The villain of writer-director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is a sexist nerd with a chip on his shoulder. Sexist assholes started making noise when it was announced that the new ghost-busting team would be female. This is not a coincidence. Feig, co-writer Katie Dippold, and stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon know who the enemy is and, while not exactly setting their sights on him, are perfectly willing to take the occasional, elegant, hilarious potshot. This Ghostbusters is the rare film that gets to address its detractors while they watch the film and it does it well. Ghostbusters is a good movie, sorry “Ghost-bros.”
As expected, Ghostbusters’ cast shines. There is, perhaps no one better at playing comically put-upon than Kristin Wiig, as she does with her Dr. Erin Gilbert, a Columbia professor trying to distance herself from her past as a paranormal investigator as she vies for tenure. Melissa McCarthy is, as expected, a brilliant foil to Wiig as Aaron Yates, Erin’s former partner who continues the search for paranormal activity. McCarthy is at her best when working with Feig (her director on the Wiig-scripted Bridesmaids (2011), and last year’s superb Spy), we can hope that their collaboration will extend far into the future. Kate McKinnon infuses her character Holtzmann with a weird, always unexpected energy that never stops working, nailing her first starring role and hinting at what a huge star she could be when she departs Saturday Night Live. Leslie Jones, in a welcome, if expected, turn as Patty Tolan, an MTA worker-turned-Ghostbuster, brings the persona to which she gives such life on SNL. Also shining is Chris Hemsworth as the Ghostbusters’ dimwitted secretary, hired for his looks. While Hemsworth has, in the past, tackled comic material gamely, he has always come across as something of a bland hunk. But Feig seems to have uncovered the secret to unlocking the comedic potential in superhero types, doing for Hemsworth what he did for Jason Statham in Spy.
It’s not a slam dunk; the jokes land at around a respectable 80%, the action is often displeasingly CGI-heavy, and the plot is serviceable but uninspired. For a high-concept comedy about a paranormal invasion of New York City, it’s pretty loosey-goosey, Feig worries more about giving the cast space to work and create comedy than about keeping the storytelling tight, which mostly works, but not all the time. However, the laughs are designed and the creatures are often really cool and legitimately creepy. Feig is now a proven director of comedies with an eye for high-quality production.
One of the most common, and most stupid, protestations leveled at this Ghostbusters while it was in production was that this all-female version would “ruin our childhoods.” The argument is bankrupt; one film cannot retroactively despoil another and if any film could do such to Ghostbusters it would have been Ghostbusters II (1989). Feig’s reboot is, rightly, not concerned with your childhood but the that of current children. With its kickass, very funny ladies it’s the kind of film you should want your kids to watch.
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Paul Feig, Katie Dippold
Producer: Ivan Reitman, Amy Pascal
Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman
Editor: Melissa Bretherton, Brent White
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
English/ PG-13/116 min.