Movie review: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)


The Ghostbusters Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones) inside the Mercado Hotel Lobby in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Verdict: A very fun horror-comedy and a rare example of a successful reboot

The original GHOSTBUSTERS is regarded as an icon of 80s cinematography. Although GHOSTBUSTERS II was nowhere near as well-received, discussion of a third instalment in the series has been going on for many years. This leads us to the 2016 “reboot”: a phrase that often sends shivers down my spine. We’ve seen some pretty terrible reboots from Hollywood in the last few years, and the term is fast becoming synonymous with lack of imagination and the spoiling of beloved classics.

The good news is that GHOSTBUSTERS is a very entertaining horror-comedy, with the emphasis firmly on the comedy. Whilst it is a reboot, don’t let that spoil it for you: it respects the original duology in tone and substance, even if not in plot.

Kristen Wiig’s Dr Gilbert is drawn into the investigation of a ghost by her former friend Abby Yates, played by Melissa McCarthy. Wiig wants to become a serious academic, whereas McCarthy is committed to proving that ghosts as real. An experience at a haunted mansion leads to Dr Gilbert losing her job and the formation of a ghost-hunting service. Yates’ co-worker Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) provides technical support, and a visit from subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) completes the line up. They discover a plot involving leylines, ghost traps and a maniac who wants to open a portal to the underworld in the middle of New York City.

Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones are very, very funny. The script manages to give each of them equal screen time, and their performances carry the show. Wiig plays the straight-up academic, and McKinnon goes for the more bizarre comedy angle; this isn’t McCarthy’s funniest performance, and she never really goes off the hook, but she’s funny nonetheless. Much like Winston in the original GHOSTBUSTERS, Jones provides a more grounded angle on the ghost-hunting issue, but she too puts in a solid performance.

For a movie that is supposedly driven by the female cast, however, it’s ironic that the show-stealer is Chris Hemsworth! His character Kevin is a beefcake who, in classic (or some might say clichéd?) role reversal, provides the eyecandy with little or no brains. His scenes are some of the best laugh out loud moments; the interplay between him and the other ‘busters is also very funny.

I wondered how GHOSTBUSTERS would deal with the original two films, and the answer is simple: it ignores them. GHOSTBUSTERS is a direct reboot of the franchise, with no internal reference to the originals. I say “internal”, because there are several third wall references: with cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts. There’s even a subtle reference to Harold Ramis early in the film, which I thought was a nice touch.

GHOSTBUSTERS doesn’t break many rules so far as horror-comedy goes, and the film’s particularly lurid and colourful exploration of the paranormal won’t suit everyone. The horror elements are basically reduced to shock reveals (best experienced in 3D!), with the comedy is at the forefront. But it’s a very entertaining movie, and I felt that it was a successful reboot of the franchise. For once you won’t be disappointed that Hollywood has revisited a classic film series…

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