No big whup and no big fat flop either, the female reboot of Ghostbusters settles for being a fine, fun time at the movies. And yet Internet trolls have been talking shit about Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones since their casting was announced. As one neghead tweeted: “I hear the new Ghostbusters movie won’t have proton packs, the women will just bitch at the ghosts until they fuck off.” Does Hillary Clinton get slimed with anti-estrogen loathing as much as this movie’s four leading ladies? Probably, but still.
Dissing on this irresistible nonsense is like making a marshmallow (think Stay Puft) face a firing squad. So ease up, fanboys, these scrappy women are the best thing this gender-swapped Ghostbusters has going for it. The ladies don’t represent a desecration of the 1984 original with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and the late Harold Ramis — besides, the same testosterone gang did a pretty good job of screwing up themselves with 1989’s Ghostbusters II. If anything, director Paul Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold show an excess of reverence for the first film, bringing most of the previous cast back for lackluster cameos and building their story on the bones of what came before.
McCarthy’s Abby Yates and Wiig’s Erin Gilbert are both disgraced New York academics who’ve lost favor by trying to use science to prove the existence of ghosts. They’re also smart, independent women who don’t fit the babe criteria, making them easy to write off as lonely misfits in a Hollywood flick. None of that gender-slander for Feig, however, a filmmaker best known for such terrific femcentric hits as Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy.
Here’s the plot, such as it is: After a rift in which Erin tried to hide her rogue past with the paranormal, she teams up with Abby and Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a gearhead who invents cool gadgets that would have Q from the Bond movies slapping his head in envy. Joining them in their dumpy headquarters over a Chinese restaurant is new recruit Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), who dumps her job at the MTA when a ghost on the tracks goes medieval on her ass. Thor, in the person of an up-for-anything Chris Hemsworth, takes the dumb sex-object role of Kevin, incompetent secretary to the team; only Erin seems to notice his ripped abs. It’s a bimbo joke is played for all its worth, which is surprisingly more than you think.
After dawdling too much on their backstories, the movie sets the busters to busting. And for a while, it’s a hoot watching the team drive around in their Ecto-mobile (a converted hearse) and take on such creepies as a flying dragon who goes ballistic at a rock concert. A subplot about a victim of bullying (Neil Casey) who uses the paranormal to take vengeance on a cruel world is too much of a middling thing. And Feig, clearly enamored of the miracles of new technology, leans way too hard on the VFX pedal. By the last third, Ghostbusters is so awash in digital dizziness you can hardly see the characters for the megapixels. That’s a shame, because the four actresses are something to see, capable of maneuvering through dead spots in the script like the pros they are. McCarthy and Wiig still do wonders even staying within the parameters of roles they have played before. And if you watch Saturday Night Live, you know how Jones can spin attitude into major laughs.
The big surprise here is McKinnon, also an SNL MVP (her Hillary is already iconic). She’s a live-wire whose every gesture, reaction and line-reading seems fresh and off-the-wall — a spontaneous eruption of hellfire hilarity. No special effect can top what’s happening on McKinnon’s face when she aims her proton weapon at a hunk of evil goo and roars, “Light her up.” The actress definitely lights up this reboot, a movie of highs and lows that actually acknowledges its detractors when Erin reads an Internet blast: “Ain’t no bitches gonna bust no ghosts.” Wanna bet? Slime Ghostbusters all you want for its lazy reliance on CGI gimmicks and its lapses in pacing — but there’s no faulting the ladies. In a summer of macho bluster, they sure as hell know how to raise spirits.Watch ‘Ghostbusters’ Director Ivan Reitman discusses the original 1984 blockbuster hit.