In the opening scene of the new Ghostbusters reboot, a tour guide is giving a tour of a haunted house. “At the time that it was built, it was the height of luxury,” he says. “It had such features as a face-bidet and an anti-Irish security fence.” Gesturing into a sitting room, he adds, “Rumor has it that this is where P.T. Barnum first had the idea to enslave elephants.”
The jokes, which had the theater laughing immediately, set the tone for the rest of the movie, and when the movie follows that line of humor, it’s very funny. It’s less funny when it delves into toilet humor or slapstick, but luckily those jokes are well in the minority, and as the movie progresses, the momentum of the script steamrolls right over the occasional hiccups.
In this reboot, the four protagonists are, as you might have been told, ladies, a fact which led to a massive outpouring of vitriol by a subset of gentlemen who felt that the female main characters would retroactively spoil their childhood memories of the original film. Oddly enough, I too had a childhood that included this movie, despite the fact that I’m female, and I can tell you right now that not only does linear time not work that way, but the film’s many loving callbacks to the original engendered nothing but fond nostalgia, and, in some places, fist-pumping glee.
Kristin Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a professor at Columbia University who is just coming up for tenure. When she discovers that her childhood friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) has re-published an embarrassing book about the paranormal that the two had co-authored many years ago, threatening Erin’s tenure bid, Erin tracks Abby down in the hopes of convincing her to take it off Amazon. She discovers that Abby, far from distancing herself from their ghost-hunting obsession of the past, has thrown herself into paranormal studies at a local technical college with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, played by the (INCREDIBLY HOT) Kate McKinnon.
Subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) soon joins the crew, as well as Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth), their affably stupid secretary. Chris Hemsworth is pretty amazing, actually, although unfortunately one of his best scenes—a dance number—was cut from the film and only appears in the credits, leaving an unexplained gap near the end of the movie.
I know a lot of people have been questioning why this story had to be a reboot and not a sequel to the original Ghostbusters. This is certainly not a shot-by-shot remake: the plot only vaguely follows that of the 1984 original. The story would have been extremely different if ghosts were already a generally acknowledged fact in the world and there was already a system set up for combating them. I think the spirit of the Ghostbusters franchise is the conceit of a group of somewhat unprofessional individuals fighting ghosts in a world that doesn’t want to believe in them, and that wouldn’t work if this movie were set 32 years after the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man terrorized downtown Manhattan.
Ultimately, the story is loud and exhilarating and funny. It holds up pretty well to the original. I grew up with the original (literally—the first movie came out the year I was born, and I’m sorry if that fact makes you cringe) and with the cartoon series. I had a toy Ghostbusters car and the fire station and action figures. I even had one of those ghost traps where you step on the pedal to open the trap. I haven’t thought about those things in years. Ah, nostalgia. I’m a little jealous of the kids today who are going to have this movie as their introduction into the Ghostbusters franchise. It’s a good place to start.