This aggression will not stand, man. An all-female “Ghostbusters”? It’s like they used a gigantic Kool-Aid Man to replace the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Pure heresy! I know, because I saw how it was mis-sold by poorly edited trailers. Prepare to meet my proton stream, Hollywood.
To such comments I say, get over it, fanboy. The colorful new version isn’t unfaithful to the source material’s mythology. It’s a fun, true-blue update of a classic.
Ivan Reitman, who made the first two “Ghostbusters” films, remains as producer. The earlier cast members pop in to delightful effect, with the cinematography, writing and overall mood spot on. It returns to iconic locations. Lines of dialogue are called back verbatim. The comedy is as rich as Paul Feig, the impeccably funny director/co-writer of “Spy” and “Bridesmaids,” can get without an R rating. This is no more a double-crossing adaptation than “The Force Awakens” is a fraudulent version of “Star Wars.”
The new spin follows Kristen Wiig as Erin Gilbert, an uptight Columbia University physics professor who was bullied as a little girl for claiming to have seen a ghost, and as a result spent almost her whole life pretending to be a skeptic. She is kicked off the faculty when the school discovers her long-hidden book about the supernatural, “Ghosts From Our Past, Both Literally and Figuratively,” whose opening line is, “This is not a joke.”
Her dismissal puts her back in contact with Melissa McCarthy’s ratchet-jawed Abby Yates, her long ago co-author, now a fellow scientist at a much cheesier college. The two are a funny team of introvert and chatterbox. Turning them into a Hot Wheels tricycle is Kate McKinnon as Yates’ gender-ambiguous colleague Jillian Holtzmann, a puckish steampunk who raises the film to hilarious weirdness in every single take. McKinnon walks away with the film; her flawless reaction shots off to the side always eclipse the main gag.
The trio form a new Ghostbusters team to rescue a haunted mansion, introducing Feig’s no-holds-barred approach to supernatural sliming. When Wiig is slathered with a torrent of ectoplasmic goo, she tells the others, “That stuff went everywhere, by the way. In every crack. Very hard to wash off.”
The fourth leading lady joins the ranks a bit later. Leslie Jones is Patty Tolan, a city subway worker with a near encyclopedic knowledge of New York City history.
Each member gets a few nice moments of character development. Wiig does wild puppy love when idiotic, irresistible Kevin (Chris Hemsworth in upbeat form) becomes their incompetent receptionist. McCarthy does fine triple-speed small talk in normal life, then shifts gears radically in a bout of demonic possession. Jones gets a slam-bang action scene worthy of Serena Williams at Wimbledon. Feig handles the movie’s recurring battle scenes well, and the way the spirits are presented here is several steps up from the visual effects of 1984.
Did I love every instant? Not all of them. In a clear pitch to the shootout-craving international audience, the team members here aren’t ghostcatchers but neutron gunslingers and bomb tossers. The marginal villain behind the sudden reappearance of centuries-old spirits is not evil personified but a grumpy Gus.
And it seems to have opened the door for limitless reboots and continuations. I’d gladly watch a solo story centered on McKinnon, but that’s quite enough, thank you.
Overall, this “Ghostbusters” is a sweet cultural revival, a movie that delivers summer blockbuster pleasure, not sequel overdose syndrome.
In fact, it’s so closely related to the mid-’80s hit and sequel that you need to be aware of them to appreciate this delicious rehash. Dig into the canon if you haven’t experienced it; enter with confidence if you have.
The script even includes some laughs at the expense of the creepy new menace of online trolls, such as the ones who gave the film’s trailers the most disliked response in the annals of YouTube. If it pushes some fans out of the franchise, it will pull many more in.