To say that Ghostbusters has some pre-release discussion is a little like suggesting a monsoon is a tiny bit wet. Before the film was even in post production, the film had attracted an array of scorn and anger, some of it fans of the original angry at the very idea of a remake and some of it unfortunately people enraged at the idea of woman-led blockbuster. The former eventually got swept up in the latter and then the backlash to the sexism set in, and then the backlash to the backlash and…well you get the idea.
Which seems like a lot of weight to be putting on what amounts to a light summer blockbuster. Sure it’s a remake of an all time classic (and last year’s big remake of a classic movie, Mad Max, wound up on most people’s Best of the Year list) but I don’t remember this level of rage over say, the Robocop or Oldboy remakes, both of which were remakes of all time classics and both of which deeply, truly messed up in making a good product. But all of that also ignores the much more important question of whether or not the movie is any good.
Our plot kicks off with Erin (Kristen Wiig), a well respected professor up for tenure becoming panicked when she learns that a book she wrote on ghosts with her former best friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) is being sold online. When she goes to confront her, she finds that she and a new lab assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) are working on a way to record and trap ghosts.
And they get a chance to test it immediately, recording a video of a ghost and costing Erin her tenure. But, not to be deterred, they start up a business capturing ghosts in order to end hauntings. They immediately get the attention/assistance of Metro worker (and NYC historian) Patty (Leslie Jones). But, all is not right with the spirit world, as a mysterious figure Rowan (Neil Casey) is using some strange devices to empower ghosts, in an attempt to bring on an apocalypse.
A larger part of me than I care to admit was really really hoping that Ghostbusters would be a masterpiece, on par with or better than the original, in order to shut up the annoying people who were against it just because women were in it (and yes, I know that’s not the only reason to dislike the idea of a Ghostbusters remake, but we both know those people are out there). But it is not that. What it is, is perfectly fine. It is a serviceable, if somewhat unremarkable, summer comedy, coasting by on a good cast. It’s flawed, sure, but it’s definitely not the worst remake ever…or, since I’ve now seen The Legend of Tarzan, not even the worst remake this year.
Despite being the biggest point of contention, the cast is the thing doing the most to get the movie going, and the easy highlight of the cast is Kate McKinnon. Not that everyone else doesn’t do a good job, but McKinnon is on another level. She turns every line she’s given into comedy gold, with the kind of screen presence and charisma that just devours audience attention. She’s definitely going to be getting some job offers off this performance, and she deserves them.
The rest of the cast does good work as well. Kristen Wiig finds a good level of manic/nervous energy to keep an engaging screen presence, Leslie Jones has been done a disservice by the trailers, as her performance is much less devoted to mugging and much more nuanced and interesting that you might expect. And Melissa McCarthy is…well unmistakably Melissa McCarthy, we all know she’s funny. And special mention goes to Chris Hemsworth, who turns a one note joke into something hysterical through sheer commitment to the role.
The downside is the plot, as the movie is one of the increasing number of comedies that seem to think having a solid cast means you don’t need to have a good story to walk them through. It’s not bad precisely, and there’s some interesting elements in the idea that Rowan is a darker counterpart to Abby and Erin, but it’s just not a very well thought out plot. It’s wonkily paced and parts of it seem to be missing, which is a little frustrating. I like these characters enough to want to see them go through a plot good enough to hold my interest.
Outside of those two major points, the movie is pretty average. The editing and cinematography are pretty mediocre (for the sequel, hire Edgar Wright huh?), the cameos from the previous run of Ghostbusters movies are predictable, but never particularly annoying (Best is Sigourney Weaver, worst is Dan Ackroyd, the one that arrives with the most fanfare is Bill Murray). The script is…good I guess? The dialogue is mostly improv.
Minor issues aside, the movie does get the most important check mark from me: It’s funny. It’s charming and engaging and more often than not, extremely funny. And given what a subpar summer it’s been, that counts for a lot. So if you’re looking for a good summer movie, you could definitely do a lot worse than Ghostbusters.
Like Tarzan, seriously, I know I haven’t gotten to review it yet, but that movie is just the wor-
Elessar is a 26 year old Alaskan born cinephile and that Fallout Boy version of the Ghostbusters theme is pretty awful.
– great cast
– extremely funny
– solid direction
– Kate McKinnon gets her own bullet point
– subpar plot
– uninteresting villain