Misogynists may not be the only ones that abhor the Sony/Columbia Pictures remake of director Ivan Reitman’s vintage comedy “Ghostbusters” (1984) starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver. Some moviegoers hate remakes whether the films are good or bad, but 32 years have intervened since “Ghostbusters” came out and made a mint. “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, who has rebooted “Ghostbusters” (*** OUT OF ****), with Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the eponymous protagonists, hasn’t tampered with the formula that made the original so popular as much as he has retooled it for contemporary tastes. Aside from Bill Murray’s shtick, the original “Ghostbusters” qualified as amusing, superficial hokum, but I cannot say my attitude toward its sophomoric slapstick has altered drastically over the years. I’ve always felt that Murray’s other movies, such as “Stripes,” “Groundhog Day,” and “Where the Buffalo Roan,” were infinitely better. Meantime, the originality of Reitman’s farce notwithstanding, Feig and his female cast have given the material a lively spontaneity , and the superior CGI special effects don’t overshadow their shenanigans as much as it did the 1980s cast. Surviving original cast members make cameos, but they play completely different characters with no relation to anybody in the remake. Slimer and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man reappear. Feig’s “Ghostbusters” doesn’t resuscitate plotlines or call back characters from the two earlier films, but approaches the material afresh as if nothing had occurred in the paranormal realm. Actually, this estrogen-engineered remake handles some of the proton-packing elements better than the original. Although the typically hilarious Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are uncharacteristically reserved, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth take up the slack with spirit. “Saturday Night Live” alum Kate McKinnon will make you forget Dan Aykroyd, and Leslie Jones is a hoot and a holler in Ernie Hudson’s role. Chris Hemsworth replaces Annie Potts, who played the original “Ghostbusters” receptionist, and Hemsworth steals many scenes as a clueless clown. While it clocks in approximately eleven minutes longer than the PG-rated “Ghostbusters,” the PG-13 rated remake remains largely similar. The biggest difference lies in the human adversary that the gals tangle with and the enlarged role that the New York City mayor exerts in this mischievous nonsense.
The tomfoolery unfolds when a vengeful female ghost breaks out of a locked basement in the historic Aldridge Mansion in Manhattan and creates all sorts of havoc. Columbia University physics professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig of “Bridesmaids”) is poised to achieve tenure when the desperate Aldridge Mansion caretaker calls upon her for her paranormal expertise. She is horrified when he shows her the book that she co-wr0te years ago entitled “Ghosts from Our Past: Both Figuratively and Literally.” Erin realizes that this tome will discredit her in the eyes of her prestigious Columbia colleagues. Erin confronts her former colleague, Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), who conducts paranormal research at another university, about their book. Earlier, Erin convinced Abby to suppress their work, but Abby hopes that selling it on Amazon will yield another source of revenue to fund her own research. Unfortunately, not only does Columbia sack Erin, but Abby also loses her job. Abby’s technical wizard of an assistant, Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), serves as the equivalent of James Bond’s gadget designer Q; Jillian has concocted an exotic arsenal of paranormal weaponry. Along the way, a fourth person joins their team, MTA employee Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones of “Trainwreck”), who has had a close encounter with supernatural specter in a subway tunnel. Patty emerges as the most aggressive of the quartet when it comes to defying phantoms. Apart from aiding Erin, Abby, and Jillian with her unique knowledge of historic New York City, Patty is also able to acquire a hearse that they refit as their primary means of transportation, appropriately christened “Ecto-1.” Next, these intrepid dames set-up their headquarters–Department of the Metaphysical Examination—in office space above a Chinese restaurant and promptly find themselves in brisk demand. At a punk rock concert, they prove their expertise when they capture a gigantic, gremlin-like apparition and trap it in a compact metal container.
Eventually, our heroines figure out that all the ghost sightings are not random occurrences. Instead, they are the work of an insane occultist, Mercado Hotel janitor Rowan North (Neil Casey of “Adult Beginners”), who is preparing to unlock that dreadful dimension between the living and the dead so that dead souls galore can migrate into our world. Rowan has manufactured several devices and concealed them throughout the city like land mines to summon these spectacular spooks. Meantime, when our heroic quartet isn’t contending with the dastardly Rowan, they have to deal with fatuous New York City Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia of “Ocean’s Thirteen”) who insists that they stand down and let Homeland Security handle the chaos. Ultimately, our heroines confront Rowan at his motel where they find his massive ghost machine. Rowan fries himself on his apparatus, and Bradley congratulates our heroines for finishing off this fiend. Unfortunately, this is part of Rowan’s master plan. Now, he is able to operate out of a larger arena that was not available to him as a physical flesh and blood entity.
Indeed, this giddy “Ghostbusters” remake is even more ambitious than its predecessor. During the last half-hour, our heroines take on a supernatural Macey’s Day parade of ghouls. At one point, Slimer reappears with a Mrs. Slimer! Mind you, our heroines are properly equipped to deal with these demons. This new foursome boasts all kinds of ultra-cool armaments with which to dispatch these evil apparitions. Just like the original “Ghostbusters,” the “Ghostbusters” remake never takes itself seriously, but the cast maintains a straight face. Indeed, had Sony/Columbia Picture made this the third entry in the original franchise, it would have been a blast. Nevertheless, by rebooting the franchise with gals rather than guys, director Paul Feig has given “Ghostbusters” a new lease of life that it might otherwise have lacked.
“Your imagination can take you where nothing else can.” Van Roberts