Before its premier on 15 July, 2016, internet trolls raised an unholy hoopla about filming a remake of the classic 1980’s film, Ghostbusters, with comedic women as leads. Writers Paul Feig and Katie Dippold nodded to the original while presenting their own spin on the beloved franchise.
Movie action begins with Professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) meeting the dean about her tenure. To her horror, a paranormal research book she wrote with school days friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) becomes available for sale and ruins her advancement. Gilbert teams up with Yates and engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), forming what the media calls “The Ghostbusters.” Friendly, street-wise, and knowledgeable paranormal witness Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins, quickly becoming the most sensible member of the group.
Although peopled with a nemesis, unsavory mayor and staff, and of course plenty of spooks, the plot stumbles at times. The comedic acuity of the leads never quite gels, as though they present a caricature of themselves instead of proving again their usual, effortless comedic chops. The staggered dialogue is not always witty and is often peppered with off-putting pseudo-technobabble. Yates’ best interactions are with a negligent food delivery person, while Holtzmann begins as more of a teenage boy than an intelligent, almost steam-punk slick mad genius. Holtzmann is at her best when introducing inventions. Patty provides transportation and some great lines, and Gilbert should have been arrested for sexual harassment when the team hires Kevin, their receptionist.
Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin, an incompetent receptionist hired for his good looks, bordered on appalling. Hemsworth’s acting isn’t in question. In fact, “Thor” seemed to enjoy poking fun at himself. The writing, however, portrayed the sort of vapid beauty the likes of which haven’t been seen since Marilyn Monroe or Christina Applegate’s “Married with Children” role. Feminism is about equality of opportunity and acknowledgement of ability. To portray the receptionist as the very worst sort of dumb blond smacked of absurdity. In a reversal of the traditional roles, the team launches a rescue mission after the villain possesses Kevin, setting up a dance scene opportunity left unrealized until the very end of the flick.
The special effects glistened with fluorescent slime, and some of the ghosts were quite beautiful. Plenty of familiar characters make appearances, and the cameos abounded. The new Ghostbusters struggle for acceptance, a way to climb above the “Ghost Girl” taunts from Gilbert’s youth. They react with enthusiasm when they encounter a fully formed apparition. Even when the tide of public acceptance turns against them, they bond together acknowledging, “We’re all Ghost Girl.”
Ghostbusters 2016 conjured some of the nostalgic feel of the original film while providing goofy, effects-heavy, summer fun. Some great potential setups fall forgotten, such as a charlatan tour guide who introduces the first class-four apparition at the haunted manor house or the real motivation behind government sweeping government cover-ups. However, Ghostbusters 2016 is better than Ghostbusters 2 or its resultant cartoons. It even delivered a mini-startle on an occasion. In all, as Holtzmann said, “Booyah, emphasis on the Boo.”
“We ain’t scared of no ghosts.”