Writer: Paul Feig, Katie Dippold
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Katie McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey
Running time: 116mins
What’s the story: Buttoned-down scientist Erin Gilbert (Wiig) has rejected the world of the paranormal. But, she is pulled back in when she and her childhood buddy Abby Yates (McCarthy), plus oddball genius engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), witness a real life apparition. After New York subway worker Patty Tolan (Jones) spots another ghost, the four women realise something dead and deadly is about to take a bite out of The Big Apple and team up to battle it.
What’s the verdict: “I hear he likes the girls” goes a line in Ray Parker, Jr.’s timeless theme song to the 1984 Ghostbusters. You know who doesn’t like the girls? The internet, in all its mob mentality.
Such was the online vitriol to the announcement that Ghostbusters’ inevitable, though long-gestating do-over was going to turn the boys into girls that the film directly quotes some of that message board bile.
Smart move, but the finest victory would be delivering a funny, enjoyable movie. Thankfully, Ghostbusters 2016 bucks the disappointing reboot trend by actually being funny and enjoyable… for the most part.
The four SNL actresses have genuine chemistry that fizzes off the screen, and play characters not merely mapped over from their male counterparts. All have touches of Ray, splashes of Egon, and McKinnon seems to base in part her technical whiz who designs the ghostbusting hardware on the possessed Louis from the original movie. But, these women are doing it for themselves.
Arguably absent is a large shot of Venkmann smart-arsedness: there is little anarchic bucking of authority here and the film can’t decide if Erin or Abby is the group’s actual leader.
And gender politics are applied with the subtly of a full-on slime attack: there’s not one smart guy in the room. Chris Hemsworth gets good laughs as dumb blonde secretary Kevin, Andy Garcia is a slippery mayor and Neil Casey’s bad guy Rowan, a paranormal obsessed apocalypse nut, orchestrates the ghoulish mayhem in an apparent nod to Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters II.
But, laughs pepper the film, and director Feig has imaginative fun with classic Ghostbusters imagery, from the origin of the logo, to the firehouse HQ, to switching the Ecto-1 from an ambulance to a hearse, to the sheer danger of the ladies’ proton equipment.
What’s missing is the escalating sense of dread Ivan Reitman wove so well into the first movie. That Ghostbusters was a horror comedy, this one is a horror and a comedy. The apparitions are inventive and spectacular (and located somewhere between Ghostbusters and The Frighteners), but there is no moment to rival Dana’s possessed armchair or Louis being pursued by terror dogs.
Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold also cannot top the delirious fun of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man finale. Opting for a frenetic FX bonanza that mixes the end of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II and homages the unmade Ghostbusters Go To Hell, it offers plenty of eye-candy, but too little charm.
Expanding the Ghostbusters’ tools to include proton guns and grenades also sits uneasily while mass-shootings clog up the news. We could also have done with fewer distracting fan-service cameos. Even the sadly-departed Harold Ramis is in here.
But, this is far from the disaster everyone assumed it would be and crucially, it feels like a Ghostbusters film, not some artless rip-off haunted by the greatness of a five-star original.
By sticking close to the template of a superheroes origins movie it also readies the gals for upcoming adventures, including a Marvel style post-credit sting that sets up the peril of the next instalment.
Based on this movie, another go-round is far from a horrifying prospect.