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The Ghosbusters reboot, written and directed by Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids) has its fair share of problems, but at its core, it successfully captures the spirit, energy and imaginative flare of the 1984 original.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) seeks out her old friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who has been investigating the paranormal alongside nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Worried about her academic reputation, Gilbert wants to make sure no one finds out about a book she and Yates co-wrote when they were younger. When the three see an actual ghost, however, Gilbert decides to team up with Yates and Holtzman instead. After witnessing a bizarre incident, subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) also joins the group, as they set out to investigate a recent surge of ghost activity in New York City.
One of the biggest concerns some fans, myself included, had about this iteration of the team was that the new Ghostbusters would just be the female equivalents of the original four. Fortunately, that can be no further from the truth. Holtzman has a bit of Egon in her (right down to a hairstyle that seems to reference his look in The Real Ghostbusters animated series) and Patty occupies a somewhat similar down-to-earth role in the team dynamic as Winston did, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Yates, Gilbert, Holtzman and Patty have their own distinct personalities and quirks and they all work really well off each other. Gilbert is easily the most developed, both in terms of backstory and how much she changes over the course of the movie, going from anxious teacher to badass Ghostbuster. Patty, while a fun character in her own right, does not contribute much when everyone else on the team is a scientist. Supposedly, she knows New York better than everyone, but that basically translates to saying random historical facts about certain buildings, which is underwhelming to say the least.
Chemistry between the leads is critical and the new team has that in spades. Their dialogue sometimes leans too heavily on technobabble, but never enough to get grating.
The movie also does a great job of streamlining different aspects of the origins. The iconic logo is introduced in a very creative way and the story goes through every step of the evolution of team’s technology, even introducing a wide range of brand new toys for the Ghostbusters to use, which was really cool to see. A lot of them seem to have drawn direct inspiration from the Ghostbusters video games, particularly the 2009 one. Pulling from various different corners of the franchise and not just the movies was definitely a smart move and a great way to honor the legacy of the series.
The reboot hits more than a few similar beats from the original movie, but switches things up just enough to make them feel fresh and interesting. There’s no Walter Peck to harass the Ghostbusters for their dangerous, unregulated equipment – no, this time they are called to the Mayor’s office because the government does not want people to find out that ghosts are real. Possession also plays a part in the story, but in a very different way than it did before.
While the new Ghostbusters maintains a steady balance of old and new for the most part, one of its bigger problems is excessive callbacks and cameos. Just about everyone from the original main cast makes a brief appearance, along with a handful of other references to different lines or moments. It’s disposable fanservice which was distracting and unnecessary.
The second half also has some problems with pacing. It’s clear from the trailers that a number of lines and jokes were left on the cutting room floor and maybe that’s why certain parts of the movie almost feel like they are skipping beats.
The movie’s special effects are really impressive. The ghosts, in typical Ghostbusters fashion, are not really horrifying as much as they are eerily imaginative in their design. Morbid curiosity compels both the characters and the audience to see the various ways in which apparitions can manifest themselves, from possessing mannequins, to dozens of ghost rats emerging from the subway.
The climax is more action-packed than any Ghostbusters movie before it and it’s often enough on the awesome side of ridiculous to make it all work. The comedy throughout is decidedly more hit than miss and the duds go by quickly enough to be entirely forgotten.
The Ghostbusters reboot is flawed, but its heart is in the right place. If there ever is something strange in my neighborhood, I’d be more than happy to give this team a call.