Ghostbusters (2016)

Still the ones you call

The 2016 remake of Ghostbusters hit theaters last weekend with more than 30 years of ectoplasm dripping off its back. First of all, the very idea of remaking Ghostbusters strikes my generation as heresy. It’s as ridiculous as remaking Back to the Future or Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then you have the brouhaha over putting four women in the packs and jumpsuits, and it’s easy to forget there might be an actual movie under all the nasty Internet comments.

A little silly, a little scary, and a whole lot of humor that somehow manages to be old school and fresh at the same time.

Lo and behold, the movie is actually good, and most importantly it has that inimitable Ghostbusters vibe: a little silly, a little scary, and a whole lot of humor that somehow manages to be old school and fresh at the same time.

Physics professor Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is days away from earning tenure at Columbia University when a book she self-published years ago surfaces on Amazon. Certain the book—which claims ghosts are real—will kill her chance at tenure, she tracks down her coauthor, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), and asks her to pull the book from the Internet. However, Abby and her new partner-in-physics, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), drag Erin along to a reported haunting to try their latest ghost-sensing equipment. The haunting turns out to be real, and along with former MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Erin can’t help but fall for the paranormal all over again.

This new version of Ghostbusters skips along a tightrope between telling its own story and paying homage. It’s an origin story, but not the same origin story that brought Peter, Egon, Ray, and Winston to their destinies. The characters loosely correspond to the originals, but they are also their own people, with their own quirks, strengths, and failings. Longtime fans can think of this another way: the joy of another entry in a beloved franchise.

Best of all, the humor has not been darkened to play to a 21st-century audience’s supposed tastes. Many hailed the Wiig/McCarthy starmaker Bridesmaids as a sign that women were finally making comedic inroads into the film industry, but to do it, they were as crass, loudmouthed, and raunchy as male-driven comedies had become. Do women have to be vulgar to be funny? Anyone who’s ever had a hilarious female friend knows that isn’t true, and fortunately Ghostbusters falls more along those lines—your four funniest friends blasting ghosts on the big screen. This, Hollywood, is the humor we need right now. Not jokes that cut.

That’s not to say women hog all the laughs in this movie. There are plenty of funny male characters, including Chris Hemsworth displaying some surprisingly great comedic chops as Kevin, stud-muffin receptionist extraordinaire. He’s also dumb as a post. Is the humor a little cheap? Yes. Is it entertaining after decades of movies mining the dumb blonde for laughs and eye candy? Oh yes.

This is the kind of comedy I wanted to see as a girl and teenager. I remember wondering why girls couldn’t be as funny as boys, since women in comedies were always the punch line or playing the “straight man” role. It seemed tremendously unfair, and still does. I want to believe the controversy surrounding this film’s female stars has more to do with replacing beloved characters than misogyny, but time will tell.

Thirty-two years ago, the original stars of Ghostbusters modified their late-night humor to be funny to everyone, not just “mature” audiences. Now, when there’s something cynical in our comedy, and plenty of scary in the news, the new stars of Ghostbusters have performed the same alchemy. Who you gonna call?

Ghostbusters (2016) is rated PG-13 for some slightly frightening supernatural action and occasional crude humor.


All reviews express the opinions of the reviewer, not necessarily the views of Third Way.