only one. With a tweak here and there, Feig’s team know their formula works. Now they can drop the baggage of the series, build on the chemistry already established and up the joke counts in the next Ghostbusters: My ticket is already bought.