Haters gonna hate, but who cares? The rest of us will be out enjoying the most entertaining film of the summer.
Unless you live in a cave, you have already heard about the fan boy backlash to Paul Feig’s reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise, which began long before anyone had seen one minute of the new film. Even sillier, their objections were based on a simple reality: the new Ghostbusters lack Y-chromosomes. Haters gonna hate, but who cares? The rest of us will be out enjoying the most entertaining film of the summer, and we don’t need their sorry company.
The basic setup in the new Ghostbusters is the same as in the 1984 movie. Manhattan is being invaded by ghosts, and who you gonna call? Ghostbusters, of course. That would be Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a straight-laced physics professor who’s trying to hide her ghost busting past, as she’s up for tenure review at Columbia; Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin’s former collaborator and coauthor, who still believes; Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), a technical wizard with a Bugs Bunny-like disrespect for authority; and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a subway worker with an encyclopedic knowledge of New York City history, who joins the cause after encountering a ghost in a subway tunnel. The fifth member of the band, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a. Thor), continues the gender-flipping trend as he plays the chick, hired for his looks rather than his ability as a receptionist (telephones confuse him, but he sure looks good in a tight T-shirt). But you don’t need to worry that he’s being taken advantage of, because there’s no meanness in this film to match the sliminess of Peter Venkman’s misogyny in the 1984 film. Instead, Kevin is quite secure in his sex appeal and enjoys the effects it has on the ladies.
There’s a lot to like about this band of Ghostbusters, but number one on my list is how much they enjoy each other’s company. They’re all accomplished comedians, but when playing off each other, they’re even better. The second thing on the list is that they all model behavior that leads to success in science (however farfetched the “science” in this movie may be) and really to success in just about anything in life—go for it, pick yourself up when you fail (because you certainly will), and go for it again. The third is that they are all outsiders in some way, and yet they find their place in the world, partly through finding their tribe, which is to say, each other.
You know who never learns that third lesson? Rowan (Neil Casey), a saddo in a bellhop’s uniform who’s summoning the ghosts to Manhattan as some kind of revenge for all the wrongs he believes the world has done him. He’s the kind of guy you would expect to see shooting total strangers with an automatic weapon or blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren but summoning spirits makes for much better special effects. The haters are also dished up in another sequence in which the Ghostbusters read some of the hate mail they have been receiving (“Ain’t no bitches going to bust no ghosts” and the like), before telling each other to stop wasting their time reading that stuff and get on with their work. Note to innovators everywhere—nothing good ever comes from getting involved in disputes in the comments section, particularly not in an open forum where anyone can post anything.
Special effects have certainly improved since 1986, and Feig makes good use of the new technology. One big improvement—some of the ghosts are really scary, beginning with an opening sequence in which a tour guide played by Zach Woods is menaced by a Victorian murderess.. The finale, involving the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as well as seemingly half the buildings in Midtown, comes at you fast and furious, yet displays one virtue lacking in other summer blockbusters like Captain America: Civil War: a sense of proportion. To put it another way, Feig understands the importance of timing and doesn’t let anything, including whiz-bang special effects sequences, go on for too long.
There are lots of good performances in Ghostbusters besides the leads. To name just a few, Charles Dance plays Erin’s department chair as if channeling Tywin Lannister; Karan Soni is the embodiment of all the harassed delivery boys in Manhattan; and most of the key members of the 1984 cast have effective cameos, including Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver. Each appearance of an actor from the 1984 film was met with appreciation and laughter by the screening audience, like meeting an old friend in an unexpected place, which just goes to show that you don’t have to choose between the 1984 or the 2016 film—you can double your please by enjoying both. | Sarah Boslaugh