dir. Paul Feig
written by: Paul Feig, Katie Dippold
starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth
3 out of 4 stars
It was not many years ago I went to see Ghostbusters (1984) in theaters for the first time. Mind, I had seen the movie on television, DVD, streaming, and possibly even laserdisc about forty times since I was a kid. When Paul Feig announced he was rebooting the franchise,–a good fifteen years after I first heard rumors about Ghostbusters 3–, I expected great things from the stellar castings of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. Bringing Feig’s female led comedy mastery and mixing with big budgets effects, it has been one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.
With writing duties shared with The Heat and Parks & Recreation writer Katie Dippold, we find New York invaded (again?) by otherworldly specters. When Columbia University physics instructor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is approached regarding her former life in paranormal exploration, she discovers her coauthor Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) has been spreading their findings that Erin long ago tried to bury. Paired with a new, possibly unhinged research assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), the pair continue to seek those relatives that haunt the end of our beds, or wherever the ghosts of your past happen to spook. Joined by New York-aficionado subway clerk Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), the quartet dive into investigating bizarre paranormal activity popping up around the city.
With all of the criticism and hoopla heaped upon this comedy, the film managed to balance subversion with raucous comedy. Certainly no masterpiece of the genre, Feig and Dippold mixed goofball comedy with jabs at those immediately judging the female casting to create a joyful reboot to charm non-ignorant fans of the original duo and bring in fans of Feig’s previous female led blockbusters, like Spy and Bridesmaids. It’s not entirely clear whether the previous expeditions by the 1980s originals happened in this world; they loop in Slimer, the firehouse, and some fantastic cameos, but there is no mention of the previous Statue of Liberty romp or exploding towers having been previous events. Overall, we were delivered an even sillier version of the classic franchise, not quite as iconic as the first, but far more cohesive and intriguing than the second.
The cast is perfectly selected: four of the funniest women of comedy coming together to make us laugh. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have exceptional chemistry. One can easily believe their oft-kilter scientists have known each other for years, and their rapport is as strong here as in Bridesmaids. Though they are the headliners in the movie, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon steal the show. Patty Tolan, easily viewed as a stereotypical, street-smart New Yorker, has been given a nice touch as a New York savvy city employee. The role is underwritten, yes, but Leslie Jones adds heart and innocence to the character. She wants to join the ghost-busting “club” to enliven her disrespected and uninteresting job as a city official, but what she finds is far more exciting than anticipated. Patty does not shy away from the challenge. The best yeller in comedy, Jones managed her loudest moments (“The power of Patty compels you!” is still one of the funniest moments, even with the moment in the trailer) and some more quiet gems (debating with a graffiti artist) with similar skill.
Kate McKinnon, though, was breathtakingly hilarious. Holtzmann is a madcap character that showcases the Emmy-nominatable moments from her star making years on SNL. The wild-eyed research associate is all characterization of the eccentricities of every engineer-scientist with a benevolent (maybe malevolent) smile. Every movement, from modeling bizarre hats to embracing her own ghost capturing machinery, she is on fire, sometimes literally, with scene stealing juices. The utter fool of the movie, she is easily the sexiest in the most bizarre of ways.
Missing out on expanding Patty’s role or directly referencing Holtzmann’s same-sex attraction does not detract from the female empowered comedy. So close to passing the Bechdel test, save Wiig’s ogling of Chris Hemsworth pretty boy hipster doofus, the film embraces the reboot without bowing the the demands of the internet. The funniest movie of the summer so far, it’s also one of the most exciting. Neighsayers be damned, Ghostbusters is damn good!