Note: The formal conclusion of #GhostbustersWeek here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine, this review comes in late thanks to an unscheduled server switch. This review does contain SPOILERS…
On Friday night, fresh back from a quick, yet eventful trip to New York City for Blogger Bash ’16, I found myself back in Illinois for a long-scheduled date night with my wife. The entertainment – Paul Feig’s GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL (which I’m told is actually the film’s official, full title, despite simply “Ghostbusters” being just fine). We bought our tickets a good week in advance, complete with dinner delivered to our seats at the local Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime – a truly fantastic way to enjoy any film, though particularly one as special effects-heavy as this one. Like so many others, we settled in to find out for ourselves what the outcome would be of the much talked-about and debated relaunch of one of the most beloved franchises from our own youth. It’s a touchy spot when you have a film that’s not purely a remake, nor a sequel – but something that needs to honor the past while opening the doors wide for the future, and that’s GHOSTBUSTERS.
A new telling that is not connected to the 1984 original in a story sense, Melissa McCarthy (Abby Yates), Kristen Wiig (Erin Gilbert), Kate McKinnon (Jillian Holtzmann) and Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan) are a perfect cast to pick up the Proton Packs for a new generation, while Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as their clueless receptionist, Kevin. We very much get an origin story, but one in which the 2016 Ghostbusters are less polished than their ’84 counterparts – and they don’t advance as far along in terms of experience until [SPOILER] the final moments of the film. In true 80s fashion, the original film featured that mid-story montage – a “time-jump” mechanism to show the team gaining both experience and notoriety on a national level, with their Ghostbustin’ exploits intercut with media coverage from the likes of Larry King. By the time a big threat arrived in NYC, the citizens knew that there was only one group to call. In Feig’s GHOSTBUSTERS (co-written by Katie Dippold), the team is rougher – more DIY – with equipment that’s cruder, and even less-tested than their counterparts, but it totally works to serve the story, in which the bullied Rowan (Neil Casey) is using similar tech to help amplify the supernatural in a plot to crossover to the ghost world himself and lead an army of ghouls to punish the living.
The pacing is brisk, the visuals bright, and there’s a lot to like in here, despite a few jokes that fell flat in our screening. Personally, I found the ghosts themselves to be much scarier than the original film, so much so that I feel that The Rock Daughters™ should be a bit older before seeing this one (it’s rated PG-13). For fans of the 1986-1991 cartoon series, THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS (which we’ve watched alot of lately thanks to a new DVD set), you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that the new film seems to borrow heavily from it in terms of aesthetic and detail, with a lot of the tech (the body of the PKE meter was the first thing I noticed) feeling ripped straight from the animated series. There’s also the much-mentioned look of Holtzmann, which seems to homage the animated version of Ramis’ Egon, but also feels really, really Doc Brown (BACK TO THE FUTURE).
My criticism in the film lies with the unnecessary cameos – both from the original cast, and from Ozzy Osbourne. Knowing that ’84 and ’16 are two entirely different beasts set in two totally different worlds, it’s jarring to see faces from the first film pop-up, the exception being the thoughtful tribute to the late Harold Ramis in the form of a bust seen early on. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver all make appearances, and really it’s only Hudson (as Patty’s Uncle Bill) and co-writer Dippold (as a real estate agent) that feel natural. With Ozzy, there’s a “Sharon” gag that feels dated and unfunny straight-away thanks to recent headlines involving the pair, and with his name already on the in-film posters as headliner of an all-day rock festival, he really didn’t need to be there. On that same note, there was a missed opportunity to feature a real band in a concert scene showdown with a demon ghost, instead plugging in the fictional “Beasts of Mayhem.”
2016’s GHOSTBUSTERS is a film that begs for a sequel – that missing “time-jump” taking place at the end of the film, right at the start of the very well-done end credits sequence (vibrant enough to keep audiences seated for the post-credits scene). With the team now established, we can hit the ground running in the next chapter, the necessary origin story out of the way. While this is a very different GHOSTBUSTERS, there’s certain callbacks that audiences do want, and for me it’s two things: The firehouse, and the original Ecto-1. In the end, Feig’s Ghostbusters were able to snag one of those in the firehouse, and the vortex is certainly wide-open for a new – perhaps classic – ride whenever GHOSTBUSTERS II hits the screen.