Certificate 12A, 116 minutes
Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
Ghostbusters is a remake of the classic 1984 film of the same name. It opens at the Aldridge Mansion in New York where a tour guide (Zach Woods) is showing a group of people around the perfectly preserved mansion. He tells them that, one night in the late 19th century, all the servants in the house were murdered by Sir Aldridge's eldest daughter, Gertrude. Gertrude was then locked away in the basement and fed through a hatch. The door is barred and, apparently, hasn't been opened since her remains were removed by the next owner. At which point a nearby candlestick falls off the surface it is on. The candlestick is a trick, but hidden below it is a strange sparking piece of electronics. When the tour guide returns to close up, strange things start happening, and finally the ghost of Gertrude appears.
Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, Despicable Me 2, The Martian) is a particle physicist at Columbia University in New York, who is currently up for tenure. She is approached by Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jr.) from the Aldridge Mansion, which he wants her to take a look at, as she is in an empty lecture theatre, who has a copy of a book she co-authored on ghosts many years ago - something she denies at first, then admits and asks where he got it, as she burned the only two copies. The book is now apparently available on Amazon in softcover, hardback and ebook - and books on tape. Having her belief in ghosts come up during her application for tenure is not something Erin wants to happen, so she finds her co-author, and former friend, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, The Heat), who is working at the rather more downmarket Kenneth P. Higgins Institute for science, along with Dr. Jillian "Holtz" Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), the latter a rather erratic, and potentially dangerous, engineering genius.
As a result they decide to set up their own organisation. The first place they look at, a former fire station, is horrendously expensive to rent, and consequently they instead get a room above a Chinese restaurant. A room that is still done up like a Chinese restaurant. They hire the attractive, yet frankly quite stupid, failed actor Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as the receptionist - he finds handling a phone to be a complex task. A bit too complex, but he was the only applicant.
In the New York Subway, MTA worker Patty (Leslie Jones) speaks to a man who is more than a little weird. When she sees him go onto the train lines, she follows him. There is another device like the one that was at the Aldridge Mansion, and another ghost appears. She becomes one of the first people to deal with the Ghostbusters, although that is technically not their name, and later asks to join, providing local knowledge and transport provided by her uncle - a hearse, because he's a funeral director. The man from the subway, Rowan North (Neil Casey), is not your typical garden weirdo. He has been building devices that amplify psychic presences, even though he is simply a janitor at the Mercado Hotel. The Ghostbusters have to try and work out what he is doing and stop him, all whilst being officially, and deliberately misleadingly, classed as attention seeking frauds by the government.
When it was announced that a remake of Ghostbusters was going to be made all-female cast there was quite an uproar, leading to accusations (some of which were probably justified) of sexism, but some of the problem was probably due to such an iconic film being remade, not that it was being made with a new cast. Given the story, it would probably have had to be either all-male, like the original, or all-female, as a mixed group would probably not have worked. In either version, a mixed dynamic would probably not have worked as well.
The remake looks better than the original film as, after all, special effects have improved in the past three plus decades - although, truthfully, the effects original film still stand up quite well even now, so much later. This isn't just a simple remake, it's also a different story. There are some nods to the original film; the first Ghostbusters set up in a former fire station, which was rejected by these as being far too expensive. There are appearances by both Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but not in their original roles. Five of the original cast also have cameos; Bill Murray appears as psychic debunker Dr. Martin Heiss, Dan Akroyd as a cabbie who refuses to take Erin to Chinatown and who says "I ain't afraid of no ghost," Sigourney Weaver as Holtz's mentor Rebecca Gorin, Ernie Hudson as Patty's Uncle Bill and Annie Potts, who played the receptionist, Janine, for the original cast, is the receptionist in the Mercado in the new film. The Mercado Hotel where Rowan works is also reminiscent, in what looks like an Art Deco style, to Dana Barrett's apartment building from the original.
Not only is the story different, but so are the four characters. The three new doctors can't be easily matched up with the three from the original film, although quite a lot of time is spent (or wasted) trying (Patty is more obvious as Ernie Hudson's replacement, as neither is a scientist) which is probably a distraction. There are some clips to watch out for in the credits, one of which has Sigourney Weaver's cameo.
There is nothing wrong with the film - it's a rewrite, not a simple remake - but it's one that probably didn't need to be made. The original film is still the best, but this one is probably better than it is being rated, most like due to comparison with the iconic original (but perhaps including some of the suggested sexism). The characters work well enough together, the effects look good, there are some new weapons but the backpack lasers are still easily recognisable as being related to those in the original, and there are the nods and cameos as well - not only from the original cast, but also including people such as Ozzy Osbourne, playing himself. Ghostbusters is a decent enough film, with decent funny movements, but is suffers by comparison, and more than is justified, but if you have to choose between the two - get the 1984 film.