I've been a bit lax on updating here in the last few weeks, as I'm running to an exam and that's eating a fair bit of my spare time. Hopefully once that's done - and the frantic summer holiday scheduling is over with - things will settle back to normal. I am, of course, still consuming a fair bit of culture, and this weekend I took the Teenager to the cinema for the first time in what seemed like ages, to go see Ghostbusters. Now, I'm a huge fan of Ghostbusters '84, which came out when I was 11, but it's also a film with a good many "of it's time" flaws and a dissapointing sequel, so it's probably no great surprise that the Remake Train eventually reached that stop. This time, they've handed it off to Paul Feig, swapped a cast of male ensemble comedians for a cast of female ensemble comedians, and raised the ire of some of the darker cesspools of the internet. On this latter point I will only say - if this film is part of your "childhood" then you're my age, right? So grow the fuck up. Right, onto the review.
Ghostbusters is not a perfect film, but in a lot of ways it may capture the perfect approach to remaking a classic. This is a movie in love with Ghostbusters '84, full of references and injokes and appearances by as many of the original cast as they could track down, but it's also a movie determined to be it's own thing as well, not least in it's characters and plot, which echo, rather than copy, it's forefather. The basic setup is familar - a team of scientists make a breakthrough in the detection and potential capture of ghosts, and end up in business for themselves just as New York faces a major outbreak of the supernatural. Chaos ensues. The biggest, obvious difference is of course that in this case all the scientists are women.
This shouldn't matter, but of course the world is still what it is, and it's dominated much of the pre-publicity of the film. Which is all sorts of dumb, and obscures that Kirsten Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are hugely successful comedians and here they take the main pairing that drives the emotional core of the film. McCarthy is closer to Ackroyd in a lot respects, but Wiig plays away from Murray's likeable sleezeball persona and makes Gilbert stuffier and more uptight. Rounding out main four Busters is a movie-stealing turn from Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones punching out of the "Black sidekick" role foisted on Ernie Hudson by turning up much earlier and getting to do an awful lot more.
The cast remains one of the films big strengths all the way through, especially when the pacing sags a little around the half-way mark. The early running is great - especially the cold open - and the final act punchy and effective, but in trying to hit some of the same beats of Ghostbusters '84, it falls into the same trap of idling a little; a homage too far, perhaps? That said, it's overall plot is tighter and cleverer, and makes more sense, and the villian is original and fun.
The criteria for any remake is always going to be "is it worth doing". Like a cover version of a song there is no point if you're just going to do it the same way and the same goes for movies. Ghostbusters is most definately a cover version of Ghostbusters '84, it embraces the original, holds it close, and shows it's love for it. But it's also doing something different - more than just a different cast - bringing new ideas, some modern beats, a different rhythm, to the table, and it's playing a catchy, likeable tune. I can easily see myself watching this again; I can even see myself double-billing both films. I think they stand alongside each other pretty well, really - what more could you want?