After the screening I attended of Paul Fieg’s Ghostbuster’s remake, a friend told me it was important I mention in my review that I don’t like the original Ghostbusters. Now, let me be clear. That isn’t true. I like Ivan Reitman’s 1984 Ghostbusters just fine. I saw it when I was 12. It made me laugh.
That is the one and only time I saw the original Ghostbusters, so when I walked into the theater at North Hills on Tuesday night all I wanted was to see a movie that made me laugh. I had no sentimental attachments to anything I did or didn’t see on screen. As my friend said “you didn’t come in with any fanboy baggage.”
The new Ghostbusters, which unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know is populated by an all female cast of heroes. Melissa McCarthy is joined by three SNL products in the titular roles: Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
McCarthy and Wiig play lifelong friends who bonded over a fascination with the supernatural, but have drifted apart over time. Wiig’s character, Erin, has her heart set on tenure in the physics department at Columbia. McCarthy’s Abby has teamed with McKinnon’s Holtzman to head up the paranormal studies department at a far less prestigious school. The three are brought together when a ghost appears in a historic Manhattan mansion and they are called in to investigate. Another ghost pops up in the NYC subway, where Jones’ Patty is an attendant. She soon becomes the fourth member of the team.
Critics are mostly viewing this new take on Ghostbusters favorably, but the descending voices are all pointing to a weak story as the movie’s key flaw, and look, I have to agree that the story is only loosely strung together. But this is a comedy. The yardstick that it should be measured by is the simple “is it funny?” And you know what? This movie is damn funny!
Every joke lands strong. The one-liners and asides of the cast, not just the Ghostbusters themselves, but by the supporting cast too, are really strong. Also, some of the small supporting performances pull in big laughs. Long time SNL writer Steve Higgins’ single scene role as Abby’s and Holtzman’s vulgar boss was one of my favorite things in the script.
See, this what separates Ghostbusters from most big budget comedies in 2016. There are actual jokes. A fellow film critic pointed this out earlier this year when Zoolander 2 (I don’t know if that was the actual title, and frankly I don’t care.) was released. Most comedies have replaced laugh lines with cameos. Why? It’s easier to put a smile on the viewer’s face through a sense of nostalgia because “oh, he played Flash Gordon” than it is to write a funny joke. That’s not what Ghostbusters is built on. Yes, the original living cast members make appearances, but each one is a small part of the story instead of being the movie’s flashing “applause” sign.
I was also very impressed with the script’s willingness to lampoon its own real life story. Cinephiles and comedy fans should remember well the blow back writer/director Paul Feig faced for having the gall to announce that he wanted to remake Ghostbusters with an all female cast. Scores of fanboys took to the internet to express their outrage with Feig’s intention to “destroy their childhood” and “ruin a perfectly funny franchise in the name of women’s lib!”
That’s why my friend says it’s important for me to tell you that I have no real relationship with the original Ghostbusters. There’s apparently nothing at stake for me, or at least not as much at stake.
I would counter that by saying all I wanted from this movie was a decent number of laughs, and it more than delivered on that. I don’t need Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to bow down at the altar of Bill Murray in order for me to give this movie a C-grade.
This has largely been a disappointing summer for movies. Ghostbusters isn’t disappointing. It’s actually really really good. It should be the same kind of launching pad for McKinnon that Feig’s Bridesmaids was for Melissa McCarthy.
Accept that this isn’t the original Ghostbusters. Hell, accept that the original Ghostbusters is just a movie, not the lynchpin on which your childhood memories rest, and just enjoy this movie for what it is - damn funny!
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.