“Ghostbusters”, the reboot/remake of the 1984 film, attempts to do something different, and that should be respected although the result is not wholly different from what we saw from the 1984 film and its 1989 sequel. Again, we are treated with the cheery mix of comedy and horror as those scary ghosts begin to haunt around New York City, but then we have female lead characters in this time, and this interesting gender change indeed brings some fresh air, though the movie is not entirely successful enough to silence those petty misogynist/racist online trolls once for all.
The first half of the movie revolves around how Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) finds herself being associated again with her estranged friend/colleague Dr. Abigail “Abby” Yates (Melissa McCarthy). As a theoretical physics professor of the Columbia University, she has worked hard for years for gaining tenure, and she is now almost close to the point of fulfillment, but then she is dragged into an area she thought she left behind when she reluctantly takes Abby and Abby’s current colleague Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to a historical site which is apparently haunted by a real ghost. While the eventual incident at the site results in her discharge from the university, this genuine paranormal happening re-ignites Erin’s enthusiasm toward paranormal activities, so she comes to return to her good old research while working along with Abby and Jillian.
After managing to rent a tacky place right above some cheap Chinese restaurant, they hire two employees. One is Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a subway station employee who happens to witness another spooky case of ghost along with them and soon joins them as the fourth member of the team. While she is not a scientific professional, Patty shows her resourcefulness through her considerable knowledge about many historical places in New York City, and she also shows her pluck especially during the rock concert sequence which features the brief cameo appearance of a certain famous musician.
The other one is Kevin Beckman, a hunky bubblehead played by Chris Hemsworth with surprising wit and gusto. Hemsworth, who has recently tried to expand his acting range beyond that flat, boring knucklehead superhero character in the Marvel Comics Universe, is fun to watch whenever his character shows his incorrigible incompetence which is usually masked by his good-looking body, and his comic performance works as another amusing gender reversal in the film. Never overshadowing his female co-performers, he is willing to throw himself into silliness and outrageousness, and I got a few good chuckles from that.
As our heroines are testing the water in their new area along with a number of gadgets developed by Jillian, it becomes apparent that something sinister is going on around the city. There is a creepy guy named Rowan North (Neil Casey), and this megalomaniac is taking the first steps toward his vengeful secret plan for the city. Erin and her colleagues try to stop this as soon as possible, but then they become frustrated with local authorities including Mayor Bradley (Andy García), who wants to keep things hidden from citizens as much as possible.
The screenplay written by the director Paul Feig and his co-writer Katie Dippold throws many gags into their rather formularized plot, and some of them work while others don’t. While a running gag involved with a delivery guy feels repetitive, there are several comic elements which could be funnier if they were handled with more effective build-up process. I guess a reference to “The Exorcist” (1973) is mandatory if you are going to have a scene of demonic possession, but, though I did laugh during that scene, I could not help but think that it could have been more hilarious if they had tried more than expected laughs.
After all hell finally breaks loose in the city around its third act (is this a spoiler?), there comes a massive climatic sequence decorated with lots of CGIs on the screen. The special effects in the film surely look better that the dated ones in the 1984 film or the 1989 film, and it is certainly nice to see some of familiar ghost characters, but this sequence is not that thrilling mainly due to the one-dimensional villain character, who will not probably be remembered well like Gozer or Vigo the Carpathian.
But the movie remains buoyed by the spirited comic chemistry among its four leading actresses. While Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy dial down a bit of their familiar comic persona, their two co-stars confidently demand our attention regardless of whether we like them or not. Kate McKinnon goes all the way to wield the odd mannerism of her quirky character who becomes sort of endearing despite her endlessly bizarre aspects, and Leslie Jones, who I sincerely hope will soon recover from all those nasty online attacks and insults she does not deserve at all, also holds her own place. As these talented actresses bounce around here and there together, several main cast members of the 1984 movie briefly appear in minor roles, and that is an extra fun for you if you are familiar with the 1984 film.
I do not think “Ghostbusters” is the best entertainment in the summer season of this year which has been lackluster compared to the previous seasons, and I must point out that Feig’s previous film “Spy” (2015) is funnier with more creativity, but the movie did its jobs despite its visible shortcomings to notice. Our ladies are not afraid of ghosts either, and they may be able to do better in next time.