Nearly forty years after the Ghostbusters fought Goza in New York, a young family (Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard and Carrie Coon) inherit their estranged father/grandfather’s (a definitely tasteful CGI recreation of Harold Ramis) farmhouse and are forced to move into it due to financial woes. They soon discover that their eccentric relative has left them a few surprises as they are pulled into a plot that threatens the entire world.
It’s not always necessary or helpful to compare a film to other entries in its franchise. It’s always tiresome to see an exciting new film that dares to experiment with the expectations of its audience dismissed due to departure from the original (think Suspiria). However it’s very difficult not to think of the original cult classic film when the new film is so mired in nostalgia. Aside from the reverently presented artefacts of the original film and the straight lifting of most of the score, the story is painfully indebted to the plot of the 1984 film. This is especially unfortunate as it really draws attention to this films shortcomings.
The original ghostbusters was a comedy film that just so happened to feature ghosts. Every single scene was driven by the character and dialogue based comedy that the original team excelled at. This film has the comedy of a blockbuster. It’s the comedy of a marvel movie. Tried and true gags that may make some audience members Twitter whilst they wait for the next bit of real business. Sometimes that business is action or a horror sequence, it’s the meat of the movie. The meat of this movie is nostalgia and comedy is secondary to it.
Reflecting on differences you cant help but feel that the story had already been told perfectly and that this attempt at recasting the story in the sticks is misguided. An early cameo by JANINE reminds you of how essential New York was to the original premise. Even the original score has this upbeat Gershwin quality to it that evokes the big city and it’s people. The story was of the big city and very much of the 80s. It is after all a celebration of free market capitalism, in which a plucky gang of entrepreneurs who are offering an immorally privatised and extortionately priced emergency service are most threatened by government oversight (a spirit kept alive by a bizarre line in which Dan Ackroyd’s formerly loveable Ray praises Reagonomics).
You may not agree with the conservative spirit of the original but it was fun enough to carry you along anyway. Without the same compelling sense of humour you are left to ruminate on the purpose of this film. Ostensibly it Carrie’s the same tired messaging that all truly lazy blockbusters turn to: family. But look beyond this skin deep branding and you find that in fact this is still a film about capitalism, only the entrepreneurs aren’t the main characters but rather the makers of the previous film who now seek to capitalise on their early success. This isn’t a movie about Ghostbusters, this is the movie the Ghostbusters have made to celebrate themselves.
But there are solidly entertaining aspects of this film. Mckenna Grace is actually fantastic as Phoebe. Though her dialogue is lacklustre she’s funny and believable. She creates an engaging and endearing performance. Finn Wolfhard and Carrie Coon competently round out the central family unit but characters are generally fairly cliched, including Paul Rudd’s disenchanted teacher. The production design respectfully updates the feel of the original film and the central set piece car chase is viscerally exciting.
Ghostbusters 1984 was lighting in a bottle that even the original creators have failed to recapture. It was a perfect blend of a humorous concept, character chemistry and comedic dialogue. The opening sequence of the film suggests there may not only be more Ghostbusters films on the horizon but an entire cinematic universe. To garner any enthusiasm or success they will have to find a way to recapture the magic and make a movie that is original and, most importantly, funny.