Wow, I actually really enjoyed the new Ghostbusters movie.
The elephant in the room when it comes to the Ghostbusters reboot is how it compares to the original. From a storytelling perspective, the pacing is very different, but it’s fitting with today’s standard of blockbuster movie-making. And then there’s the cast.
What I really appreciate about this is that all the characters felt like their own people and not just “girl versions” of Ray, Egon, Venkman and Winston.
Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are delightful (and in some cases steal the show) in largely supporting roles as team engineer and New York expert. Melissa McCarthy’s team-leader Abby started off a little rocky, playing to the loud stereotype and juvenile humor she’s been known for, but ultimately she ends up being one of the most level-headed of the group as the comedy evens out. It sort of feels like the character got a bit of a rewrite but nobody bothered to redo her initial introduction to fit with it.
But that’s not really character growth, which this movie is a little thin on. The only real instance of that you’ll find here is in Kristen Wiig’s Erin, who goes from being a stodgy college instructor on the tenure track to the disgraced ex-instructor with the unapologetic hots for Chris Hemsworth’s “dumber than a box rocks” receptionist Kevin. This easily could have felt like the same sort of wild shift McCarthy’s character got, but the movie does go out of its way to give Erin a story about recapturing her youthful excitement for the supernatural. It’s not a big part of the plot, but it’s there.
And if I’m being honest, the ghostly part of the plot is pretty thin, too. A generic villain wants to break the wall between our world and a ghost world because our world was mean to him growing up.
But Ghostbusters 2016 had three things it needed to do: Tell a ghost story, bring the team together, and hit some nostalgia notes. While villainous Rowan may not have gotten the devotion that Zuul, The Keymaster and Gozer got in Ghostbusters ’84, the movie made up for it with its greater development of the new team and all their gear.
As for those nostalgia notes: Was it pandering to the old crowd every time that familiar music faded in with the action? Absolutely. Did I care? Not in the slightest. Not all the callbacks were smooth, but nothing was a dud, and it was worth the price of admission for the handful of cameos that pop in and the credits that will keep you entertained all the way to the after-credits scene that, if it’s actually a precursor of things to come and not just an easter egg for fans, alludes to a greater story that could be all about the plot.
Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ghostbusters did a great job of reminding me why I love the original while giving me something new to enjoy as well (arguably much more new stuff than Star Wars gave).
Were the characters largely archetypal? Yes, but really, so were Venkman, Egon and Ray in the original (poor Winston never really got enough attention to see if he fit a mold). Was the plot a little lacking? Sure. But at its core, the original’s Zuul was just a demonic spirit haunting an apartment…because spirits haunt apartments, and I guess worship gods of destruction? And if we’re not going to hold the original accountable for its shortcuts while slathering it with accolades, it seems unfair to treat this movie’s shortcuts like great sins.
When it comes down to it, the biggest difference between the two is that the 1984 Ghostbusters felt like a ghost movie with funny stuff in it and Ghostbusters 2016 is a funny movie with ghosts in it.
And ultimately, while there might be a few stumbles along the way, it sure is a lot of fun and certainly a worthy successor for a generation 32 years removed from the original.