A Real Ghostbusters Review By A Real Ghostbusters Superfan
Can the 2016 reboot of the 1984 classic rise through the thick layer of internet hate slime?
Placing yourself in a story is probably one of the worst things you can do as a journalist but seeing as we’re discussing a film that so many people see the mere existence of as a direct personal attack, I’m doing this for context.
Straight up, I am a gigantic Ghostbusters fan. My house is your basic loving shrine to the original film, I once had the privilege of spending 40 minutes talking about ectoplasm with Dan Aykroyd (and it rates as one of the best experiences of my life), every gift I’ve received in the last year was Slimer or Stay Puft-related and I can’t remember a year where I haven’t seen the 1984 classic AND its notably sub-par sequel at least twice.
Not only did I go into the cinema last night with several decades’ worth of dedicated fandom crowded into my tiny human brain, but also the knowledge of the 24-month long shit-storm that followed the announcement and marketing of this remake.
Somehow a supernatural comedy became an almost radioactive political hot topic as legions of pop culture fanatics waged an internet war on each other, furiously debating the merit of a film nobody had seen based solely on its casting of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones in the key roles of those who would be cracking jokes and angling proton streams at malevolent apparitions in 2016. It was consistently exhausting to read (and hard to avoid).
“Face it: if you’re someone who has enjoyed the finer end of blockbuster cinema of the past 30 years, you have money on this game. Don’t pretend.”
Then came a lacklustre trailer and the whole thing went nuclear – the most down-voted promo in YouTube history. Damn, maybe it was gonna suck? Then again, director Paul Feig has delivered a slew of solid comedies and never really served up an appealing sneak peek before. The best parts were always the little improvised jokes between the big scripted gags (that the studio no-doubt insists on being upfront in the shorts).
Speaking of shorts, let’s divert into a basketball analogy for a second. If you were to look at the all-stars assembled in the line-up, the assumption was surely that if they could play well together this would be an easy win, right? And face it: if you’re someone who has enjoyed the finer end of blockbuster cinema of the past 30 years, you have money on this game. Don’t pretend.
The great news: within 10 minutes of your eyeballs making contact with the screen, all that bullshit fades away. The realisation that you’re watching a new Ghostbusters film, one that tonally nails the mixture of classic-haunted-house and weird-underdog-friendship-comedy, is so invigorating. Oh shit, that’s right, this about having FUN!
From start to finish, it roars along at pace that is almost too fast, knocking off all the classic blockbuster screenplay beats as if they’re somewhat of a nuisance, getting in the way of the key objectives: chuckles, slime and them glowing ghosties. And that’s a relief to find in any film of this size being released right now – it never lingers long enough on any of those “outlining the key character’s underlying motivation” moments to allow you to cringe. Plot-wise you don’t need my recap. Team forms. Team fights ghosts in New York City.
But is it funny? Yep! Like so many of Feig’s previous outings, let’s say 20 percent of the jokes do fall flat, but it punches so hard and so often that there’s never a chance for the smile to drop off your face. The four leads aren’t parallel versions of the original film’s heroes either; it’s an entirely new dynamic and steers clear of stereotypes. There’s no Sexy One or Nerdy One or Tough One per se, everyone is their own unique oddball and they riff off each other in genuinely hilarious ways.
The comedy is a lot more physical than expected and it’s a good thing – this is not a note for note remake, it has its own style and Kate McKinnon is the standout. The character of Holtzman is so delightfully strange she can elicit cinema-wide laughs with just a mere widening of her eyes. Plus Chris Hemsworth makes fun of the idea of Chris Hemsworth with a gleeful enthusiasm that keeps proceedings seriously energised.
“The four leads aren’t parallel versions of the original film’s heroes either; it’s an entirely new dynamic and steers clear of stereotypes.”
A legitimate defence to why the film has been remade which I read online was that, “people don’t go to the movies to watch their old DVDs” and it’s a factor that the filmmakers are well aware of. This is a big screen experience that gives you your 20 bucks worth. When the girls strap on their proton packs, the film shifts to dazzling spectacle mode.
The 3D is immersive and though it’s a cheap trick, having the effects leap out beyond the widescreen frame to the edges of the screen just adds to the feeling of being strapped into the front carriage of a theme park ride. As an action movie, the team are so bad arse, you won’t even miss the fact nobody has a ciggie dangling from their bottom lip when they’re fucking up the undead this time around.
All your favourite iconic vehicles, items, spectres and locations remain that way and the script works in some inventive ways to reintroduce them, often with a newfound purpose.
In what could be considered a sacrilegious thing to say, the only thing that really hampers it is the much-publicised inclusion of the original cast in a series of low-octane cameos. Here is the most cutting evidence of why this is the best Ghostbusters film we could hope for right now. Feig and co. are the team that has the energy and the creative spark to keep a 30-year-old concept fresh and entertaining. The original Ghostbusters was a time and a place thing and it’s naïve to think that could be easily rekindled by just getting your favourite old pals in a room together again.
So Ghostgate is over guys, it’s safe to go back to the cinema. I’ll be there. After all, what kinda fraidy cat only goes on a great ride once?