‘I’ ON CULTURE
Many of us anticipated the reboot of Ghostbusters, this time with females playing the main roles, as a blast from the past. As it turns out, it is an amiable film — not bad, but clearly a sequel to the originals. It is more amusing than out-and-out funny but, then again, we remember the original now as funnier than it actually was. It was an anomaly; a comedy with a lot of special effects.
Erin (Kristen Wiig) teaches physics at Columbia University, just about set for tenure, when she learns that a book she co-authored many years earlier with childhood friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) that had a limited printing (two copies) is being sold on Amazon. Since the book theorized the existence of ghosts, it made her look foolish, and she lost her professorship. She joined Abby and psycho engineer Jillian (Kate McKinnon) at a sleazebag college, and soon they all lost their jobs.
They wind up setting up above a Chinese restaurant, where they are soon joined by MTA employee Patty (Leslie Jones) and boy toy Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), easily the dumbest character to appear in a movie since Dumb and Dumber 2.
As you might expect, ghosts show up, and the government is unable to do much except try to keep the increasing number of paranormal events secret. So, who you gonna call?
They grab a nasty ghost at a rock concert, but are still pushed aside until, you guessed it, the big event comes and the four women have to fight it out. There is more ghost battling in this one than in the original. The original men had a few small battles before the big one with Mr. Marshmallow. Here, there are lots of smaller battles.
There was talk in the media that the people who disliked an early trailer hated women. The real question, of course, is whether the movie is good. Worrying about having women fighting is nonsense. Had it been done in reverse, most of what the women did could have been done by men. The biggest change seemed to be a bit more of a focus on relationships and the hiring of that boy toy.
The cast was fine. They are all good performers, and they handled the requirements well. Wiig and McCarthy, as the friends, had a chance to get a bit sentimental, while McKinnon and Jones got most of the good lines. McKinnon, who plays the role way over the line, comes across the best. Hemsworth plays his role well, although if this were a role played by a woman, feminists would be picketing. Cecily Strong was good as the mayoral assistant Jennifer, who always comes on too strong, milking a few laughs from not great material, and Andy Garcia did a nice job as a mayor who does not want to hear any bad news.
What separates this from the original? The best thing about the men’s version was how understated the actors actually were. Dan Aykroyd played the straight man, Harold Ramis was the dedicated scientist and Ernie Hudson joined in later on. It was Bill Murray’s deadpan Venkman who stole the show, and that was by generally underplaying everything. The fact that he was a con man who was at first using paranormal studies as a scam, added to the fun. All of them did cameos in the film (although Ramis, now deceased, was just seen as a bust at the college) as did the ectoplasm star (Slimer), the Marshmallow Man, Annie Potts and the old firehouse.
In this film, despite the fact that McCarthy generally plays over the top, she mostly kept her cool. It would have been more fun to see her really let go. But she and Wiig worked together smoothly as old friends. Since we basically knew what was going to happen in advance, however, there was fairly little suspense.
But overall, it was a fun time. The whole audience relaxed into it; folks were willing to accept the anticipation of events that would certainly happen and were nicely entertained.
Should you see it? With ticket prices as high as they are, this is a borderline case. Your money would not be wasted, but you can wait and see it in a few months with On Demand. It’s fun — but not that much fun.