A jumbled but entertaining effort, the 2016 incarnation of Ghostbusters luckily has enough juice in the proton pack to overcome the overblown trappings of Paul Feig’s approach. The director also wrote the screenplay with Katie Dippold, who wrote Feig’s The Heat in 2013.
Like The Heat, Ghostbusters has a hard time letting go. And like The Heat, Ghostbusters has a lot to prove through its struggles with orthodoxy. Feig’s strengths come in fostering connections and he knows how to helm a group of performers to maximize chemistry, which is good news for those who like the sort of boundless riffing so commonplace in modern comedies.
Kristen Wiig stars as physicist Erin Gilbert. She’s fighting for respectability at Columbia University when a blast from the past creates a problem in the form of a paranormal book she co-wrote with high school pal and physicist Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Gilbert tries to put a stop to the book sales and finds Yates working in a lab with engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon).
When a paranormal event creates the need for an investigation, Gilbert reluctantly joins the duo. They experience a ghost and rededicate themselves to the work. More sightings follow throughout the city and the women form a team, bringing MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) aboard and fighting through a throng of attacking spirits.
There’s a villain, with mad scientist Rowan (Neil Casey) trying to whip up some sort of scheme to thaw the barrier between worlds. He thinks humanity is garbage and wants to unleash hell in the form of a ghost invasion, where an army of livid ghosts (mostly dudes) will “pester” the world to death.
There’s also a secretary, with Chris Hemsworth playing Kevin as a handsome, impossibly moronic man. Things have worked out for him because of his looks, but he doesn’t seem to know how to function and one wonders how he gets himself dressed in the morning. Hemsworth is game to make a fool of himself and his image and the jokes are gloriously groan-inducing. Case in point: Mike Hat.
It’s tempting to cast Ghostbusters as a tad on the nose when it comes to self-awareness, but its battle for credibility is worth exploring. The team wants to be taken seriously and has empirical evidence to match, but political wrangling and “popular” opinion insists they’re shelved in favour of business as usual.
Wiig is good as the overlooked physicist, with her university suggesting that Princeton isn’t a sufficient reference and the ghosts – both literal and figurative – of her past creating all sorts of problems. Columbia distances themselves from her, much like how Yates’ university shuts her down after forgetting she’s even there in the first place.
The other performances are solid as well, with McKinnon stealing scenes as an ass-kicking weirdo and McCarthy bringing her usual knack for slapstick comedy to the fray. She is hysterical when she’s briefly possessed. Jones, too, plays a hilarious character looking for a place to happen.
Even so, Ghostbusters stumbles through the usual blockbuster shortcomings and lacks the easy flow of the original. It overstays its welcome, props heavily on a rushed and messy finale and doesn’t play much with the actual ghosts. But’s fun, active and entertaining. It’s fresh, thoughtful, mischievous, and often very, very funny.