While it doesn't have the same cleverness or whip-smart dialogue as the original, Paul Feig's all-female revamp of Ghostbusters is entertaining enough and a star-making performance by Kate McKinnon helps put it over the edge. It's just a shame that it's just a little bit too safe and predictable, but otherwise it's a decent attempt.
There hasn't been a film like Ghostbusters in quite a while that's been met with such open and genuine hostility. Poor trailers, a terrible tie-in song and a constant stream of online hate has kept Ghostbusters in the minds of people - if only for the flack it's been getting before its release. Sitting down to watch Ghostbusters, you've got to put all this aside and accept what's in front of you on its own merits.
Kristen Wiig is a physics professor who abandoned the exploration of the paranormal - and her close friend, Melissa McCarthy - long ago in order to go fully into academia. Just as she's about to be made permanent in Columbia University, a book she wrote many years ago crops up on Amazon. Trying to hide her background, Wiig attempts to convince McCarthy - who's now teamed up with oddball scientist Kate McKinnon - to bury the book and let her move on with her life. However, Wiig, McKinnon and McCarthy are then called to investigate a paranormal disturbance and find that, yes, ghosts are real and they're attacking New York. Another paranormal disturbance in the New York subway ropes in Leslie Jones and it soon becomes clear that the increased activity is all down to an angry loner played by Neil Casey, who wants to open a portal to another dimension and bring about the apocalypse.
Like the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters sets up an intricate world and then throws in improv comedy to walk around in it and give it a bit of life. That's essentially what Paul Feig has done here, pairing SNL stars Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon with Melissa McCarthy and a scene-stealing Chris Hemsworth, who plays a dumb receptionist who wears lensless glasses. The interplay between the four Ghostbusters feels lived in and worn, and it's clear they're all working off the same template. Wiig is the uptight cynic, Leslie Jones is the walking encyclopaedia on New York, Kate McKinnon is the twitchy scientist whilst Melissa McCarthy's the leader. McKinnon, however, walks away with some of the best lines and jokes in a film that fires them off at a rate of knots. Likewise, Hemsworth has impeccable comic timing as the dim-witted but pretty receptionist and Wiig's fawning over him adds another layer of comedy to the film. Sadly, McCarthy and Jones aren't really left with that much to do, other than to push the story along at various points.
Where Ghostbusters' strength lies is in the throwaway moments and little offbeat jokes, just like the original. However, the problem is that these moments are sprinkled over a lot of unnecessary and overblown CGI and not given enough of a chance to breathe. The entire third act is essentially like a Marvel movie, all noisy and explosive, but without much in the way of humour. You could argue that that's much the same as the original - and it is - but the difference here is that the cast play it way more for the action than they do for the comedy. In fact, that's one of the big problems that Ghostbusters has - it cleaves far too closely to the original's plot that it almost feels like you're listening to a pitch-perfect cover band and not an original piece of work. That's been a problem with a lot of blockbusters of late, but where they've worked and this has failed (slightly) is that it doesn't do enough to change things up to make it unique.
As it stands, Ghostbusters is an entertaining blockbuster comedy that puts four hilarious women together and lets them at it. There's a lot of fun to be had here and it's a decent attempt at homage. The problem is that there's so much fan-service going on, that it's so aware of the original that it doesn't let itself go crazy or divert too much from it. You can tell that Paul Feig and the cast had a ton of ideas and didn't act on them because it'd be too different from what people would expect. Maybe that's what we'll get in the sequel? Who knows.
Is it as good as the original? No. Is it better than Ghostbusters II? Definitely. Do we want to see a sequel? Absolutely, provided it's not another retread of Ghostbusters II.