Sunday, July 17, 2016

Girls Trump Ghouls

The all-female Ghostbusters is finally here, ladies and gentlemen, and lemme say this one’s an essential summer comedy.

Not because this Paul Feig-directed offering is particularly original; it couldn’t be, since it’s the reboot of a basically sacrosanct 1984 example of cool and funny. However, the thing that makes this a must is its cast.

You know ’em all. They are all ace stars, and, yes, four of them are women. And that’s just fine – and necessary, especially in this day and age in America, when sociopolitical events have made it clear we are melting pot in theory, not in practice. By which I mean we are flush with a variety of colors and tastes and points of view, but only some are constantly being meaningfully and exemplarily represented, and perish anyone who dares go against the grain.

The blockbuster reunites erstwhile Bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, and teams them up with SNL’s Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, who fully channels Jim Carrey to establish herself as that kind of comedian, OKRRR. To politicize the movie beyond the Hollywood arena would be pointless, but not to highlight its merits would be sorta dangerous, not to mention unfair to young girls everywhere craving some new fictional role models.

Without a doubt, the goal for Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold (The Heat) and their leads – including Chris Hemsworth, who makes the scene and tries his bestest to steal some as the Ghostbusters’ dim but H-O-T receptionist – was to say to the world, look, girls are why couldn’t they bust some ghosts, too. After all, anything men can do, women can do better – right?

In that regard, the filmmakers strike gold. As next-gen Ghostbusters, the actresses play off one another with gusto. Three of the characters already share a connection when we meet ’em, in that McCarthy’s Dr. Abby Yates and Wiig’s Erin Gilbert were college buds, if memory serves, and wrote a poorly received book that sought to prove the existence of the paranormal. After the reviews came in, Gilbert and Yates fell out of touch; the former, a tightly wound-type, distanced herself in order to become a professor at Columbia, while the latter, a looser spirit, kept on pushing the matter at a technical college with invaluable engineering assists from McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, a sexual cypher (but not really) wrapped in eccentricity and speed (that chick can come up with anti-ghoul weaponry fast).

Jones’ Patty Tolan, a New York City-savvy MTA worker, joins the trio after she has a scary close encounter down in the subway tunnels, and her street smarts prove an indispensable addition to the quest to rid Manhattan of a rising phantom menace.

Dippold weaves in and out the female-on-female-on-female-on-female interaction with incredible ease so as not to belabor the dynamic. She sprinkles a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek callbacks to the Ivan Reitman-helmed original and allows room for cameos by the OG galore. She even got in these elaborate exchanges in which the girls seem to echo the conversations they probably had to have (and endure) on the road to rebooting this property.

For my money, it all mostly work (Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliotts new take on the Ghostbusters theme does not, though)Feig’s action pieces are over-the-top CGI proton-pack spectacles that see the women bump up and down, all over that silver screen.

The magic of the original cannot be duplicated, however, and that’s the shame here. Special effects are so advanced these days, what was innovative then can’t help but come of as quite silly now. And you know what – I would argue that the young’uns, they sooo deserved a heroic foursome they could claim all their own.

My Rating ***

Photo: Columbia Pictures.

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