Film review: Ghostbusters

After all the hype and controversy surrounding the new all-female Ghostbusters flick, just how well does it stack up to the original ’80s comedy?

Jul 14, 2016, updated Jul 14, 2016

The announcement of a Ghostbusters revamp was met with much trepidation.

Many fans of the 1984 Ivan Reitman classic, starring an ensemble cast of ’80s superstars, argued that it should have been left untouched, with some particularly vexed that the reboot would star an all-female cast. Even US presidential candidate Donald Trump weighed in on the controversy.

Director Paul Feig’s new film is, however, surprisingly refreshing and is a rib-tickling tribute to the original.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a miserly physicist at Columbia University whose tenure application is jeopardised by the re-emergence of a book on paranormal activity she wrote with former colleague Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) years earlier.

In an effort to get the book taken offline, she begrudgingly ends up on a ghost hunt with her estranged friend and co-author, and her new colleague – eccentric-genius-inventor Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). After they see their first ghost and get slimed by the spirit, Gilbert embraces her past and the women start their very own “ghostbusting” business.

Funnier than anticipated, the new Ghostbusters is exciting and fervent, but remains kid-friendly in its humour.

Wiig, McCarthy and McKinnon bounce off each other well, in a similar way to the original trio of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live) is enthusiastic if a little over-zealous, as subway worker Parry Tolan – unfortunately, however, her character fails to step out of the shadow cast by Ernie Hudson’s “Winston” in the original, and the “tough street-smart African-American” just doesn’t cut the mustard in the 21st century.

Also disappointing is the story’s lack of a strong antagonist. Neil Casey plays spiteful nerd Rowan, but his performance is flat, partly due to the character’s lack of depth. As this becomes evident, so too does the plot’s predictability. It may be that this is intentional, so it’s easy for the audience to follow, but the filmmakers could have trusted viewers to work things out for themselves.

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Fortunately, the lack of depth is offset by two redeeming factors. One is the cinematography and production of the ghosts, the weapons and the destruction of New York City is astounding. The other is the delightful supporting leads, particularly McKinnon and Australian Chris Hemsworth.

McKinnon’s Holtzmann is the highlight of the awesome foursome; she is the hilarious glue that holds the team together. Her character celebrates weirdness and is wonderfully quirky. Hemsworth, as the hapless receptionist Kevin, is absolutely adorable and his unexplained Australian accent, among other things, is a source of constant amusement.

Is it as good as the original? The simple answer is, no. However, Ghostbusters certainly holds a candle to its big brother and is a fine avenue to introduce a new generation of fans to a tremendous franchise.

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