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Rant and Rave: Ghostbusters

“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts,” reads one comment on a YouTube video of the newly formed Ghostbusters, which was uploaded after their first mission. Leader Abby Yates, played by Melissa McCarthy, yelps “Oh!” then decides to read the other comments to decompress. This jarring moment might make some viewers gasp or laugh while shaking their heads, but for those who have followed the formation of the Ghostbusters reboot, this scene might inspire the bravest of fans to wring their hands and just sigh in their seats.

After all the uproar surrounding the reboot of the iconic 80s comedy, which saw fans on Twitter spewing misogynistic comments and the first glimpse of the movie becoming the most disliked trailer in YouTube history, the Paul Feig-led feature has finally arrived, and at a time when representation and gender equality in media are hot topics, no less. It’s funny, then, to consider the different circumstances the new Ghostbusters are dealing with in the film, and see how that is juxtaposed in terms of how the world is reacting to an all-female Ghostbusters team.

The film starts in a similar fashion as that of the original, but this time, the haunting is in an old New York institution known as the Aldrich Mansion. A violent apparition appears, and the property’s owner contacts Erin Gilbert, portrayed by Kristen Wiig, for help after he reads her book. Gilbert, who’s up for tenure at Columbia University, is shocked when she finds out that Abby Yates, her former best friend, published their book about the paranormal online. After their confrontation, and the introduction of team member Jillian Holtzmann, the three set off to Aldrich Mansion and find the apparition. After their ghastly encounter, they recruit Kevin as their secretary and Patty Tolan, who rounds out the team with her New York smarts and knowledge of the city.

As more and more apparitions appear throughout the city, the four women realize that though they’re equipped to deal with the situations, external factors like being tagged as frauds plague their day-to-day operations. As a reboot, the new Ghostbusters works with the subtext of how women are perceived in their everyday work, as ‘flukes’ or every other synonym that can be applied. While the original team’s intentions were questioned as ‘hack’ work, the reboot team finds themselves working against the notion that they can’t do good work even if enough evidence is presented, always being called racketeers wherever they go.

The movie’s not all cynical, though; like The Heat and Bridesmaids, both directed by Feig, female friendship and camaraderie is at the forefront of this movie, anchoring much of how the ladies deal with each other and how they care for their newfound team. The science is also not lost, a very prominent and noteworthy feature of the 80s classic; the jargon may be difficult for non-science geeks, but the way the team works with and presents it is enough to generate laughs and smiles.

It’s evident, however, that the reboot works mainly because of how the ensemble comes together to create comedy gold. Already a Feig ‘standard’, all his films have featured top-notch comedy work from everyone involved. McCarthy and Wiig, especially the former, are regulars in Paul Feig’s films; McCarthy even garnered an Academy Award nomination for her gut-busting work in Bridesmaids. Here, the two deliver understated work as their characters are more focused on figuring out how to one-up the film’s big bad, and then some. While Wiig’s Erin Gilbert plays the straight man and the rule-follower of the whole ensemble, McCarthy’s Abby Yates is more of the believer who’s never faltered in her belief of the paranormal. Yates and Gilbert’s friendship, however, is exhibited front and center in the film, letting the two actresses flex their comedic muscles while traipsing their roles with ease and finesse.

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Additionally, like in most Feig films, Ghostbusters also showcases a breakout performance that electrified the screen. Bridesmaids had McCarthy, Spy had Jason Statham’s surprisingly comic turn, and the title of breakout here goes to Kate McKinnon, who’s long been the MVP of Saturday Night Live’s recent seasons. Here, she presents a zany, almost maniacal Jillian Holtzmann who delivers most of the film’s funniest and tension-breaking scenes. From her early gags to her glorious battle scene montage, McKinnon proves that she’s the crackling conduit this movie needed.

Props should also be given to Leslie Jones, another SNL player, who plays Patty Tolan. Her savvy MTA teller who becomes the new Ghostbusters addition proves that she can run with the club easily, with Jones delivering the snappy lines Feig and Katie Dippold wrote for her with tenacity and vigor, balancing McKinnon’s eccentric fun. Chris Hemsworth, who plays bumbling secretary Kevin Beckman, plays off with the four Ghostbusters well. Though his shtick might prove tiresome for some, Hemsworth relishes Beckman’s quirks and gives his own goofy smirk to match. Even secondary characters like Cecily Strong’s Jennifer Lynch and Neil Casey’s Rowan, deliver exquisite nerdery and bring their A game.

ghostbusters_ver6
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Despite it being his first wade into the pool of directing big-budget titles, Paul Feig, who crafted hits based on original ideas, balances the comedy with the horror aspects of the film, nailing the tone and feel that could have derailed the whole thing into a mess. The screenplay, another Feig collaboration with The Heat co-writer Dippold, also grounds the story in a modern setting, with climactic battle scenes that rev up the thrills and a cast that flourishes with the material they’re given.

Thankfully, the most refreshing thing this reboot has in its proverbial sleeves (or jumpsuit) is the lack of cynicism in its veins. In a summer season riddled with sequels and prequels that promise bigger, bolder, and badder everything, Ghostbusters contains no dark or brooding antiheroes, letting the four women who are into science, history, and good work take center stage instead. The mix of science, comedy, and great action in its DNA can be traced back to the original Ghostbusters which was born during the decade when original ideas survived and thrived (see E.T., Aliens, Raiders of The Lost Ark). Despite it being a reboot, and the countless cameos sure to quell the thirst of fans, the new Ghostbusters finds its own footing and mark by having the women lead with their own personalities and characters.

Naysayers would argue that this iteration is a blatant cash grab, but representation in cinema has never been more talked about in the media than today. “I wanted for little girls to be able to see themselves up on the screen,” Paul Feig said in an interview with Vulture’s Jada Yuan. The four Busters portrayed on-screen are not merely shown as love interests or ditzy secretaries; in fact, the characters excel when they do their work or when they further their expertise. Like the fully-decked Ecto-1 car the Ghostbusters ride to their next mission, the film is a fun ride that basks and revels in the nervous joy of the situation, busting ghosts because someone has to do it. And yep, these women did the damn thing.

 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

By Daniel Ian Comandante

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