Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ghostbusters Review

After a summer full of so many big budget clunkers, the incredibly entertaining Ghostbusters arrives like a bucket of cool water to a man stranded in the Sahara for months on end. Seriously, where was this level of fun, sincerity and care been in the likes of Independence Day: Resurgence and X-Men: Apocalypse? Leave it to Paul Feig and co. to follow up the directors exceptional Spy from last summer with a remake that's not relentlessly beholden to what's come before. There's a vibrant sensation of the new pulsating through Ghostbusters and it's a vibe that's impossible to resist.

Despite being technically a remake, Ghostbusters is a mostly original work in that it doesn't repeat every exact narrative beat from the original. Oh, there are plenty of parallels and homages to the original Ghostbusters storytelling-wise, most notably in how both movies open with a normal person encountering a specter at their workplace and both films conclude with a visual effects-laden fight with ghosts at night. But this new movie delivers have four new Ghostbusters whose personalities strongly differ from the original group from 1984. Meanwhile, the supporting cast (which does not include new character equivalents to the individuals played by Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis in the original), character dynamics and the majority of the plot points are similarly fresh. Doing something fresh in a remake instead of resting on the laurels of the past? How refreshing! And hey, not only is this movie covering new storytelling ground, but it's also utilizing an entertaining plot! How about that?

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) doesn't believe in ghosts. Well, I mean, she used to, but the demands of her career as a college professor browbeat her into submerging those beliefs. Her lifelong best pal, Abby (Melissa McCarthy), is still a firm believer in the supernatural and drags Erin along to visit a supposedly haunted house where they encounter an actual ghost. The spooky encounter is enough to convince Erin to join up with Abby, as well as gizmo whiz Jillian (Kate McKinnon) and history buff Patty (Leslie Jones), to create a business to help fight these ghosts. They'll have to become....the Ghostbusters.

From there, plenty of chances for humor crop up and Katie Dippold and Paul Feig's screenplay has a solid story structure to it allowing for plenty of chances for character development. The witty humor also keeps on arriving in the script at a surprisingly and enjoyably consistent pace. While much of the comedy is certainly well-written content, one cannot underestimate the level of natural camaraderie brought in by the four leads. Seriously, they really do bounce off each other in an exceptionally entertaining manner, to the point where I could totally watch a movie of them just eating Chinese food and shooting the breeze. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, playing childhood friends turned distant adults, have a very natural dynamic between them, it really is easy to buy them as having known each other and the others individual quirks for ages. Leslie Jones meanwhile, playing a person more unfamiliar to the world of apparitions, proves to be a perfect audience surrogate on this adventure and also a exceptionally funny in her own right (I adore her reaction to a room full of creepy mannequins).

And then there's Kate McKinnon, whose been acing it on Saturday Night Live for multiple seasons now and makes her big-screen leading character debut here. How does she fare? Amazingly well, she may be the best part of this whole movie. She doesn't even have to speak to make you cackle with laughter, just her body language when she's in the background is enough to make her hilarious. She absolutely knocks it out of the park playing Jillian as a lovably unapologetic oddball. Now that I've sprinkled some praise on the cast, I do wanna note about an element of the film that is tonally inverse to the humor, the occasional presence of horror. Interestingly, despite being primarily a comedy, the script doesn't skimp on incorporating actual scares whenever the ghosts show up, which ensures that there is a level of actual danger looming over the characters in the story.

Speaking of those various ghosts, they're all brought to life through some lovely design work. Brightly colored and wildly varying in design aesthetic (some are humanoid, others are balloon floats), there's a strong sense of variety to the appearance of these nefarious spooks that's most pleasing on a visual level. Less pleasing is perhaps the film's most detracting element, the editing, which comes courtesy of Melissa Bretherton and Brent White. There's a number of clunky scene transitions that are quite jarring and the same goes for quite a few pieces of editing between shots in the scenes themselves whose clunky nature took me right out of the movie. This is an overall polished production so I don't know why the editing is so subpar in a few spots.

Something worth pointing out about Ghostbusters is how it continues a nice trend from Spy that has director Paul Feig taking a conventional hunky leading man and taking great advantage of his comedic talent. It was Jason Statham who became a memorable source of comic relief in Spy and Ghostbusters keeps up the tradition by casting Chris Hemsworth as Kevin the secretary, who becomes a routine source of uproarious gags. Kevin is, well, not the brightest bulb around and the way Hemsworth underplays his naivety (he's so casual, for instance, about the lack of lenses in his glasses that he still wears) is exceptional. It doesn't hurt that the four leads have plenty of fun interacting with Hemsworth.

The way Ghostbusters manages to mine humor from Kevin's lack of intellect without coming off as mean-spirited is quite the well-done trick and that's actually one of the best assets of Ghostbusters as a whole, its earnestness and cheerful atmosphere. This is not a movie stuffed to the gills with set-ups for twenty-two sequels nor is it filled with repetitive gags laced with sexism and homophobia nor is it just an excuse for unimpressive visual effects to bounce off each other. Instead, Ghostbusters is an incredibly funny motion picture that allows for a cast practically drowning in talent to utilize their comedic gifts. This movies got its flaws for sure (that editing really is jarring in certain spots, I can't stress that enough), but taken as a whole, Ghostbusters is pure fun that, to quote the esteemed poet Ray Parker Jr., made me feel goooooood.

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