I don’t think that the new Ghostbusters film is masterpiece cinema. But I think I liked it more than Jack did. I know this, because we saw the movie together, and he told me so.
So, let’s look at the plot. The four titular ‘busters are the bookish Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and her childhood friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who authored a book together on paranormal activity, who are joined by the eccentric Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and the street-smart Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Their receptionist is the tall, blonde, very-dim-but-very-handsome Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth).
Erin and Abby end up reuniting after years apart, as Erin has been working her way to being a tenured professor at Columbia University; she seeks out her old friend after she discovers their book had been republished, which threatens her status at the university. Erin is contacted by a local who has found an actual ghost haunting his museum, and the two – joined by Jillian – witness the paranormal phenomenon. More ghost sightings around New York spur them (joined by Patty after she too catches sight of an apparition) to seek out and capture the ghosts. For, uh. Science, I guess.
They soon discover that the ghosts are being summoned by Rowan North (Neil Casey), a man seeking to bring about the apocalypse as revenge for being bullied during his childhood. His motivations beyond “People made fun of me as a kid” aren’t really fully explained, which kind of sucks. I wish that he had more backstory beyond being the “sad pale guy” but this is what we ended up with. I took quiet joy in the fact that he seemed the personality type to wear fedoras and watch My Little Pony in his spare time.
Though they believe to have won after Rowan kills himself to avoid going to jail, they quickly learn how that was part of his plan. Now a ghost himself, Rowan unleashes hordes of poltergeists upon New York City, ends up possessing Kevin, and eventually turns into a massive monster capable of taking down skyscrapers on his own.
Is the new Ghostbusters groundbreaking in any way? No, it’s not. But it has its moments. Cast-wise, while McCarthy received top billing, I didn’t consider her performance to stand out at all. She wasn’t awful, simply mediocre. Of the main four, McKinnon was probably the best. She is who I imagined I would be like if I was a Ghostbuster, and her persistent weirdness was convincing. Wiig was inconsistent, and Jones managed not to be a complete stereotype like the trailers set her up to be. I actually like Jones’ character a lot. Hemsworth is fantastic, and one of the funniest parts of the film. That they opted to have the villain possess Hemsworth’s character is a testament at least to how the studio knew how much of a hit that character would be.
This movie falters in two large ways: its length, and its decision to seemingly want to stand in the shadow of its predecessors. At 116 minutes long, there are moments when it dragged, and about two-thirds of the way through the film I thought to myself, “gee, this seems really long.” There’s a lot of unnecessary exposition at the start of things, and there are ideas introduced and spent time on that aren’t really resolved (notably Erin’s issues in academia and her and Abby’s previous relationship problems). All of that could have easily been axed. We probably could have started the film with her firing from Columbia as a result of her belief in the paranormal and we would’ve saved ourselves a full 10 minutes of time.
As far as the latter issue, there are times when it seems like an absolute barrage of references and gags from the first movie. I had hoped that this Ghostbusters would do what it could in order to truly stand on its own, but instead, it seemed to want to go out of its way to say, “Remember this joke? That was funny 30 years ago, right?”
Speaking of that film from the ‘80s, the main cast from that all make cameos. I won’t spoil them, because they’re all pretty good. Fans of the original will obviously get more out of them than fresh Ghostbusters viewers, but that’s kind of the point.
In any case, I thought the new film was solid, even if it was, admittedly, unnecessary. However, I found myself wanting this film to have existed when I was a kid. There were a lot of young girls in the advance screening, and all of them seemed to have enjoyed it. The importance of having a film where four women – all of whom are incredibly smart and clever in their own unique ways – take charge and kick some ass cannot be understated. I truly hope that this does well enough that a sequel gets greenlit, and maybe then they’ll make more of an effort to do something truly original.
Besides being a little long, and not every joke landing well, I would consider Ghostbusters a worthwhile summer watch. It might not be anywhere near perfect, and it might not be as good as the original, but it’s an entertaining take on the Ghostbusters lore that I can only hope is the start of something great.
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