Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2016. Columbia Pictures, LStar Capital, Village Roadshow Pictures, Pascal Pictures, Feigco Entertainment, Ghostcorps, The Montecito Picture Company. Screenplay by Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, based on the 1984 film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. Produced by Amy Pascal, Ivan Reitman. Music by Theodore Shapiro. Production Design by Jefferson Sage. Costume Design by Jeffrey Kurland. Film Editing by Melissa Bretherton, Brent White.
Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic has been updated to the new millennium but not a new setting as slimy creatures of the paranormal once again terrorize citizens of New York. After a spectral figure appears to a tour guide in a historic Manhattan mansion, its manager begs a former believer and now skeptical physics professor (Kristen Wiig) to investigate its origin, thanks to her having co-written a book on the paranormal years earlier. She’s embarrassed by her past and wishes her connection to her still-passionate fellow author Melissa McCarthy would go away, so she goes to visit her at her less than reputable college where she conducts experiments in a poorly funded lab. When their reunion ends up with them witnessing another paranormal event, Wiig joins McCarthy and tech expert Kate McKinnon to form a team of ghost busters, eventually joined by a toll collector (Leslie Jones) who has her own ghostly experience that’s shocking even for the New York subway system. Paul Feig has a wonderful time updating the plot from the original film to a modern generation, casting four terrific comedians in the leads and, just to complete the fun of gender-bending the original roles, throwing in hunky Chris Hemsworth as the receptionist who can’t answer the phone but takes a good shirtless headshot. The end result is a combination of elements that soar and those that don’t, with thankfully much more of the former than the latter: cast couldn’t be having a better time, and it’s okay that this one puts more emphasis on goofy comedy than the original did given that it’s the director and star of Bridesmaids and Spy, but the lack of faith in a modern-day audience’s attention span means that conflicts and confusions are all resolved far more easily than they were the first time around, and there’s no impressive villain (either in human or ghostly form) to really make it feel grounded. I realize that I make it sound as if they are remaking Gandhi and not a special effects comedy for kids, but the original was a film that took its apparitions seriously while treating its humans like jokes; it was written by people who were genuinely interested and invested in studying the paranormal which is clearly not the case this time. Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold have decided that everything is fair game for laughs and, as a result, do not wholly create the film’s world, particularly in the last third when the plot fully falls apart. Reversing the Benny Hill antics by having Hemsworth get chased around the desk is delicious except it feels like it’s being accomplished by people who only want to do it on ethical grounds and not because they really want to, but all these gripes add up to far less of a problem than it sounds. The film is top to bottom laughs and made stellar by its cast, which includes delightful cameos from the cast of the original film (even a lovely tribute to Harold Ramis in statuary form), and will hopefully result in more adventures for this bunch.