Saturday, July 16, 2016

Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Yates, Holtzman, Gilbert, and Tolan.

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: nothing was going to live up to people's expectations set by the first Ghostbusters film. That movie was magic, the kind of lightning in a bottle that happens maybe once a decade. The 1989 sequel couldn't recapture it, the director never recaptured it with his similar film Evolution, and despite having the original writers, every member of the cast save Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver, and a truly wonderful plot involving Stay-puft, Slimer, a terrifying spider-woman prostitute, and even a hidden island full of dead cultists, the 2009 video game didn't get it exactly right either. Ghostbusters 1984 is one of those high-concept gifts that no sequel, remake, reboot, or spin-off could ever hope to eclipse.

Thankfully, Paul Feig and the women he directed in Ghostbusters 2016 know that. Rather than slavishly recreate the original story, or go wildly off-book to the point that it doesn't recall a shred of what it's supposed to be inspired by, the new film artfully balances between the two options. All of the folks online who ranted and raved at their computer screens are thankfully given very little ammo by the movie itself. It won't win them over -right or wrong, they made up their minds long ago- but for genuine fans who love the GB franchise as well as the average moviegoer, this one's a lot of fun.

The basics: Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) are old friends who had a falling out years ago over a book they co-wrote about the plausibility of ghosts. When Gilbert goes to see to it that the book is taken down from Amazon and Google searches so as not to ruin her shot at getting tenure, she is roped into accompanying Yates and oddball engineer Gillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) on a trip to a local historic mansion where a ghost sighting was recently reported. One slimy encounter later, the three women decide to go into business hunting and trapping every full-bodied repeating phantasm they can find. After her own disturbing experience in a subway tunnel, MTA employee Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins the team, offering her knowledge of the city as well as her uncle's car. It's not long before the ghostbusters find that someone is actually trying to summon ghosts by building and planting electrical devices that enhance paranormal activity. It all leads to some violent possessions, nuclear explosions, and cartoon characters from hell.