From the second the news broke that director Paul Feig was to reboot the iconic Ghostbusters franchise with an all female spectre fighting cast, it would be fair to say that the cinematic universe was split in to two divided camps, a camp of people who despaired over what they thought was an unnecessary move destined to ruin a franchise, and a camp of people who couldn’t wait to see what the cast and filmmakers could do to open up the Ghostbusters universe to a demographic who were fairly underrepresented the first time around. I, for one, was in the latter camp, and I couldn’t wait to see actresses I loved take on roles that I enjoyed.
If you have come here hoping for a review that tears 2016 Ghostbusters apart, you have most definitely come to the wrong place, because I absolutely, unashamedly loved it. In this reimagining of the New York City ghost fighting story, we have Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as Erin Gilbert, Abby Yates, Patty Tolan and Jillian Holtzmann, a team of physics professors, engineers and subway booth employees that band together to form a extermination squad for paranormal presences of different varieties. The central plot focuses on a particular individual who is charging historical ley lines across the city in order to open up the portal between the ghost world and the human world, and the Ghostbusters work to quash these plans whilst evading unhelpful attempts by Homeland Security to stop them. Whilst the minutia of the plot leaves something to be desired in terms of overwhelming intrigue or twists and turns, the sheer sense of fun and joy that emanates from the screen trumps any flaws that the detail of the narrative might contain. I’m not saying this is a perfect movie, it is definitely not, but it is without a doubt the most fun I have had in the cinema since Deadpool, filled with fantastic action set pieces, witty, presumably improvised dialogue between the talented cast and a genuine respect and affection for the history of the universe within which it is operating. In my opinion, the film does a perfect job of paying homage to the original Ghostbusters franchise whilst at the same time carving its own path. What the haters need to remember is that Paul Feig and co. are not trying to erase the nostalgic history of the 1980s movies, they are simply offering a 21st century alternative that can appeal to a new generation and a new demographic, and judging by the dozens of young girls in my particular screening, they should be celebrated for creating four new kick-ass, smart, funny female heroes that can be idolised and costumed on Halloween for years to come. The array of ghouls and ghosts on show make for a vivid and vibrant aesthetic experience, with lots of old favourites and new oddities coming to life to test the skills of the ladies and their proton packs, and though you know there is never going to be any real danger posed to your favourite protagonists, much fun is had in the creative designs and the set pieces that see them come to their frequently slimy fates.
Alongside the gleeful joviality of ghost slime and super fights, the true quality and beating heart of the film is in its four amazing lead actresses. Kristen Wiig as Erin gives the perfect sort of restrained performance that is bubbling with comedy just under the surface, Melissa McCarthy as Abby gives one of her more enjoyable turns as the ‘sensible’ team member, leaving all of the vulgarity of her more notable performances in things like Bridesmaids and Tammy at home and opting for more subtle humour a la St. Vincent or even Spy. Leslie Jones as Patty is undeniably the most outlandish of the four, giving it all the sass and smart-ass commentary to delightful effect, but not exhausting the audience with too frequent scene stealing. The real star of the show, however, is Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann, the quirky, unconventional and effortlessly cool engineer and investor of all of the zany weapons and gadgets. McKinnon oozes a sort of androgynous, seductive power that pulls all focus towards her during every scene, and her comic timing and eccentric body language make her the most memorable new Ghostbuster on the block. As a huge fan of her work on SNL I might be biased, but as far as I am concerned, the more Holtzmann on screen, the better the movie is. Of course, without going in to too much spoiler detail, several cameos are made by several stars held dear to the original franchise, and pleasingly these cameos do not overpower the new stars or at all undermine the new direction that the filmmakers are trying to go in.
Overall, my advice would be not to accept the vitriol and hate towards this film before it even came out as reason enough no to go and see it. You will find that, rather than an abomination to the ‘holy vessel’ that is Ghostbusters, this 2016 reboot is full of fun, frolic and affection for an audience that just want to go and have a great time. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I certainly got the hit of nostalgia I was hoping for combined with a fresh and original new take. As far as I’m concerned, the more high profile blockbuster female heroes there are in cinema, the better. I had an absolute whale of a time, and for the record, I still ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
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