Ever since its announcement two years ago, and long before any footage of the film was ever shot—let alone seen by the public—Sony’s proposed reboot of Ghostbusters has been the subject of controversy and politicization. Whether because fans thought remaking such a standout classic was an exercise in futility, or because this acts as the definitive affirmation that the original cast and crew were never going to reunite for a third installment, or because sexism is still a real and prevalent force in American culture, the Internet has been in a non-stop speculative fit over the female-starring Ghostbusters. Even when trailers were finally released, some of the film’s conceptual defenders had to admit that maybe this film wasn’t going to be all that great. But, I have good news: writer-director Paul Feig’s take on the Ghostbusters is a pretty good start to this rebooted franchise, ultimately proving the film’s detractors wrong.
Functioning more as a conceptual reboot than as a straight remake of Ghostbusters, the film follows the founding of the titular ghost hunting business by a group of scientists and their historically knowledgeable first client. There are similar story beats to the first film, largely because this version functions as an origin story for what is hoped to become a continuing franchise, but the emphasis is placed much more heavily on the founding of the struggling business, keeping the film’s story fresh while still exploring a familiarly classic setup.
However, much like the original film, what ultimately makes this Ghostbusters work is its fantastic cast. Thankfully playing original characters rather than gender-swapped versions of the original crew, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth (playing their clueless receptionist) have remarkable on-screen chemistry, building a comic foundation for the film that is reliant on quick timing, quicker pacing, and witty banter, so the laughs come fast and hard without ever really letting up. The physical comedy that was highlighted in the now infamously bad trailers is all there, but in context it is way more enjoyable and creatively implemented, relying on the personalities of the starring women to make what a lesser film could have bungled into comedy gold.
The film is also quite visually creative in its representation of its ghastly apparitions, even if they become somewhat overexposed by the third act. Feig isn’t really known as a dynamic director when it comes to cinematography, but the action blowout finale he has conjured at least shows that he has a good eye for graphic design—even if he isn’t the most inventive in displaying his team’s computer-generated creations or at editing the shots of the creatures together into a singularly coherent sequence. The action beats aren’t what are going to make the movie for anyone, but they are competent enough to serve the narrative and have enough interesting creature concepts to act as a baseline for future installments.
We can only hope that those installments will take more time during the screenwriting phase. The dialogue and general plotting are all great, but the script feels like it needed at least another draft before they pushed it into production. Sometimes scenes come and go with a sense of obligation to establishing iconography or minor plot details, often without even a line explaining how our characters changed location or why. The film’s villain feels very underdeveloped, which feels like a missed opportunity given how imbued with personality the leads are. And, unfortunately, the film’s humor is at its weakest when it flat-out references the original film, taking classic symbols like Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and incorporating them for a cheap, nostalgic chuckle.
Those faults prevent the film from being a classic in its own right, or even a great film, but for what the new Ghostbusters is, it’s a lot of fun. Its heart resides with its fantastic cast, led by four incredibly funny women who are worthy successors to the world that Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ivan Reitman conceived nearly thirty years ago. If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, you know who to call.