I still remember the first time I held my goddaughter, Victoria.
Have you ever had one of those life experiences that completely altered your entire being?
Becoming Victoria's godparent did that for me.
I became a different human being that day. A better human being. I wanted this tiny, wondrous, and miraculous human being in my arms to have every opportunity to chase every dream and to explore every opportunity her heart and mind desired. I wanted her to never live a day without realizing she was loved, adored, accepted, celebrated and valued for exactly who she was. I wanted to be a positive role model for her, something I hadn't particularly been up to that point in my life.
But, I knew I had to change. I mean, sure, I knew that her parents would raise her up to be talented and strong and compassionate and intelligent. But, yeah, I wanted to be part of that journey. I wanted her to have role models who would remind her that she could achieve the impossible, tackle the terrifying and become the superhero of her own life.
Growing up, she loved Xena. Heck, I think she still does. Xena is this badass warrior princess who is intelligent and strong and, well, just pretty awesome. Xena wasn't really my thing, but you know how it is when you love someone, right? You try your damndest to love what they love. And god, I loved that she loved Xena and not some wimpy ass Barbie.
Now, here we are. It's 2016. She's a young graduate student in her mid 20's studying criminal justice. She is simply extraordinary. She's loyal and kind and remarkably intelligent and talented and, if I may say so myself, she's a total badass.
I thought of Victoria as the closing credits rolled by after having watched Ghostbusters, the second coming of the 1984 classic that has had fanboys up in arms for months at the thought of a Ghostbusters remake with, gasp!, an all-female squad of badass, funny and intelligent women prepared to fight the paranormal and, yeah, save New York in the process.
Bothered by an all-female squad of Ghostbusters?
Too bad. Fuck you.
To be fair to the haters, and to make sure I don't build up this reboot too much, I will acknowledge that on one point you are absolutely right - Ghostbusters is not a new comedy classic. It's not. It doesn't reach the dizzying heights of comedy that have allowed the original to remain such a beloved film over thirty years later.
But, Ghostbusters is a good film. It's a damn good film with a terrific cast, a decent story and amped up special effects that come courtesy of thirty years of technological advances. Ghostbusters will frequently make you laugh and even more frequently make you appreciate the spot-on chemistry between Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and, eventually, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones).
Erin and Abby are fractured friends who once wrote a book about ghosts before largely going their own ways in life. When the aforementioned book suddenly resurfaces, Erin loses her tenure at Columbia University and the previous tension rises to the surface again.
The tension begins to subside, of course, when ghosts suddenly start showing up. It feels a little bit like having a baby, you know? It sort of masks the tension. But, hey, whatever works.
Kate McKinnon's Jillian is the group's Egon, a wild-eyed yet brilliant inventor and one might argue the brain behinds the group. Leslie Jones's Patty Tolan, a transportation worker, knows New York City like the back of her hand and handles most of the squad's logistics. In yet another gender reversal, Chris Hemsworth is here as Kevin, the dreamy receptionist who seems to serve as Erin's ghostbusting muse.
If there's a problem with Ghostbusters, it's that director Paul Feig tries too hard to make everyone happy and, at times, ends up muting the film's impact below what it should be. In fact, it's a bit of a shame. Halfway through the film, I couldn't help but think that Ghostbusters actually could have been a comedy classic but Feig couldn't quite let go of his need to aim to please the impossible to please fanboys. While the second half still works, it's not quite on the same level.
While Ghostbusters may not quite achieve comedy classic status, rest assured that it's a mighty fine film and, yeah, significantly better than one might think after watch the mediocre to just plain suck trailers. Feig wrote the screenplay with Katie Dippold, a screenplay that nicely balances the film's abundant humor and horror-lite. It would be nearly impossible to single out any member of the cast as Ghostbusters is truly an ensemble film and McCarthy, Wiig, Jones and McKinnon are, as we've come to expect from each of them individually, incredibly committed to their performances and wildly inventive in how they interact with each other. Chris Hemsworth reveals a quietly comical side that we've not seen from him before, but I'm fairly sure we'll see it again.
Ghostbusters could have gone wildly wrong. The internet trolls would have loved that. There aren't a lot of true Hollywood classics that get remade successfully. Far more often, they fail miserably. Instead, in a summer that desperately needed an energetic, fun and spirited comedy, Ghostbusters rises to the surface and kicks major paranormal, and internet troll, ass.
Do you remember the look on your daughter's face when she looked up the screen and watched Rey come to life in Star Wars: The Force Awakens? It was like this magical experience for Hollywood to finally create a female character who was intelligent, sensitive, heroic and completely badass.
Prepare to see that look again. Ghostbusters rocks.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic