Saturday, July 16, 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: "Ghostbusters" (2016)

The smartest move this film makes is that it doesn't try to replace the original Ghostbusters. It's not a remake: the plot is different, the characters are original, and it explores other themes. It's not supposed to be The Better Ghostbusters. It's supposed to be Hey! Great! More Ghostbusters! You could easily watch both films back to back without feeling like you experienced the same story.

This Ghostbusters is a more character-driven comedy. Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kristin Wiig) used to be best friends and paranormal scientists, but Erin abandoned their research and denied her ghost-hunting past to pursue academic credibility.

The sudden appearance of powerful malevolent spirits in New York causes them to reunite, and with the assistance of some awesome new friends - wild card engineer Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and history expert Patty (Leslie Jones) - they uncover an insidious paranormal threat to the Big Apple.

It takes a delicate hand to write an effective comedy about the need to be taken seriously, but Ghostbusters pulls it off. The desire to be heard, understood, believed, and appreciated drives all four of our Busters in different ways.

Erin does this initially by conforming to thankless and ultimately fruitless standards. Her arc has such a strong and empathetic feminist streak in it as she rebels (in an increasingly hilarious fashion) against the ways in which society dismisses and disbelieves her.

McCarthy's Abby - played with her trademark sweet-and-sour delivery (with a stronger emphasis on sweet this time) - wants to stick to the science, believing objective results and personal fulfillment trump social status. McCarthy plays it pretty low-key, as the emotional rather than comedic centre of the group.

Jones' Patty - the lone non-scientist - represents the self-made, self-educated woman. She reads like a fiend, knows the city inside and out, and knows her way around people - and she soon proves that she's a worthy Ghostbuster, degree or no degree.

And McKinnon's Holtzmann? A lesser movie and a lesser actress would have just labelled Holtzmann as "the kooky one" and played her with a combination of obnoxious, unrelated comedic traits that are barely tolerated by the rest of the cast. Instead, Kate McKinnon absolutely steals the entire movie as an unorthodox, confident, wildly charismatic, and unrepentantly unfettered genius who just wants to make wild, crazy science with whomever will let her.

And, oh yeah, this movie is also funny! Alongside these four comedic powerhouses, Chris Hemsworth does an outstanding job as their Hot Dumb Blonde Receptionist Kevin, and the movie is littered with well-deployed nostalgic references that should please Ghostbuster aficionados without excluding viewers unfamiliar with the franchise.

All told, Ghostbusters is a well-written paranormal comedy that combines wit and slapstick with emotional resonance and keen social commentary. I highly recommend.

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