Ghostbusters review: This is exactly the scrappy, dorky movie women need

2016’s Ghostbusters are triumphant. They are hilarious. They are smart. They are utterly dorky. They are totally badass. 

Clarisse Loughrey
Monday 11 July 2016 09:25
(l-r) Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters (2016
(l-r) Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters (2016

“This movie ruined my childhood.”

That’s the weird, sad little catchphrase that came to exemplify the internet-driven backlash to a movie no one had yet seen. Funny, that within all that rage we lost the basic fact that cinema never was an exclusively male playground; and that the sacred, pandered to childhoods of these fanboys wasn’t a universal experience.

No thought here was spared to the girls of this supposed nostalgia-dripped, golden era of formative filmmaking. The ones who loved Ghostbusters dearly but could never be a ghostbuster because, once again, no one had spared a thought for them. The ones left with barely a female role model that wasn't an animated princess with gigantic eyeballs and only animals for friends.

At least that won’t happen again, though. We’ll gladly sacrifice your ruined childhoods, good sirs; because 2016’s Ghostbusters are triumphant. They are hilarious. They are smart. They are utterly dorky. They are totally badass. They are begging to be instantly idolised by the stars lit in the eyes of so many young girls looking for validation.

1984’s Ghostbusters reigned on the infectious spirit of boys-at-play. Their heroism was all about swaggering bravado, impressing girls, landing ghostly blowjobs, and calling each other dickless. 2016’s Ghostbusters reigns on the infectious spirit of girls-at-play in that same unburdened environment; whether cracking fart jokes (women do that sometimes) or ogling at the total hunk in the room (women also do that sometimes, too).

Tonally, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is identically delivered to Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters. The new film’s just as unabashedly goofy as its predecessor, its paranormal aspects still possessing that kind of giddy, carnival ride spookiness. The team’s first encounter, with the ghost of Aldridge Mansion, is treated with a pitch-perfect imitation of the uneasy awe and eerie trepidation of the 1984 team’s own first encounter with a ghost in the New York Public Library.

Yet, thanks to its stars and co-writer Katie Dippold, its re-telling through an ultimately feminine perspective succeeds in delivering something new on instinct alone. We should know by now that telling the same story from a different viewpoint instantaneously creates something new, but 2016's Ghostbusters at least serves as a walking advertisement on why diversity in storytelling is such a creative boon.

These ghostbusters of new certainly don’t hide away from the reality of female heroism – that very familiar feeling that before you even have the chance to run around being the hero, you’ve got to work a heck of a lot harder just to get your work acknowledged in the first place.

At the heart of the group’s struggle is the simple fear that their discoveries will only ever live to be dismissed. Certainly, initially, they are; whether laughed off as the publicity stunts of lonely, deranged women or – in a wonderfully meta-scene – humiliated in YouTube comments exclaiming, “ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”

However, none of the Ghostbusters’ revamping is done in spite of the original; it’s a film just as unabashed as likes of The Force Awakens in its ties to the powerful undercurrents of nostalgia, though its lack of direct narrative continuation certainly lends its references more of a knowing wink. At points, it may tread dangerously close to overkill; but Feig always seems to stop short just in time, with the original cast’s cameos existing more to pepper his own world than to attempt the resurrection of long-past magic.

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Ghostbusters - Trailer 2

Indeed, its nostalgic ties have a far deeper effect in altering the very DNA of Feig’s reboot; it’s a film which plays far more off the original's legacy than its actual content. 1984’s Ghostbusters was always intended as the spiritual baby of the heady early days of Saturday Night Live; it’s a film that very much carries the spirit of sketch comedy, essentially structuring itself around a series of set-ups and punch lines. Which all, in turn, is the build-up to the one giant, walking punch line that is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

What Feig’s film does, however, is fall in line with what Ghostbusters has become in popular discourse; an integrated part of the fantastical adventures of the glittering ‘80s – the Back to the Futures, the Goonies. Its structure isn’t dictated by punch lines, but by action and character; its humour centered far more on quick one-liners and character driven comedy.

It’s here that 2016’s Ghostbusters struggles to crawl out of the shadows of its predecessors; its individual jokes never allowed the breathing room to land like the grand punch line of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, with its own climax playing out largely as a straight action scene littered with brief quips.

The strongest survival of the original film’s brand of anarchic, wry humour is certainly Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann; the self-branded maniac of the group and a walking non-sequitur that is so beautifully, masterfully delivered that her character somehow feels iconic within minutes of walking on screen. It’s with her that the perpetually sardonic, above-all-of-this attitude of Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman still lives.

However, out of Ghostbusters’ greatest weakness, it also sources its greatest strength: with its loose, freewheeling humour giving it the vibe of an extended hangout with the four funniest women you know. Alongside McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones all shine in equal parts; their jokes delivered with the easy smile and natural camaraderie of a group of disparate weirdoes bonding in their weirdness. Even Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin lands his scene-stealing moments as the delightfully airheaded twist on the dumb, blonde secretary.

Those illogically angry at an all-female cast before will only be further enraged by Feig’s Ghostbusters, a film that dares to direct itself to women in the way its predecessor directed itself to men. But, hey, us ladies have managed to enjoy your male-centric movies aplenty so far; here’s one on us. And it’s fun as hell.

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