Ghostbusters is a hilarious and highly entertaining movie, with a talented cast, great chemistry and charm, clever social commentary, and no shortage of kickass ghostbusting.
The film’s biggest success, much like the original’s, is the cast. By now, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy have become highly dependable comedians, and in Ghostbusters they demonstrate exactly why. As individuals, their delivery is impeccable and their skill top-notch, but as a pair it’s even better. Relative newcomer Leslie Jones steps up and proves herself to be on par with them, giving a lively performance that’s sure to win her some new fans.
But it’s Kate McKinnon who steals the show. Between her work on Saturday Night Live and her instantly captivating appearance in the first cast photo, she was the Ghostbuster I was looking forward to seeing the most, and she more than fulfils that promise. Her character, Jillian Holtzmann, crackles with a delightful and magnetic energy. Whether she is in the center of the frame, off to the side, or blurred away in the background, she commands the audience’s attention, thanks to her attitude and her quirks and mannerisms. She even gets a sequence in the climax that is sure to have audiences cheering.
Second to McKinnon is Chris Hemsworth, who gives my favourite of his performances ever. Hemsworth’s character, Kevin, the Ghostbusters’ handsome but incredibly dumb receptionist, is a genius creation both in concept and execution. Writer and director Paul Feig frequently explores gender-related tropes in his movies, and Kevin is just that: a clever, gender-swapped subversion of the attractive but unintelligent secretary who’s just eye candy for the protagonist. It’s a difficult approach that works incredibly well thanks to Hemsworth’s laid-back, straight-faced delivery of increasingly stupid but hilarious lines.
In fact, Ghostbusters doesn’t shy away from its feminism and social commentary, and it’s all the better for it. Kevin is just the first example. It can be seen in the protagonists themselves, women in scientific fields, underappreciated and undermined by everyone from authority figures to online commenters brushing their work away as a hoax ("fake geek girl", anyone?). It can be seen in the way Ghostbusters was prescient enough to address the sexist criticisms leveled against it even though it was written before many of those criticisms were brought up.
It can also be seen in the movie’s antagonist. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss him as an over-the-top moustache-twirling villain. But his melodramatic rants will sound immediately and eerily familiar to those who have been on any corner of the Internet populated by groups of similar men. Those privileged, too-smart-for-society MRA types—exactly the kind of person who’d rant about an all-female Ghostbusters movie. Just like Feig did with Jason Statham’s character in Spy, he and fellow writer Katie Dippold use characters like this film’s villain to deliver commentary on different types toxic masculinity.
Of course, it’s not a perfect movie by any means. The plot is fairly standard, and it gets pretty generic by the third act, even if that is to be expected for a summer movie of its type. And it’s riddled with references and homages to the original Ghostbusters, which are great to cheer for on opening night, yet most of them stand out and interrupt the movie’s flow. If Ghostbusters gets a sequel, which I hope it does, I look forward to it being free of the need to pay this much respect to the original.
Despite that, and even aside from its cleverness, Ghostbusters is just a great time at the movies. The laughs and the action are enough to keep audience members entertained throughout. And as a Ghostbusters fan since I saw one of the cartoons as a kid, this movie had all the right ingredients, between the funny cast, the gadgets, the various really cool designs of the ghosts themselves, and the sight of the team kicking ghost butt.