Movie review: The cast members — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones — click and embrace the ridiculousness of their roles. Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.
“Ghostbusters” is back, with its impossibly jaunty theme song bouncing away in my head again like it’s 1984. (Just try not to bop up and down when you hear that song.) Except it’s 2016, and the Ghostbusters now are women — Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones — and the ghosts are 3D, and the gang can’t afford that old firehall because it now rents for $21,000/month. And yes — everybody calm down now — it’s good fun.
Crucial to that fun: McKinnon, who steals the movie with her mad-scientist grin, eyes that gleam like a laser pointer and unexpected random weirdness. (In a tense ghosthunting scene, she bursts into Glinda-the-Good-Witch song, with just the right tinny intonation: “Come out, come out, wherever you are …” I expected tiny Munchkin ghosts to start creeping out.) The movie’s other secret weapon: Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, the Ghostbusters’ hotly bespectacled receptionist, whose reportedly improvised riff involving a cat is comic gold, and whose clueless smirk could launch a thousand ships — or Ghostmobiles.
Director Paul Feig, who’s got a knack for big-budget Hollywood silliness (“Spy,” “The Heat,” “Bridesmaids”), finds a light, breezy tone early on. The story’s the same general idea as the first one, but with different characters and specifics: Three misfit scientists (McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon) join forces, somewhat accidentally, to form a ghosthunting business in New York. Joined by a local transit worker/historian (Jones), they must ultimately save Manhattan from supernatural attack, armed with proton packs, wisecracks and determination. (Unlike the original group, they encounter online haters along the way. “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts,” says one commenter. Hmm.)
Movie Review ★★★
‘Ghostbusters,’ with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Chris Hemsworth. Directed by Paul Feig, from a screenplay by Feig and Katie Dippold. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor. Several theaters.
Though the ghosts are impressive, they’re not particularly scary, nor are they meant to be. What’s crucial here, as in the original film, is the chemistry between the cast members. And though McKinnon’s the standout, the four women click together like Legos. There’s more hugging than in the first movie — hey, women hug — and a few moments of poignant friendship. But mostly, it’s just four funny women embracing the ridiculousness of their roles.
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Like a lot of us, I have a soft spot for the supremely goofball original, particularly Bill Murray’s flawlessly deadpan line readings. But, clearly, so do the makers of this “Ghostbusters”; note the frequent, affectionate references to the earlier film, and watch for funny cameos from nearly every member of the first movie’s principal cast. (Sadly missed: Harold “Dr. Egon Spengler” Ramis, who died in 2014. The movie is dedicated to him.) A lot of the original’s spirit is captured here; some of it’s in that theme song, but some of it’s in that sense of pure, silly fun. The cast is having a ball, and it’s contagious.
Does every joke in this “Ghostbusters” land where it should? Nope (though that’s true for the original as well). Is it, like Feig’s previous films, a little longer than it should be, with some slow spots? Yes (ditto). But the only question worth asking about a comedy is this: Did I laugh? Oh yes. You might, too.