Friday, July 15, 2016

New ‘Ghostbusters’ is outright fun comedy-horror, just as good as 1984 original

By Steve Crum
Regarding the new Ghostbusters, let us cut to the proverbial chase. It is a re-imagined work for sure, but that does not make this female-driven comedy-horror movie any less hilarious, special effects laden, and outright fun. There are enough plot variations and new inclusions to satisfy diehard fans of the original franchise. And it even pays satisfyingly clever homage to the original cast via cameos that perfectly work into the plot. I like 1984’s Ghostbusters, and I like 2016’s Ghostbusters. Both are very watchable and rewatchable. 
Be aware that this is not a sequel to the original movie, even though some of the old cast members do appear in this new take. However, they do not portray their original characters. For example, Dan Akyroyd is a cab driver here.
That said, it is impossible to review the new Ghostbusters without referencing the old. TV’s comedy bastion, Saturday Night Live, once again supplies a goodly amount of the starring talent: Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones (2016) and Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray in ’84. Melissa McCarthy, who has guest hosted SNL, joins the new cast. 
As in the original, each actor brings individual comic stylings. For example, McCarthy is known for her slapstick physical bits, and she gets slammed around pretty well here. McKinnon (my favorite of the current SNL cast) is a master of in-your-face goofiness. Jones speaks her funny mind loudly and becomes as courageous as her teammates. Wiig, an SNL alumnus, plays it low key, getting laughs out of her subtlety and attempt at staying rational.  The chemistry between Aykroyd, Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson jelled well 32 years ago, and a balanced blend succeeds with the new cast. (Look fast for a mini-tribute to the late Harold Ramis.) 
While not a duplicate of the original, the plot loosely follows the same template.  Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are old friends and parapsychology co-workers who reunite years after co-writing a book that claims paranormal activity (ie ghosts) is a reality. Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is now a respected teacher at Columbia University, while Dr. Abby Yates (McCarthy) is still carrying on experimentation with the paranormal. She now has a new assistant, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Yates republishes the book, resulting in Gilbert losing her job. Through a series of circumstances, the co-authors reunite to explore paranormal occurrences in New York City. It is not long (following a ghastly encounter) before MTA worker Patty Tolan (Jones) joins the crew. 
There you have it. The ghosts are for real, and the ghost hunting business flourishes. The spooks are being triggered by the demented Rowan North (Neil Casey), who wants to lead a ghost army to destroy civilization. When the spirits arrive in full force, expect colorful, spectacular CGI effects. Seeing this in 3D will treat you to being slimed right in your face by several creepy creatures.
Factor in our ghostbusters' dimwitted, macho receptionist, played by Chris Hemsworth, a situation offering a vast amount of reverse-sexual leering directed toward Hemsworth’s dorky character. 
Ivan Reitman, who directed the ’84 Ghostbusters, is executive producer. Helming this time around is Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), whose comedic flair is evident. 
Incidentally, a few favorite ghosts from the original reappear, including the humongous Stay Puft Man. Oh yes, be sure to stick around for a funny scene after the end credits. 
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GRADE on an A-F Scale: B+

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