by Jeff Walls
The new reboot of Ghostbusters is the second movie this year to get totally trashed by Internet commenters prior to anyone actually seeing the movie. Whereas Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did not do much to save its reputation upon release, Ghostbusters is likely to fare much better. Why? Principally because it is full of a crucial entertainment element that the DC Comics film just failed to provide: fun.
The movie starts out very much like the 1984 original: three scientists encounter a ghost, lose their jobs at a University, and start their own business as sort of a ghost removal service. In this case, the trio consists of childhood friends Erin and Abby, who have studied the paranormal and once published a book on the subject, along with Jillian Holtzman, a wacky nuclear engineer in charge of building their ghost-busting contraptions. They are soon joined by an MTA worker named Patty who has encountered a ghost herself and essentially invites herself onto the team.
The foursome soon notices an escalation of paranormal activity in the New York City area that turns out to be the work of Rowan, a janitor who works at the hotel which happens to be located at the crossroads of the ley lines that carry paranormal energy. To borrow a term from the original film, he works at “spook central.” Rowan is determined to release all of the trapped ghosts in New York City in order to gain revenge for the bullying he has put up with his whole life as an outcast. The newly minted Ghostbusters must step up to save the city despite the resistance of local government and Homeland Security.
It goes without saying that the original Ghostbusters movie will never be replaced in the hearts of its fans, but just because there will never be another Johnny Carson does not mean that Jimmy Fallon cannot find success as the host of The Tonight Show. The new Ghostbusters movie establishes itself early by just being fun. A lot of the credit for this goes straight to the cast.
Each of the new Ghostbusters brings something unique to the franchise. Early on, I found myself wondering who was the new Egon and who was the new Venkman, et cetera, but even though there are a few personality traits shared here and there, none of the characters can be pigeonholed as “the new” whomever. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are both good in roles that were clearly tailor-made for them, but it is Kate McKinnon who steals the show as Holtzmann. There is no real movie character to whom she can easily be compared; she’s a fresh, unique creation and it is impossible to look away from her no matter what her character is doing. Leslie Jones is also very good as Patty. As the lone non-scientist in the group, her character is granted a skill that can contribute to the group—her uncanny knowledge of New York history—as opposed to her counterpart non-scientist Winston in the original film, who basically just existed as a helping hand.
Although the movie and its characters quickly establish themselves as their own thing, the movie does not forget to pay tribute to its predecessor. With the exception of Rick Moranis, each of the lead human players from the original movie make cameos here (blink and you will miss the bronze bust of the late Harold Ramis on the Columbia University set), while Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man also put in appearances. These brief scenes are fun moments in a movie that clearly respects its source material, but as they are spread throughout the entire movie, they might distract a little too much from the movie’s efforts to create something new and stand out on its own.
The visual effects in Ghostbusters are state of the art and it is one of the few movies to be released in the past few years where I would actually recommend seeing it in 3D. For 3D showings, the movie is shown in letterbox format which allows for some of the special effects to literally pop out of the frame. It is not a new technique (this April’s The Jungle Book also did this), but rarely has it been used so effectively.
That said, the movie is also a good example of how technically better special effects do not always equal special effects that are more charming and compelling than the less polished ones (see also Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake). That is most clearly evident with Slimer, who appears less like an apparition and more like a disgusting physical being, causing the character to lose some of its charm. But cheers to him, though, for finding himself a lady-friend.
The movie loses itself a little bit in the final act when it focuses more on action and destruction than humor, and the big baddie looks a little too much like a rip-off of Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas (although his origin is pretty clever). Perhaps if the movie would have stuck to the original idea of the giant spirit-possessed flash mob that we get a glimpse of during the closing credits it would have been just that much more original. Either way, we are treated to an entertaining remake that, despite what you’ve heard on the Internet, won’t ruin your childhood.
Ghostbusters opens today at the Century Federal Way, AMC Kent Station 14, and AMC Southcenter 16. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? Until then, eat local before you go!