Movie Review: “Ghostbusters” – Proton-Packed Fun

Written by Jeremiah Greville July 21, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 Main Cast

Funny, feminist, but certainly not flawless, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is an enjoyable summer movie with plenty to love and plenty to dissect. Brimming with positive energy and great new heroes to cheer for, it doesn’t fully escape the curse of recent remakes, but also doesn’t tarnish the reputation of the original. If you were fully against this movie from the marketing, then it will do little to win you over in the end. But if you were on the fence and are feeling a bit curious, the new Ghostbusters is a surprisingly energetic and fun summer movie experience.

Due to the controversy surrounding this movie, it’s probably best to briefly discuss my history and biases with the Ghostbusters franchise. I grew up watching Ghostbusters 2, and loved it. No, not the classic Ghostbusters, but the lackluster 1989 sequel that featured a walking Statue of Liberty in its third act. That was the copy my family owned, and the one I watched and re-watched, which made every time I saw the original Ghostbusters special by comparison. My childhood is inextricably linked to the Ghostbusters franchise, from the action figures to the subsequent cartoon show to 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game, which featured the main cast returning for a true followup to the original films. Despite all of this, 2016’s Ghostbusters did not destroy my childhood nor rob those original experiences of what made them special. It’s not perfect, and I don’t think it recaptures the magic of the original, but what it will do—and has already successfully done—is inspire a new generation of children to say they ain’t scared of no ghosts.

“I was born to be a Ghostbuster!”

Ghostbusters tells the story of Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), two former friends who reconnect over the rise of paranormal activity in New York. They’re joined by wacky engineer and inventor Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), and their lovably-dumb assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), as the group fights to stop a disgruntled madman from destroying the city. The plot isn’t really anything new, but it’s only there to serve the larger story about the relationships and struggles of the four women at the core of these events, and to squeeze a few laughs from its audience along the way.

Ghostbusters 2016 Main Cast

Left to Right: Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones

This new movie is a comedy first and foremost. While there are a few scary scenes, it’s still a family film with modern sensibilities. All four of the principle cast members (pictured above), as well as Hemsworth, give everything they can to serve that notion, each delivering some genuinely funny performances. Most of what works in this movie is due to their efforts, and those of a few supporting cast members. While the original was jaded and sarcastic, this movie is full of life and exuberant joy. All four women are excited to be Ghostbusters, and have a genuine passion for their chosen field. Unlike a lot of male-driven movies where the main characters reluctantly decide to be heroes, these characters leap at the chance to make a difference, and their enthusiasm is infectious. This is the perfect movie to get children excited about science and discovery, even if it’s filled entirely with science-fiction nonsense. I absolutely recommend it for anyone with young girls in their lives.

Yes, this movie is pandering to women, but guess what? That’s not a bad thing. Practically every movie panders to some demographic or audience. You like shark attacks? Here, have The Shallows. You like fast cars and a vaguely-defined yet all-important sense of family? Here, have Furious 7. You like superheroes? Here, have almost every blockbuster of the past ten years. Pandering only seems to upset people when it’s not directed at them, but in a genre with a disproportionate amount of male-starring films already, it’s nice to see some of that ol’ pandering action directed somewhere new. If you’re a man worried that this new film is somehow exclusionary because of that, rest assured that it is entirely accessible and welcoming. This movie is an invitation, and it’s up to you whether or not to accept it.

Ghostbusters - Slimer

The standout performance, and probably the most divisive element of the entire movie, is Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. If you’re not sure who she is, you will be soon. This was a star-making role, and we will be seeing a lot more of McKinnon because of it. She goes for the joke in every aspect of her delivery, and completely owns the most ridiculous character of the film. Yet, without a doubt, she was my least favourite part of Ghostbusters. Several of her most random bits seem to drain the movie of whatever momentum it had, forcing the action to start up again before continuing. Whenever Holtzmann’s humour served the plot, it seemed to work best, but too often it seemed at odds with the movie itself. Despite this, it’s absolutely clear that she is the instant favourite of many fans and moviegoers, and was meant to be from the start. She’s the Kramer, the Elmo, the Sheldon—less a character than a comedy mascot to rally behind. Whether or not you love or hate this movie will depend largely on your reaction to her character. You’re not wrong if you love her—she’s been designed in a comedy lab to make loving her easy—but I found myself liking the movie despite of, not because of, her role in it.

“I don’t know if it was a race thing, or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell.”

Instead, I found myself enamoured with Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan, who fills the unfortunate Ernie Hudson role of streetwise POC character from the original movie. However, while she’s the only non-scientist of the bunch, this is one of the first times I can remember where ‘streetwise’ in a movie actually meant something. Patty knows the history of New York intimately, making her an invaluable member of the team. Why they couldn’t have simply made her an historian—even a history major working for the MTA—I’ll never know. Jones nails each joke and line, and when she isn’t funny it’s clear that it’s the material failing her, not her failing the material. Wigg and McCarthy are both predictably humorous, as usual, but far more time is spent developing Erin (Wiig) than Abby (McCarthy). McCarthy’s character, while still endearing and believable, is given almost no backstory or motivation of her own, despite getting top billing.

The positive energy in this movie is enough make any toaster dance (go see Ghostbusters 2), and it was hard not to leave the theatre with a smile on my face. While the movie fizzles a bit in the third act, the first two-thirds were genuinely funny and engaging. A lot has been said about Hemsworth’s character Kevin, and he is every bit as charmingly dim-witted as you’ve heard. Multiple running gags revolve around his completely oblivious stupidity and unbelievable good-looks, with Wiig’s character Erin making hilariously misbegotten attempts at flirtation with him. While the affection that the women have for Kevin doesn’t make a lot of sense by the end of the film, his character is one of the best in the movie, and Hemsworth has proven himself a breakout comedy star.

Ghostbusters 2016 Chris Hemsworth

Unfortunately, for every hilarious moment in this film, there are just as many jokes that fall flat. Whether due to poor timing, mediocre scripting, or pointless improvisation, there are many, many parts of Ghostbusters that simply aren’t as funny as they could have been. It’s quite a strange thing to watch at times, and the dramatic irony of these missed opportunities is inescapable—we, the audience, can clearly see where the joke was supposed to go, where the timing would’ve worked, yet the cast and the filmmakers always seem off just a bit. These moments don’t make the movie terrible, and there’s still plenty to like, but they keep it from being the perfect film many hoped it would be.

“Don’t ever compare me to the Jaws mayor!”

In the end, Ghostbusters is a summer blockbuster that stands perfectly fine on its own, and also functions as a loving tribute to the original source material. It features cameos from most of the surviving original cast members, and dedicated performances from each of its leads. While many jokes don’t quite land, many do, and the movie itself still warrants enough laughs for me to recommend it. Each scene buzzes with energy and positivity, challenging the notion that women can’t be Ghostbusters and disproving it with each passing minute.

Stay for the credits if you can—there’s an after-credits scene that sets up a potential sequel, and the first three or four minutes feature Hemsworth dancing, which is worth the ticket price alone. His body in motion is a massage for the eyes, and was a great way to end the film.

MY RATING: 7.5/10

Ghostbusters 2016 Poster

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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