The all-female reboot of ‘Ghostbusters’ is here – pumped-up, subversive and often very funny. But before any fanboys make the leap from viciously criticising the trailer to viciously criticising the movie itself, let’s get a reality check on the 1984 original: breezy, blessed with a Bill Murray performance that captures him at his loosest, but hardly a work of genius – it was a wispy ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit propped up by zingers and special effects.
For this new ‘Ghostbusters’, director Paul Feig (‘Bridesmaids’), working with his regular screenwriter Katie Dippold, has dropped the deadpan, blue-collar schlubbiness of Murray and the gang. But he adds a sharp sense of sorority, turning this rethink into something appealing on its own terms. This is a stealth battle of the sexes that involves mansplaining college deans, a haughty New York mayor and a phalanx of male soldiers – all neutralised by a core team of four imaginative women.
Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig play Abby and Erin, co-authors of an embarrassing paranormal study, the 460-page ‘Ghosts from the Past: Both Figuratively and Literally’, who are drawn back together after Erin’s academic career fizzles out. Evil vapours haunt New York’s underground, bringing a tough subway worker (Leslie Jones) into the fold. For a moment we think they’re returning to the old Tribeca firehouse – but the rent’s way too high, so they settle for an office over a Chinese restaurant.
But it’s Kate McKinnon’s rascally, plastic-goggled Holtzmann – loosely based on Harold Ramis’s geeky spore collector – who absolutely steals the movie. Holtzmann is a terrific creation of pure physical comedy: all mock-triumphant gestures, sly winks and verbal slurs launched to a crowd of one in her head. She’s the best reason to see the film.
The movie starts off wobbly, and pays just a little too much homage to the original: the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is back, along with an endless stream of call-back cameos that mostly just distract. And the vivid sense of seen-it-all NYC, so pungent in the original, is weakened here. Where are the cheering crowds of proud New Yorkers? Regardless, here’s a summer movie starring a girl squad who are proud of their big brains. You could call that a supernatural event in itself.