When Paul Feig announced his all female led Ghostbusters reboot the last thing I imagined the film would receive was backlash. Then again, I forgot that the internet is filled with sexist fan boys living in their parents’ basement with absolutely nothing better to do than organize campaigns to lower a film’s IMDB score (all before even seeing the movie mind you) so I guess I shouldn’t have been too shocked. The mere thought that four women would fill the roles originally inhabited by men in the 80’s classic was enough to send these nerds into a whirlwind of chaos. That’s sad huh?
“Controversy” aside, Feig and his Ghostbusters (returning vets Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and newcomers Kate Mckinnon and Leslie Jones) aren’t out to duplicate the original film. On the contrary, they use the familiar premise as a templet; Feig has provided his group of actresses their wackiest and zaniest playground yet, and while the hi-jinks aren’t as laugh out loud funny as previous efforts like The Heat or Bridesmaids, they still make for some of the most entertaining moments in film this year.
The plot focuses on former professor Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) and her estranged friend Abby (McCarthy). The two wrote a book detailing paranormal activity, but Erin decided to pursue a teaching career and left Abby behind, who threw herself into researching and tracking ghosts with a partner in the form of a brilliant mad scientist, Jillian (McKinnon). Years later, the reappearance of the book on Amazon gets Erin fired, but subsequently brings the two old friends back together after reports of ghosts terrorizing citizens. Unemployed, and faced with the opportunity to pursue her repressed passion, Erin decides to team up with Abby and Jillian to investigate the hauntings. They are quickly joined by Patty, a savvy MTA worker who witnessed one of the attacks, and who’s eager to lend her talents (and her uncle’s hearse) to the group to defeat the evil threatening to destroy the world as they know it.
Feig’s films have always been great at exploring the core of female relationships, and that’s why Ghostbusters is so damn good. He knows when to step back and just let each of the women interact and play against the other, and it’s a thrill to watch. McCarthy (the most frequent of Feig’s collaborators) is doing something here that she hasn’t done before. As Abby, she sports her usual flair for a witty zinger, but her approach is much more toned down than it was in previous efforts like her Oscar nominated work in Bridesmaids or her hilariously abrasive cop in The Heat. She steps back without sacrificing any performance quality and turns in maybe the film’s most subtle and surprising performance. Ditto for Kristen Wiig, though her indie film choices as of late have hinted at that knack for subtlety more than McCarthy’s have, and yes, Chris Hemsworth is hysterical as Kevin the incompetent Ghostbusters secretary.
Of the cast, the one primed for a breakout is Kate McKinnon. Fresh off of a wonderful (and Emmy nominated) season of Saturday Night Live she delivers an electric, almost improved performance that immediately demands your attention. McKinnon’s SNL co-star Leslie Jones is also fantastic, giving the film many of it’s most hilarious moments. But it does feel somewhat disingenuous to try and single out one or the other, because the moments when these actresses are at the top of their game is when they’re working together, a quality that really helps the film defy the reboot genre. Sure, there are familiar elements and some funny winks to the original (Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and several others in cameos) but this is a film that can exist on its own merits. In other words, even without the original Ghostbusters, this would be a film worth seeing. The film even addresses the fanboy controversy in the form of the villain. Without giving too much away, he’s an egotistical man child. You know, the kind who would complain about an all female led Ghostbusters.
The special effects and the action sequence at the end are truly top notch. As I mentioned before, this is less in line with Feig’s other films which subverted familiar film tropes such as the buddy cop film or spy genre. This is a full blooded summer blockbuster, a title the film and its cast wears unashamedly, and given the disappointing output on that front this summer, it feels like a gift. I walked out of Ghostbusters happier than I was when I walked in, a happiness that was fully earned. I really wanted to spend more time with these characters and in this world, which is why I’m actually praying for a sequel. And you know what? A part of me hopes we get that sequel just so those sexist fan boys have more to cry about.