No movie this summer has stirred up the internet manchildren like the Ghostbusters remake. The absurd tantrum being thrown about how they replaced men with women made it hard to have any sort of rational discussion about the merits of the film. Pathetic cries of it destroying viewers’ childhoods, dead face serious such complaints, sounded in comments sections whenever the movie was mentioned. Doing my best to ignore all that garbage; how was the movie? Pretty damn good. Not really a scratch on the original, but highly entertaining in its own right. It wisely isn’t a straight remake of the original, but a new story about people hunting ghosts. It isn’t the best or most well considered story, but it is very funny and visually interesting.
Ghostbusters stars Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as childhood friends and scientists who had a falling out over a book they wrote about the paranormal. McCarthy’s Abby publishes the book against Wiig’s Erin’s wishes, which causes some strife, but soon has them teaming back up, along Kate McKinnon’s Holtzman, when they discover a real ghost. They work to discover what is causing an outbreak of ghost sightings, soon teaming up with Leslie Jones’ Patty, who works for the MTA.
It is nearly impossible to watch this film and not compare it to the original. It is inevitable. This version of Ghostbusters is strongest when it differentiates itself from the previous film and weakest when referencing it. Most of the stars of the 1984 movie make cameo appearances, to moderate degrees of effectiveness. The scenes in the movie that most closely resemble the original are mostly inferior. Those and the cameos mostly serve to remind the viewers of the other movie they could be watching. The bulk of the movie, though, charts its own path and that is largely an enjoyable one.
Most wisely, the new team is not just made up of gender swapped versions of the old characters, they are all original creations. There is no direct equivalent of Peter, Ray or Egon here. Abby, Erin and Holtzman are all their own characters. While the first two are fine characters, characters whose friendship forms the emotional heart of the film, the real standout is Holtzman. She has a touch of Egon’s mad scientist in her, but hers is more focused on the mechanical side of things than his more theoretical work. Patty, the slightly late addition to the team, is a more essential part of the team than Winston was in the first movie, and actually gets a chance to be funny.
Those differences in character help to drive the plot. These Ghostbusters are much more focused on the equipment they use. Holtzman, ever tinkering, comes with much more inventive tools that just proton packs. They get grenades and shotguns and even more fun stuff. Instead of being concerned with running a business and making money, they are more concerned with scientific respect.
I would say that this is a funnier movie than the original, though the jokes come at the expense of the plot. The original is a movie with a clear through line and much of the focus is on the main conflict between the Ghostbusters and Zuul. The villain’s scheme and the plot in general, is much less considered in this new version. That lack of focus gives the characters a lot more time to just be funny. For the most part, it succeeds. Ghostbusters (2016) is a very funny movie. Not every bit hits, but much more hit than miss.
It does kind of falter in the third act, when it tries to go big but hasn’t spent the time building up the threat or the stakes. It just kind of throws them out there at the end. And while it does feature on thoroughly satisfying CGI fueled action scene, the big threat at the end is almost an afterthought. It would have been better served with a smaller climax, but it instead went for the unearned big one.
Ghostbusters (2016) is a fine comedy. Likely not an all-time classic, but certainly a welcome addition to this franchise. It breathes new life into something that had been dead for more than twenty years. It is imperfect but highly entertaining.