Has any film provoked as big a backlash before its release as the new Ghostbusters?
Sure, Batman V Superman wasn’t exactly eagerly awaited — not least on this very site (and associated podcast) — but it seemed no sooner had this film been announced than the Internet rose up and declared, “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts” (actual quote).
While the 1984 original is, of course, a classic, much of the derision surrounding Paul Feig’s reboot seemed to concern genitalia; as opposed to, say, comedy chops.
Less commented on was the fact fact that Ghostbusters (2016) just so happens to star four very funny human beings — Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones; three of whom, like Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray before them, are Saturday Night Live alums. It’s the sparky chemistry between them that helps to ensure that the film, more than being simply a pale imitation, actually has some life in it.
Wiig plays Erin, a strait-laced academic who finds herself dragged back into the disreputable world of the paranormal by former best friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy). Along for the ride is tech genius/unabashed kook Jillian (Kate McKinnon) and down-to-earth MTA worker Patty (Leslie Jones).
Ghostbusters (2016) is (proton) packed full of homages, both subtle and otherwise, to the original — not least in that the script, written by Feig and The Heat‘s Katie Dippold, more or less cribs the plot. Still, if it worked for Star Wars: The Force Awakens…
The fire station makes an appearance, as does the iconic logo, the Ecto-1 (now a hearse), a revamped hip-hop version of Ray Parker, Jr.’s theme, etc., etc., and, in a succession of slightly distracting cameos, all of the original Ghostbusters including, in statuary form, the late departed Harold Ramis. It’s an awful lot of fan service with, you may or may not be surprised to here, a healthily self-referential dose of gender politics.
All of the men here are either critics (like Andy Garcia’s obsequiously oblivious mayor), creeps (like misanthropic bad geek Rowan, played by Neil Casey), or cretins (like Liam Hemsworth’s scene-stealing Kevin, the ‘busters loveable, lunk-headed secretary).
Ghostbusters (2016)’s un-cynical affection for its predecessor takes it a long way — there’s a conversation between Erin and Abby in the Mayor’s office about the idiom “the cats out of the bag” that is surely inspired by Ghostbusters (1984)’s “dogs and cats living together”, as well as one somewhat more explicit “mass hysteria”.
Even the CG-heavy finale has a certain Disney’s Haunted Mansion charm and energy to it, though the inventiveness – as in a spectral Macy Day’s Parade – is detracted from by a few convenient plot developments.
More along the lines of Wiig awkwardly hitting on Hemsworth, McCarthy complaining about wonton soup, McKinnon rocking out with blowtorches, and Patty getting down to business — in short, more personality, less polish — would have made for a more satisfying experience.
That being said, the film is a heroic effort; far from the disaster you (I, admittedly) may have feared. The biggest “risk” Ghostbusters (2016) took may be its cast, but given the recent output of the studio behind it, Sony — their last UK release was The Angry Birds — the female-centric formula clearly provides a point of interest/controversy that other less-than-strictly-necessary remakes could do well to follow.
If Dan Aykroyd has his way, who knows The Blues Sisters may not be too far away…