There are a couple of moments in the new Ghostbusters where the characters stop just short of breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging the weird spot this movie is in. As a reboot (no, it's not a straight remake) of an 80's pop culture classic, it's had detractors since its announcement. You can't throw a rock online without hitting someone who claims their childhood is ruined because a new Ghostbusters movie would dare exist that isn't a continuation of the original stories.
And yes, at least some of those people take issue with the fact that the stars of the new Ghostbusters are all women, as opposed to the original team of all men.
At one point in the film, one of these women says, "Who cares what anybody is saying? We know what we're doing." And she's right, because Ghostbusters knows exactly what it wants to do, and it mostly succeeds in doing that thing. It's no flawless classic, but it's an exciting and often funny ride through a neighborhood where something strange is going on.
You can draw plenty of parallels between this new Ghostbusters and the 1984 original. Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Abby (Melissa McCarthy), two scientists who once wrote a book together about the paranormal, could be seen as stand-ins for Peter Venkman and Raymond Stantz. The awkward Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), the inventor of most of the team's equipment, is basically Egon. And Patty (Leslie Jones), like Winston, helps everything stay grounded and not get too bogged down in all of the technobabble.
But while references to the original movie abound (complete with all the cameos you would want), this new Ghostbusters is very much its own story. This isn't just "Ghostbusters but with women." It's a new origin story with its own unique merits. Many of the broad strokes are the same - the original three members of the Ghostbusters team start their group in earnest after being fired from their university jobs, for example - but the finer details are all new.
There is no Dana and there is no Zuul. Ghostbusters' new threat is a surprisingly more grounded (and less complicated, but in a good way) plot that involves humans more than it involves ancient demigods.
And let's just say it: The women of the new Ghostbusters all kick ass, and they're sure to inspire a lot of young girls to dress up with proton packs this Halloween, and the world will be better for it.
Sometimes the movie gets the balance of nostalgia vs. freshness wrong, though. The writers refrained from making references to "crossing the streams" (I guess paranormal technology has improved over the last 30 years?), and while the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man makes an appearance, he's not the big bad monster at the end. But there are some clear references to the original film that just feel forced, such as a line about "mass hysteria." Combine this with some of the film's original jokes that also fall flat, and there are definitely moments where it feels like Ghostbusters doesn't live up to its full potential.
Speaking of balance, McKinnon's somewhat unstable character is often the highlight of the cast, save for a few moments where she manages to cross the line from eccentrically charming to awkwardly annoying. Clueless secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) on the other hand tends to thread his needle a little better as a character that is remarkably stupid without being frustrating.
After the screening I went to, I heard more than one person humming, whistling or even outright singing the Ghostbusters theme song, which I think speaks to this reboot's ability to tap into at least some of the original's magic. The movie has some solid humor, flashy action sequences and characters that are fun to be around, and if we end up spending at least one sequel with this team of paranormal-hunting women, I'd be OK with that.
Directed by Paul Feig. PG-13 (for supernatural action and crude humor). 116 minutes. In wide release.