The spirit’s in the right place with this new conjuring of Ghostbusters and they’re ready to rescue the languishing summer movie season with a genuinely fun movie.
Here’s some food for thought as we pack our EVP recorders, EMF meters and proton packs before heading out to bust some ghosts. Should the new Ghostbusters pick up the storyline 27 years after Ghostbusters II or should it start with a clean slate, as if the original crew never saved New York City (a couple times)?
Co-writers Paul Feig and Kate Dippold (who teamed up on The Heat, one of Feig’s better movies) have answered that question, but whether or not they chose wisely will likely be a topic of geek talk for some time to come.
As it stands, they start with a clean slate. There’s no hand-off from the old crew to the new. But this reboot’s biggest surprise is how it — under Feig’s direction — manages to capture the tone and feel of the original movies while buffing it all up for 2016. The tenor steers clear of Feig’s oftentimes abrasive shtick and instead happily channels the mellow irreverence of the Murray/Aykroyd/Ramis dynamic.
Channeling the Experts
So, how is the new (female) cast?
They’re uniformly terrific.
Even Melissa McCarthy, who’s become a little too well known for grating, obnoxious characters in hard-to-swallow fare such as Spy, Tammy and Identity Thief, is quite amiable as the nerdy Abby. In fact, all four of the new Ghostbusters are amiable.
The Saturday Night Live factor is alive and well. Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were key members of the ‘70s cast; now SNL alum Kristen Wiig joins current members Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon (a 2016 Emmy nominee perhaps best known for her take on Hillary Clinton).
All four have their native professions. Two are paranormal investigators on the outs with each other. Erin (Kristen Wiig) co-wrote a book on the topic with Abby and she’s thoroughly embarrassed to find it on sale on Amazon; it’ll squash her chances of getting tenure as a serious science professor at Columbia University. Jillian (Kate McKinnon) is the mad scientist of the group, the one who builds their ghost tech, including cool new gadgets like the ghost chipper. Patty (Leslie Jones) quits her job at New York City’s MTA in order to bust some ghost butt after one particularly spooky underground incident.
And, continuing that gender swap, the new office administrator is male. A dopey male, at that. But mighty handsome (he is, after all, played by Chris Hemsworth, Thor).
Ghosts from Our Past
There are some really great cameos sprinkled into the action, but the only one that’ll be mentioned here is the one most likely to go unnoticed. It’s in the scenes at Columbia University, early in the movie, when a bust of Dr. Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis) is seen in a hallway.
While the movie is a clean slate in terms of the narrative, there’s plenty of affection for what happened back in the ‘80s. That includes a nice recurring use of the famous Ghostbusters theme music throughout the movie.
In terms of Ghostbusters lore, there are loads of references and revisions. The team considers moving into a familiar-looking fire station, but the rent’s too damn high. Instead, they move into a space above Abby’s favorite Chinese restaurant (it’s a love-hate relationship; she rarely gets what she wants from her Indian delivery guy).
The familiar Ghostbusters logo gets a graffiti origin story and a newscaster coins the name “Ghostbusters,” much to Erin’s chagrin. Actually, those bits serve to fill in some of the blanks from the original movies. Abby struggles to come up with catchy marketing material, but the best she can come up with is, “If you see something, say something.” Uh. That’s already taken.
And two of the most famous ghosts ever, Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, both get nice CGI upgrades.
It was harder to gauge the anticipation for the new Ghostbusters than the EMF activity at the North Pole. As a cold indicator of a lack of enthusiasm, the new movie has the odd claim to fame of having its Mattel toy line already knocked down to clearance prices before the movie even hits theaters.
Much of the anticipation and controversy revolves around how big of a fiasco it might — or might not — be to do all that gender swapping. People get bored. People make big deals out of nothing. People chirp on social media. Sigh. Welcome to 2016, Slimer.
Whether it was prescience or slipped in as the cyber brouhaha festered during production, Feig manages to acknowledge the haters and brush them off as such while Abby reads negative comments on their spooktacular YouTube video recorded in a New York City subway tunnel.
Smudging it all up even further is the rumor mongering surrounding a second, parallel reboot with a male cast starring Channing Tatum and with the comic book movie-savvy clout of the Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War) at the helm. More pressing, though, is this question: Will it be Ghostbusters 4 or Ghostbusters IV, heralding the long-awaited return of Roman numerals to big-budget Sequelville (outside of Star Wars)? Or will it be Ghostbusters II (again)?
Actually, put it all together and there’s the makings for something along the lines of a mini Marvel Universe. With a nod to those blockbusters, there’s even a post-credits tease of hauntings to come.