When the dust settled after the controversial announcement that beloved 80s film Ghostbusters would return to screens in 2016 with an all-female lead – directed by feminist film-maker Paul Feig (of Bridesmaids fame), the next thing to make peace with was having his Bridesmaids stars, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, in those familiar jumpsuits with proton guns chasing ghosts.
Indeed, to say this didn’t take a little getting used to at the start of watching the new reboot would be a lie. After all, Wiig and McCarthy come with great expectations and a presumed guarantee to provide big laughs. Their futile banter always raises a few giggles. In fact, it felt like watching the funny girls doing a Ghostbusters spoof, initially. However, the supporting roles from fellow Ghostbusters, the brilliant Kate McKinnon and equally great Leslie Jones are so strong that the new film has its very own personality and fun vibe, even though it had many nods to the original for fans, as well as cameos from the 1984 cast, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and Ernie Hudson.
The plot is much the same as the first: The usual ghostly activity begins brewing below Manhattan streets, leading to paranormal enthusiasts Erin (Wiig), Abby (McCarthy), eccentric nuclear engineer Jillian (McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Jones) forming a Ghostbuster girl gang to stop the supernatural threat taking over their world.
There is a naturally funny quartet at the centre of this, which is what any attempted reboot needed. The original ‘silliness’ is still there, though it feels a little forced until the film finds its flow. The show-stealer is actually beefcake Chris Hemsworth as the girls’ eye candy and hapless ‘bimbo’ assistant Kevin. To say Hemsworth is funny is an understatement – further enhanced by the end credits, so stay put and watch, as well as to the very end for an exciting teaser for the next planned installment.
Co-writer Feig and his writing partner Katie Dippold of The Heat and Parks and Recreation fame) seemed to have taken the sexist online jibes onboard and worked them into the script, including a YouTube moment the Ghostbusters share over an online comment, “ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts” posted in response to their video. The biggest two-finger salute to the naysayers goes to Hemsworth in the traditional female ‘ditzy’ role, a highly entertaining role reversal that any sex will appreciate. By all means, none of this is ‘in-yer-face’ obvious either. There are loads of nods to other films and their iconic scenarios, helped by the casting of Andy Garcia, Cecily Strong and the like, so it’s an entertaining mix to pick through.
However, the main grievance is the distinct lack of ‘baddie’ here, with virtually no personality that they come and go without marking much of a mark. This is only saved by things like McKinnon’s excellent set-piece of gun-ho slaying of ghouls in an end showdown, a nod to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, and a Stay Puft cousin on the loose. The effects also try to retain the 1984 production aesthetics, without surrendering to latter-day ones that have come on leaps and bounds.
All in all there is a feeling of something new in the air, but with a comforting dosage of nostalgia. Feig appears to have got most elements just right in the 2016 reboot, enough to provide a solid, spooky night out at the cinema.