The subject of well over a year’s worth of anticipation, this comedic reboot was in some ways the talk of the summer at the cinema. Initially, publicity was very poor for Ghostbusters. There was some ugly conversation about whether the public was unwilling to accept an all-female core cast rebooting male roles or whether it just didn’t look funny. Either way, the project faced a little bit of an uphill climb after earning this unwanted distinction.
Set in present-day New York City, this action comedy by Paul Feig is a full reboot of the 1984 film (which was directed by Ivan Reitman and starred Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray). It concerns Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), two researchers authoring a book about the paranormal. When Gilbert has the chance to become a professor at Columbia, she abandons the project, and Abby takes up work with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a fellow believer. When their ongoing research turns up more evidence of paranormal activity in New York, Gilbert gets back on board.
Together, the three women form a group called “The Conductors Of The Metaphysical Examination” (soon known publicly as “Ghostbusters”). With more and more ghosts infesting the city and the government publicly against them, they work to contain various crises. Ultimately, they uncover an apocalypse plot by Rowan North (Neil Casey), who’s summoning ghosts to the city. At that point, it’s up to them to save New York with everyone watching.
Not a whole lot more is necessary to explain the plot, which will feel somewhat familiar to Ghostbusters fans even if it’s a fairly complete departure from the original. But the basic idea is the same: a public in mass hysteria, officials in denial, and a small squad of goofy science-types doing their best to vanquish ghosts.
The first question audiences will have asked themselves is a simple one: is it funny? This after all is always the most important box to check for any comedy, but in particular for a remake of a Saturday Night Live-spawned classic that featured some of the biggest comedic names of a generation. And fortunately for Feig and Co., the answer is almost unquestionably yes.Ghostbusters harvests the deadpan wit of Wiig, the popular obnoxiousness of McCarthy, and the expanding talents of a few more SNL actresses to generate a lot of laughs. Not to mention, Chris Hemsworth’s bizarre turn as nerdy secretary Kevin Beckman is pretty amusing. Ultimately though, as one of the early reviews pointed out, it’s pretty apparent that these cast members are just having fun being together. That can be both a positive and a negative for a film, but in comedy it tends to be a good thing. Also, given the familial SNL foundation for this franchise, it was necessary here. The camaraderie yields more fun—and more humour.
Another question audiences will be looking to have answered is whether or not the film resembles, in any way, the classic original. The answer is an emphatic “yes” here as well. From one glance at a trailer or poster, you can tell that the Ghostbusting jumpsuits and ray guns, in addition to some symbols and visual effects, are all made in the image of the 1984 film. Paul Feig and Co. also saw fit to resurrect a few iconic characters, most notably some monsters, in order to provide fun little throwback moments for fans of the original.
Most notably, this meant a brief showing by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, who’s undoubtedly the most enduring monster from the original. Something like a giant Michelin Man/Pillsbury Doughboy, he towered over the likes of Aykroyd and Murray 30 years ago, and even before the reboot became big news, he was still attached to a mainstream online game. Right in line with several slots and games with film and TV subjects, the “Ghostbusters” slot boasts images of a number of characters from the ’84 film. And its cover and some of its slot reel’s internal bonus features focus on the Marshmallow Man himself, using him as the image to draw in fans who might want to play. On a similar note, this summer’s film also brought back Slimer, a sinister green blob who’s almost as significant as the Marshmallow Man to the franchise.
None of this is to say this film is perfect, so much as that it accomplishes its two primary objectives: to be funny and to capture the spirit of the original. It does a few things wrong as well. The effects, while essential, are a little bit overblown, and McCarthy’s starring role isn’t for everybody. There’s acknowledgement here that she’s funny because she certainly has a big following, but if you find her brand of comedy to be annoying and lacking any particular cleverness, well, you’re not alone.
But as a whole, this is an enjoyable film, either for a bit of light fun at the summer cinema, or as piece of nostalgia.