D: Paul Feig. DP: Rovert D. Yeoman. W: Paul Feig & Katie Dippold. Starring: Melissa McCarthy/Kristen Wiig/Kate McKinnon/Leslie Jones/Chris Hemsworth/Andy Garcia/Cecily Strong/Neil Casey/Charles Dance/Zach Woods.
Nothing has caused a stir quite like this all female remake of the 1984 comedy Ghostbusters. In concept alone the new film was immediately criticized and spoofed. Will other films be remade just with all women? Such a literal reading of this remake is not only narrow minded, but representative of the denial of a male dominated creative industry. Ghostbusters is a fun idea and feels different with women at the helm, as it should.
After over thirty years this is a fresh take on a beloved idea that has allowed enough time to pass so that film-making can also make it look a bit different. The comedy dead pan of director and star Harold Ramis cannot be replaced, but the cameo appearances of the other original ghostbusters is a fun testament to the first films. This Ghostbusters centers on frustrated academic Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) who is patronized for her work wardrobe and desperate to make tenure. Discovering her co-authored book on ghosts has appeared on the internet she finds former friend and scientist Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Abby and her cohort Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) jump at the chance to visit a current ghost sighting location and drag Erin along. The group soon team up to grab ghosts with the addition of Metro worker Patty (Leslie Jones) and dumb cluck receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth).
Led by Bridesmaids and The Heat director Paul Feig, the comedy is thankfully rooted more in characters than gags. A Saturday Night Live alum, Wiig is a solid center of realism for the group and does not mug to the camera. McCarthy’s physical humor is tempered here and shared with current SNL cast member McKinnon. McKinnon’s intonations get a bit repetitive, but her Holtzmann is delightfully singularly gadget obsessed. The group have a clear chemistry especially with the clever addition of Jones. There are a few too many cut-aways to one-liners for Jones and the others, but overall their camaraderie clicks in quickly.
Other than the few cameos there are a few nods to the original and a good use of the theme music without it feeling overdone. Thor aka Hemsworth’s stupid, but gorgeous Kevin is also a fun flip. As the object of the female gaze his hunk body is put on display and his lack of skills provide optimum joke opportunities. Hemsworth steps up to the challenge and it is nice to hear his Australian twang. Mostly the idea works on inverting typical tropes of male dominated cinema. This play and the women all work to remind audiences that funny is funny no matter the gender.
The backlash even the trailer garnered was just unnecessary and frankly, overblown. Most trailers are poorly constructed these days giving away far too many plot points, but ultimately this issue comes down to nostalgia. Just because a remake is released does not mean it erases what has come before. Rather it increases the reach of the world to new fans and hopefully suggest to a new generation of girls and boys that yes, girls can do these things. The special effects of Ghostbusters have improved, but a green sludge drenched actor still works every time.