When the whispers of an all-female “Ghostbusters” began to circulate around the Internet, they were amplified by outrage. Millions of pasty-faced online trolls banded together from their dark, humid, Cheeto-dusted basements, all to protect the sanctity of a beloved 80s movie. The threat wasn’t the two subsequent television shows, 16 video games, comic books, a largely forgettable second film, action figures and all the rest. The Ghostbusters franchise, with enough spin-off materials to give Gene Simmons an inferiority complex, met its greatest backlash yet when someone suggested that women might be the heroes this time. And the nerds were right to worry.
In this reboot directed by Paul Fieg (who worked with Wiig and McCarthy on “Bridesmaids”), Kristen Wiig plays a particle physicist whose plans to make tenure at Columbia University are derailed when a book she co-authored with her former best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) on the paranormal resurfaces online. Meanwhile, Abby spends her days with engineer Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) tooling around with ghost-catching machines at a technical college, waiting for a live one. A bizarre event in the basement of a house museum unites the team; another in a subway tunnel establishes that their wonky science and rudimentary machinery might have some legs. With this they have a business, and their business requires a secretary (played with hunky, dimwitted charm by Chris Hemsworth), and a car, supplied by Leslie Jones’ streetsmart Patty. The Ghostbusters are formed, and not a minute too soon: In some basement, some pasty weirdo is summoning an inferno of ghostly beings for a plan that will turn the city inside out.
Fans of the original will find familiar footing in this revamped franchise: in-jokes and cameos are generously sprinkled throughout the film. New York looks the same as the 1984 original. It’s an endlessly autumnal city with enough art deco architecture to sustain excessive amounts of protonic unleashing; where a gutted Chinese restaurant can be rented out to a crack team of scientists—despite their untested nukes and lack of business model—instead of, say, to a cool new startup. In this New York, walkie talkies trump WhatsApp, professors still have a hope of making tenure, and the only sign of technological progress is using Youtube as marketing tool.
But in 2016, “Ghostbusters” gets the benefit of 3D:
With ghosts whizzing past your head and bolts of bright red positronic streams flashing off the screen, the action is sophisticated and slapstick. Kate McKinnon lets loose a full-on proton pack assault with balletic grace, practically moonwalking in slow motion into a skyline set aflame with red lightning and flying ectoplasm.
There’s a darker undertone in this film beyond simple ghost-trapping. The source of all evil isn’t an undead spirit with a centuries-long vendetta. It’s a living, breathing bottomdweller, alienated from society by bitterness, convinced of his genius. Frankly, the heavy-handed mistreatment of males in this movie might be a bit too much… if it wasn’t so goddamned satisfying to watch. “Ghostbusters” is a huge blockbuster with a dream-team cast, big-budget explosions, and heroes we can all identify with—who ain’t afraid of no basementdwelling ghosts. Jessica Wei
(USA) Comedy/Fantasy/Sci-Fi. Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones,
Kate McKinnon. Category IIA. 116 minutes. Opened Jul 21.