2016, PG-13, 116 min. Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Karan Soni, Andy Garcia, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., July 15, 2016
“Ain’t no bitches gonna bust no ghosts.” Movies were made for make-believe. Wouldn’t it be so nice to pretend an alternate universe where internet trolls don’t exist? Yes, but they pop up anyway in this reboot of the much-loved Ivan Reitman comedy. Some stretches of the imagination are too acrobatic. When this new generation of ghostbusters record their first encounter with a paranormal something, the all-female quartet hightails it back to headquarters to read the comment boards, regrettably. The internet is dubious. The internet has strong opinions about the qualifications of bitches to bust themselves some ghosts.
The moment – likely a direct quote lifted from real life, and frankly one of the more printable reactions posted online following the news of this female-led franchise reboot – is a meta aside, a side-eye to all those nasty, MRA-penned wah-wahs about lady cooties crawling on their childhood safety blanket. Problem is, the film is so much meta, it stops just shy of a stage wink to the camera. Paul Feig, director and co-writer (with Katie Dippold), crams the frame with cameos pulled from the 1984 picture and callbacks to the original plot. An early snatch of Ray Parker’s iconic Ghostbusters theme song sets the tone: There’s that Pavlovian thrill of favorite memories fan-serviced, but is there anything here for a new audience to latch on to?
Well, kinda sorta. In 1984, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis (the latter two also wrote the script) weren’t yet emblazoned on Mount Comedy, though the first chisel work had already begun based on their various roles at National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, SCTV, and on the film projects that followed their early sketch experience. In 2016, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon – stepping into the big-boy pants, strapping on the proton packs – are just as formidable of comedians as their predecessors.
Ideally, there wouldn’t be a comparison, and that comparison wouldn’t be grounded in numbers, although McCarthy – who Feig first tapped for a bit part, buffoonish but profitable, in Bridesmaids, cast her again as a co-star in The Heat, and put her front and center and just as funny playing someone competent and confident in the underappreciated Spy – has already pulled an international box office gross that wilts her predecessors’ stats. (If you need any further confirmation that Americans are really falling behind on math, just consider the internet’s endless hot takes casting doubt on McCarthy’s box office draw.) Feig’s Ghostbusters doesn’t give her as juicy a role to work with, but she’s its anchor – the solid center around which orbit Wiig’s deft deadpan, Jones’ fuck-all-y’all forthrightness, and McKinnon’s basement-lab kookster. They’re all saddled with underwritten parts in a slackly plotted film. But the actresses are so quick and so supple, the force of their individual personalities and their irresistible camaraderie hoik the film up from its middling story and scripted jokes. I would have happily stayed in my seat another two hours to continue keeping their company. Just in a better movie.