Will this new Ghostbusters stand on its own?
With the small-print tag line Answer the Call added to the famous sequel to the 1984 comedy blockbuster, that’s even more of a natural question.
Some originals become so ingrained on a culture’s psyche over time that a sequel stands little chance. And No. 1, written by the loopy-minded genius combo of Harold Ramis, RIP, and Dan Aykroyd, had cool ghosts, music, marketing, Bill Murray and more. Who you gonna call, indeed. The Giant Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man was a cult star for generations. There was a reason The Studio knew to leave the franchise alone after No. 2 came out with the original cast five years after the first.
But a quarter-century goes by and somebody figures the newbies need their own taste.
Paul Feig, the mind behind Bridesmaidsearned the nod to co-write with Katie Dippold and direct. And the well-publicized choice to go with an all-female quartet of ‘busters is a great one. A new path, that is.
This fantastic four is the best thing about the film.
These actresses all show comedy chops to entertain blockbuster style. The big stars, Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, play scientist/teachers who’ve known each other since school days. Indeed, they wrote a book about ghost-hunting together in the day, before splitting to go on to opposite ends of academia. They’re reunited, reluctantly at first and then with increased zeal, when word spreads that specters are spreading around Manhattan. Abby and Erin’s chemistry is good, yes.
McCarthy’s Abby brings along Holtzmann, a loyal tech nerd who can build any what-the-heck gadget out of anything.
The growing company is joined by a saw-a-ghost-in-the-subway MTA worker Patty, enthusiastic, scared and much-needed for her knowledge of Manhattan and her uncle’s hearse.
These two parts are clearly meant to be the second-billed – just above the main man of (physical) substance, empty-headed but big-hunk receptionist Kevin, played with great comic effect by Chris Hemsworth. But Leslie Jones, solid in her fright and determination, makes the most of her time as Patty.
And Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann steals the screen in her every scene, with her facial expressions goofy and faux-wise, schloopy physical comedy and impeccable timing. In fact, her presence reminded me of Wiig and McCarthy in breakout moments. Think Bridesmaids.
Together they make the most of this plot, proving that their work is real while an evil genius plots to unleash ghost mayhem upon Manhattan.
Yet Feig, Dippold and fellow movie-makers have decided to cash in on the original’s cachet, too.
So in the half-full 6:45 p.m. Friday showing in the medium-sized theater in Regal Cinemas’ Shoppingtown Mall suburban Syracuse complex, the crowd of mixed generations saw the original logo, grooved to the original music – my dear wife Karen and I enjoyed watching the well-behaved-throughout kiddies following the dance steps included in the closing credits – and checked off the cameos of all the major stars from the original. Yes, even special ghosts make comebacks.
And it works, this style of merging of these worlds.
We walked out smiling.
Are you a fan of the original ‘Ghostbusters’ film? Do you agree with the all-female cast of new ‘Busters or would you prefer the old guys coming back? What’s your favorite comedy sequel, and why?