Blu-ray Review: ‘Ghostbusters’

When I was a few years old, I mostly loved to go and play outside amongst nature. It was typical for my time. I climbed trees in the back yard and loved watching the tractors outside the daycare my mom worked at. I wasn’t in to toys in a meaningful way that I can truly recall until I saw ‘Ghostbusters’ with my dad. But after that, I couldn’t be stopped. For my birthday, I got a proton pack, a ‘Ghostbusters’ jumpsuit, ghost trap, and even my own little Ecto-1. It was totally awesome! I ran around catching whatever made up ghost I could by putting it in my trap and sticking that in my storage facility (the oven).

I did this because the Ghostbusters were the coolest and funniest guys I’d ever seen. I wanted to be a Ghostbuster and I wanted my little sister to be one with me. Then, when I was 6, I actually got the opportunity to sit next to my father in the theater and enjoy ‘Ghostbusters ll’ on the big screen. It was so cool! An experience that largely contributed to my love of film. I don’t care what any cynical person thinks. I loved the second movie and I still laugh at it more than the first. I wouldn’t argue it’s a better movie, but it’s funnier to me and still stands up as a blast of a time!

For nearly three decades I have held out hope that we would get a new ‘Ghostbusters’ movie. I honestly thought it would never happen, and a direct sequel will remain a wish that was never fulfilled. Yet, what I just watched is not just the next best thing, but possibly even better than what I could have hoped for. One of the funniest directors in Hollywood (Paul Fieg) has put together four of the funniest women in the world and created the most loving new take on this franchise that I could have possibly asked for.

Yes, it is a new team and they are women, but why should that matter. The thing that made the original so great was watching these talented guys create characters that resonated with the audience. And they resonated so much that they became unforgettable. It was that one thing, above all else, that mattered most. That is exactly what the new film does and does it in a wonderfully unique way. I usually cannot remember characters names in movies directly after a first viewing without occasionally using notes. Not this time. Erin, Abby, Holtzmann, and Patty are characters who’s names and personalities I will not soon forget.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wigg) would have been written as a riff on Bill Murray in a remake, but this movie makes her a totally different individual. She shares none of the same traits or backstory as Venkman and yet the spirit of that characters placement amongst the team is clear. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) is likely meant to be like the Akroyd character, but she has next to no similarity outside of her love of the paranormal. She is actually even out of character for McCarthy as the straightest character here. This doesn’t mean that she skimps on the laughs. Oh no. She is very funny!

Leslie Jones as Patty is surely a nod to Winston, but she is a vast improvement on the original films. She is not just a non-scientist who is there to ask the right questions for the audience. She is a fully fledged and developed member of the team. She is integral to the plot and some of its most clever moments. Then there is Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. She absolutely steals the show. Whether she is dancing with fire or creating crazy proton guns, she is a bundle of energy from moment one. Every time she is on the screen you gravitate to her. I really hope this movie makes her a star.

In most of my reviews I find myself concentrating on plot over character. And that is always a sign of the first failure in the movie. It doesn’t make the movie bad, but it means the characters did not feel unique amongst a sea of them. This movie understands how important it’s characters are and delivers them with hilarity and the right amount of conviction. Hell, even Chris Hemsworth, as the dumb secretary Kevin, is sort of unforgettable. He’s a bit one note, but he is so much fun that it’s impossible to dismiss him. He also has the most memorable dance number I’ve seen in a movie in forever.

Now, there is a story here and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it. The most important thing do get across is that it works and it is its own thing. This is not a remake at all people. It is a reimagining of the creation of this team we know as the Ghostbusters. And it’s completely different than the original. There are story beats that are similar and the tone feels well in line with the old movies (closer to the second one), but it is very much a Paul Fieg movie. In other words, if you like ‘Spy’, ‘Bridesmaids’, or ‘The Heat’ than I’ll be super surprised if you don’t like this movie.

Alright, so you know that the movie is an original story of how this team (known as the Ghostbusters) is formed and that the characters are great. It’s also important to note that the movie is stuffed full of memorable cameos, great references to how they get certain iconic things from the lore, and a human villain that has a plan to take over the world. This plan leads to an explosive ending, that delivers excitement and laughs in equal measure. And this is one of the places where this movie also supersedes the previous films. The action and horror scenes in this movie are top notch.

All of this thrown together creates a film that is equally a fun new trip to the movies and an excellent trip down memory lane for fans of the original. So much so, that I actually teared up when the girls got called to their first ghost. In that moment, I realized how much I had truly missed this world and how important it had been in shaping my childhood. I began thinking about my dad and how much I wished he could be here to see this finally happen. He loved this franchise and he loved all these talented actresses. He was so excited to read of their casting last year and I know he would have been so happy with what we both waited so long to see.

Oddly, this movie has been controversial before anybody ever even saw it and the sexism waged at it has been despicable. Well, I’m personally ecstatic that they chose to hire these talented females. I now live in an age where some of the biggest franchises of all time are just as much for my daughters as my son. I live in a world where my girls have smart and powerful heroines to look up to. I live in a world where (despite the rankings of a few assholes) it’s cool for little girls to dream about something other than princesses. It may not have intended to be a female empowerment film, but this movie has inadvertently become one. Lucky for us, it’s also the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year long. 

Nathan Ligon

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