It’s been a long road to the theater for Paul Feig and the girls of Ghostbusters. Beset by accusations of vagina-washing from a very vocal (and rather pathetic) corner of the internet, a less-than-reassuring first trailer and a borderline insufferable Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliot rendition of the iconic “Who You Gonna Call?” theme song, the remake of Harold Ramis’ much-adored 1984 supernatural-comedy had many hurdles to summit. But rather than scale the obstacles in its path, Ghostbusters dispenses a powerful proton pack of carefully constructed charisma, nostalgia-fueled callbacks and no-holds-barred performances, blasting the besmirching naysayers to smithereens like cardboard cutouts of Slimer in a Chinatown back alley.
The summer of 2016 has been a graveyard for blockbuster fun. In the wake of Warcraft, Batman v. Superman, The Legend of Tarzan, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 and X-Men: Apocalypse, it’s become a place where pleasure goes to die. Absent are the frothy, joy-filled tentpole showings of summers’ past, replaced by dour, fun-depleted multi-million dollar entities more intent on summoning forth franchises than actually engaging the audience at hand. Well get ready to say “rest in peace” to dark and gritty reboots as Feig and his deliriously amusing cohorts conjure up a gleefully spirited romp that takes no fortune teller to see as more deserving of admiration than derision. To quote one of Ghostbusters’ more deplorable dudes, suck it haters.
Feig assembles a collection of ripe female comedians who gush with ghoulish charm as they claim the mantle of Ghostbuster. The first on the scene is Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, a reputable Physics professor seeking tenure at Columbia under the hawkish watch of Harold Filmore (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance). When a shaken curator (Ed Begley Jr.) of a New York historical house comes seeking aid from a fresh haunting, Erin is quick to turn him away, nervous that it may draw undue attention to a past project of which she is now ashamed, “Ghosts of Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively” (which should be noted is actually available on Amazon.)
Erin is more than displeased to discover that her presumably-buried meta-science text is available on Amazon in film as well, courtesy of her co-author and estranged friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy.) In a trade to get the ill-reputed book taken offline, Erin agrees to introduce Abby and her nuclear engineer cohort Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to the caretaker of the decidedly haunted house so that they may give their DIY equipment a test ride and, assuming all goes according to plan, finally prove the existence of ghosts.
What follows is boorish but nonetheless giggle-inducing. Poop jokes and excrement streams flood the screen and the trio of femmes respond delightfully. Feig almost can’t help himself but slip into child-sized booties and mine a share of gross-out gags and brash physical comedy and Ghostbusters proves no exception. The rampant amount of slime (barreling from the screen in eye-popping 3D) rivals Nickelodeon in its prime and spares none, including the audience. As Leslie Jones’ streetwise Patty Tolan rounds out the quartet (I’m half-convinced Feig hired her just to have someone in the crew tower over McCarthy) all the brassy pieces are locked in place and Feig, following a script co-penned by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation, The Heat), bounces his characters off one another aptly, paces himself with a fair balance of comedic zingers and big action spectacle all the way to the goo-soaked finish line.
There’s no doubt that the females are (oh-so-deservingly) the stars here (Kate McKinnon most of all; she absolutely rocks) but Chris Hemsworth is given a chance to shine as their muscular, pea-brained secretary Kevin. A mid-credit scene has him conducting an army of possessed dancers a la Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and it’s nearly worth the price of admission alone. On the flip side, Neil Casey’s maladjusted villain is extremely disposable, as is his blasé scheme to wipe clean a world that unfairly ignored his genius.
Careful not to unduly cross the streams of antiquity and modernity, Feig’s Ghostbusters stands confidently on its own whilst tipping its inherited hat to its predecessor. The “bigger is better” demand of modern blockbusters sees the blend of the original’s iconography with next-gen technology, giving a face lift to the nerdy doohickeys of the ’80s while still allowing for their campy charm to exist in 2016. This allows for a mostly dilapidated Ecto-1 and an arsenal of high-powered, ghostbusting sidearms to cohabitant a movie without it feeling unduly beholden to that which came before or out of place in our current generation.
The imposing number of cameos, winking musical cues and dialogue callbacks are met with an equally self-aware acknowledgement of its place in pop culture. A scene that has the crew checking their YouTube comments is nothing less than perfect; a knowing jest to all those familiar with Ghostbusters’ turbulent troll infestation and a grinning extended middle digit to the perpetrators behind the movement. Rather than throw their enemies in the chipper, Ghostbusters fights dissent with a grin and a pat on the back. It’s a hard movie to dislike and an even harder one to hate.
Even with high-powered, reconfigured weaponry, apocalypse-level threats and a high ratio of computer-created apparitions, Feig scales things goofily. The end-of-times peril posed is a bluff delivered with a wink, spawned with technical marksmanship that helps Ghostbusters’ mighty set-piece spectacle deliver on a level matching its comedic zest. His is a creation of little consequence, a cheerily disposable and almost entirely bemusing romp. One ripe to deposit unto its audience a slimy residue of jubilant silliness as infectious as a cool summer chart-topper and just as bubblegummy. It’s the deliciously melty ice pop of pop cinema.
There is much that Ghostbusters is not. It’s not perfect. It’s no all-timer. It won’t claim a spot on the shelf of excellence, where stands soup and salad. What it is however is a deliriously funny, impressively mounted assault on the cu rrent cycle of sourpuss blockbusters. Dredging up the ghosts of movies past and giving them a new spin, Feig’s reboot qualifies its existence by offering a new crew and shiny gadgets, bolstered by an almost non-stop string of laughs, making this a sandbox ripe for revisiting and deserving of your dollars.
CONCLUSION: Paul Feig’s hotly contested ‘Ghostbusters’ is no cinematic scourge. In fact, it’s a rather delightful – if lightweight and basically substance-free -diversion: the epitome of true summer blockbuster fun. The all-female cast sparkles with wit and well-placed comic timing but none so much as Kate McKinnon, who has, in turn, thrown down a hell of a star-making turn.