In the Aldrich Mansion, the daughter of the family was locked in confinement after stabbing all of the house servants to death. Now, she has returned to wreak supernatural havoc on a lowly tour guide (Zach Woods).
Meanwhile, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is trying to rectify her reputation and achieve tenure after an early book of hers about the existence of ghosts has resurfaced online. The co-writer of the book, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), on the other hand, is still in the pursuit of the paranormal with her new partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When Erin confronts Abby about the book, she finds herself roped into the Aldrich case, and soon enough the Ghostbusters are formed.
The controversy behind this movie makes it incredibly difficult not to compare it back to the original, but, without making too many of such comparisons, I think the 2016 film does a good job of towing the line between fan-service and original material.
Additionally, as classic as the original is, it is terribly dated. Where some remakes of older films have a bumpy ride updating to the times, this one does it fairly smoothly. Visually, too, it is updated to something that looks good, although it too will likely be dated in 30 years.
The characters we get here have similar framework characteristics to their 1984 counterparts, but they are also characters with distinct and vibrant personalities that allow them to stand on their own. As a result, we get a Ghostbusters team that feels familiar yet refreshingly new at the same time.
The comedic strengths of the four leads are highlighted accordingly. We don’t have Bill Murray’s unflappable dry charisma or Rick Moranis’ subtle ticks and quirks. But the four all have charisma of their own, and McKinnon takes over in the quirks department, as she has subtle (as well as much less subtle) quirks to spare. As easy as it is for quirkiness to go wrong, McKinnon owns the trait well, and she is the standout performance of the four. That said, the team all play off of each other well.
Chris Hemsworth also stands out as the overly-dim secretary. Somehow, making his character’s idiocy as unbelievable as ghosts is an idea just over-the-top enough to not be a forced punchline. However, they do play up early on Erin’s romantic fascination for Hemsworth’s character to the point of groan-worthiness.
Paul Feig and Katie Dippold’s writing is sharp, particularly in the first act and at the very end of the film. Small gags are played unassuming, then are called back upon at the perfect time to make for an unexpected joke that lands beautifully.
In this way and others, the script does what the original Ghostbusters did so well, which is to take the smallest detail or action and use it to set up characters or create a comedic motif. Where fans of the original may view this new film as an apocalyptic tearing down of their childhood, they should note that the creative forces behind this film have similar comedic inclinations as the team behind the original. The similarities may be minor (save for the overt fan-service, which is hit or miss), but there is a strong sense that the film is working hard to honor the original property while also creating something new.
On the other hand, where the original film presents phony science inventions with the faith that viewers will suspend their disbelief without the need for explanation, this film is jam-packed with faux paranormal science jargon that is wholly unnecessary. It makes for one good joke that occurs once the credits start rolling, but what it comes down to is that we don’t need explanations for how the Ghostbuster’s gear came to be.
Pacing is the major issue with this film. Oddly enough, it is when the conflict starts in earnest that the comedy plateaus. The first act is littered with bits that land, but the second act is less eventful on the comedic front.
Action in the middle of the film, too, while present, provide only marginal entertainment value. The luminous, wispy visual effects are appealing, sure, but they all start blending together as the film progresses. The climactic final action sequence does present enough narrative stakes to make for an exciting conclusion, but trudging through the second act makes it a long time coming.
For what it’s worth, Ghostbusters takes the classic premise to new territory and runs with it. An original take paired with strong characters and even stronger performances make this a worthwhile reboot, whether you think it was a necessary reboot or not.
I was going to end the review with a pun a la “You need not be afraid of no Ghostbusters reboot,” but I really don’t feel like being that cheesy today. Also, I’m sure other positive reviews have beat me to that lame joke.
Additionally, if you just go into this movie knowing it will not be the perennial comedy that the 1984 movie was, then you are bound to find some joy in it. It’s a movie about ghosts, why are we taking it so seriously?
As always, thanks for reading!
Watch the original Ghostbusters before you see the new one (psst, it’s on sale right now!).
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)