Editor’s Notes: Ghostbusters is out on in its respective home video format October 11th.
The new Ghostbusters (Sony Home Entertainment) isn’t technically a remake, and not a sequel. The best description would be a reimagining. The plot follows the original, up to a point, and then veers onto a wild comic path all its own. Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy), the movie takes advantage of the talents of four extremely talented women and the dazzling possibilities of computer-generated special effects.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a one-time enthusiast of the paranormal, has abandoned this interest to pursue academic life and is now on a tenure track at Columbia University. She’s reunited with old pal Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who runs a paranormal studies program at a community college with her assistant, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). When the trio discover evidence of the existence of ghosts at a venerable Manhattan mansion, they form a unit dedicated to capturing them. Subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones) joins the team after being accosted in a subway tunnel by a particularly unfriendly apparition. Her vast knowledge of Manhattan will assist the group in navigating their way through the city.
The best aspect of Ghostbusters is neither the plot nor the pyrotechnic special effects, which dominate the movie’s final 15 minutes. The real draw is the chemistry among the leads and their ability to elicit laughs from lines that aren’t always comically on point, sell the slapstick, and use their own quirky personalities as comedy generators.
Wiig and McCarthy have definite rapport and it’s easy to believe that their characters’ mutual fascination with the paranormal is enough to wipe away a years-long estrangement. McCarthy underplays many of her comic lines, making them all the funnier, and she gets more than expected mileage over a running gag about wonton soup. She also engages in some outrageous physical comedy involving a runaway motorcycle that causes her be projected hither and yon at top speed like a deflating balloon.
Kate McKinnon, one of the brightest lights among the current Saturday Night Live cast, is the gadget inventor of the group and turns in a performance suggesting her Holtzmann is just a shade shy of being eligible for a room at the local loony bin. With a wide-eyed gaze and bizarre movements, she strolls through life according to her own inner tune, yet is a perfect fit in the quartet of women dedicated to saving New York City from an apparition invasion. Unfortunately, the script falls far short of Ms. McKinnon’s capabilities, who resorts to excessive mugging. With stronger material, she would be downright hilarious rather than oddly amusing.
Ms. Jones, too, isn’t exploited fully. Her work on Saturday Night Live has proven she can get laughs with well-written material. She has a few stand-out moments, but every time you see her shine, you wish there would be more for her to do.
Added to the comic mix is Kevin (Chris Hemsworth, Thor), the dim-witted, hunky receptionist hired by the women to run the office. Surprisingly adept at comedy, Mr. Hemsworth adds a shot of testosterone to the goings-on as his Kevin attempts to master phone answering and grasp routine office tasks. Toward the end of the movie, Kevin becomes a significant part of the film’s wild ghost-run-amok mayhem.
The nominal villain in the movie is a weird guy named Rowan North (Neil Casey), who’s invented a device to increase paranormal activity in New York City and possibly open a portal that will bring about the city’s demise at the hands of the otherworldly. Neither terribly imposing nor funny, the character is a weak link in the movie’s structure. Once he’s introduced, both script and viewer lose track of him.
Rated PG-13, Ghostbusters is enjoyable summer entertainment proving that the right women can be just as funny as men in a big-screen comedy. Is it the best comedy ever? By no means. But it is funny and the special effects enhance the story and make possible some imaginatively creepy ghosts, many of them homages to ghosts from the original movie. There are also cameos featuring stars of the 1984 flick. And a special note: BE SURE to remain until all the credits have rolled. A lot of the film’s funniest moments are located there.
The Blu-ray releases contains the unrated extended edition, with more than 15 minutes of new footage, as well as the PG-13 theatrical version. There are over 3 hours of extras including 5 behind-the-scenes featurettes, 2 gag reels, 4 deleted scenes, 11 alternate scenes, filmmaker commentaries, photo gallery, and over an hour of additional extended and alternate scenes. A digital HD copy is included.