Surely the “Ghostbusters” news cycle is older than Zuul by this point. It feels like the new reboot has been stirring up rumors and controversy for ages. But this weekend, finally, four women will strap on proton packs and rescue New York City from paranormal forces. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones star in the update of the 1984 classic. It’s directed by Paul Feig, who made “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and “Spy.” What else should you know about the film?
Let’s recap its gestation and release in the form of several relatively spoiler-free questions:
Is it just a reboot of the original with women instead?
Yes and no. The general context is the same: Three paranormal investigators respond to a potential haunting, recruiting a fourth member along the way. Eventually they save New York City from ghostly destruction. The characters are similar, but not identical, to the ones Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson brought to life in the 1984 original. The New York Public Library doesn’t play a part in this one, and there’s no house call that turns into a romantic conquest. The quartet is, however, still vanquishing an evil mastermind channeling another dimension in hopes of conjuring up the apocalypse. You will see the Ecto-1 car, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Slimer and the classic theme song (repurposed terribly by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott).
What ever happened to “Ghostbusters 3”?
Well, in many ways, that’s how we got here in the first place. Dan Aykroyd wrote a script for a third “Ghostbusters” installment in the 1990s. Called “Ghostbusters 3: Hellbent,” the story found the Ghostbusters meeting the devil as their business floundered. But the rest of the cast wasn’t so keen to return, especially Bill Murray, who wavered publicly about his involvement, telling David Letterman in 2010 that he’d only participate if his character “was killed off in the first reel.” Still, Ivan Reitman, who directed and produced the first two movies, reportedly signed on to helm the third installment. From there, the project was plagued by starts and stops, with Aykroyd saying in 2012 that Murray would not be part of it, if the three-quel were made at all. As recently as 2013, Aykroyd still indicated the movie was a go. (“I read one that Danny [Aykroyd] wrote that was crazy bizarre and too crazy to comprehend,” Murray said of the “Ghostbusters 3” script in 2014.)
But Ramis, who played Dr. Egon Spengler, died in 2014, and Reitman bowed out of the project one month afterward. The script was revised, and Paul Feig signed on to direct instead. It soon became clear that he was not making “Ghostbusters 3,” though ― he had his eye on a female-centered reboot. With that, “Ghostbusters 3” was slimed. Katie Dippold, who wrote “The Heat,” was brought on to compose the reboot script with Feig. She confirmed to The Huffington Post earlier this week that she was never involved with “Ghostbusters 3.” Feig tweeted a collage of McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones in January 2015, leading to speculation that they were the finalized cast. (Emma Stone said she turned down one of the roles because “a franchise is a big commitment.”) By July, Feig gave us the first glimpse of the quartet in uniform.
And what about that all-male reboot?
Oh yeah, that. As Feig was in negotiations with Sony, Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed the two most recent “Captain America” movies, also discussed potential “Ghostbusters” remakes with the studio. Their version, billed in the media as a “counterpart” to Feig’s, would have stemmed from Ghost Corps, a new production company formed by Aykroyd and Reitman. The hope was to cast Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt. But after Deadline reported the news, it was quickly contradicted. A Birth Movies Death follow-up indicated the male- and female-centric movies would operate in tandem, eventually leading to a huge convergence of all the Ghostbusters. There was also a prequel of some sort in the works.
But before we knew it, the Tatum-Pratt project was quashed altogether. “There is no status with that for us,” Joe Russo told Forbes earlier this year. “There was a period there when Paul Feig was engaging Sony in talks about ‘Ghostbusters’ and we were also engaging them. He was further along with his process than we were and he closed his deal, so that’s the only ‘Ghostbusters’ world that’s being explored right now over at Sony. Once we took ‘Infinity War,’ it [took] us off the table for any kind of any potential work on a ‘Ghostbusters’ project.”
Did we really need to endure all that online misogyny along the way?
How about we stop giving voices to sexist dudes stuck in a far lamer era? If you haven’t already heard about the chauvinistic reactions from 33-year-old man-children still anticipating their next frat kegger, read about it here.
“I see people complaining on Twitter, like, ‘What’s my son going to be able to look up to if it’s women?’” Dippold told HuffPost. “It’s like, ‘No, you just answered your own question. He will look up to these women.’ It will hopefully have a great impact on this ridiculous world we live in.”
So, is “Ghostbusters” any good?
Reviews have been positive but tepid. My stance is this: You can see where the film has “studio tentpole” written all over it. (Feig said he can’t even admit that McKinnon plays a lesbian in the film, so you know Sony has wielded a tight grip.) The action is bloated, and the editing is choppy. The characters don’t have room to lean into their individual quirks, and even though there are plenty of laughs (at least in the first half), the totality feels strained. That said, we’re talking about a cast of improvisors who are known for uproarious reaction shots. There are plenty of those. If only the ladies could have riffed more. Perhaps it’s the family-friendlier PG-13 rating that prevented them from reaching maximum weirdness. Regardless, it’s cheerful and enjoyable, and who’s going to complain about that?
As of now, the movie has a decent 73 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes ― though some online writers are wondering whether male critics, whose numbers outweigh their female counterparts, were harsher toward the movie, thereby dampening its reception. Despite the film’s flaws, it has a winning spirit. Dana Stevens explained it well in her Slate review: “These women are having fun just being together and getting to don matching jumpsuits and whale on undead spirits, and their evident joy makes us happy to hop in the hearse for a ride-along.”
Who is the movie’s breakout star?
Easy: Kate McKinnon. Wiig and McCarthy’s roles are a little thankless ― it’s Jones and McKinnon who get most of the laughs, as their characters are more outlandish. McKinnon probably has the fewest lines, but she’s still the movie’s ace. It’s because she’s a pitch-perfect reactor, as often seen on “Saturday Night Live.” Her body language and facial expressions are zany gold, and the movie knows to let her eccentricity emerge in just the right places. Also look out for adorable cameos from Zach Woods and Ed Begley Jr.
I’ve heard the original cast returns.
That’s not a question. Anyway, this has been confirmed for quite some time, and yes, Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts all pop up.
Is there an end-credit sequence?
Yep! It includes a major callback to the original.
Will “Ghostbusters” be a hit?
This is a rotten summer for blockbusters. Most sequels and reboots have underperformed, partly because they aren’t good and partly because not many people were invested in them in the first place. Box office forecasters expect “The Secret Life of Pets,” which opened to dynamite dollars last week, to challenge “Ghostbusters” for the weekend’s No. 1 slot. The industry’s coveted international coffers took a blow this week when China announced it would not release “Ghostbusters” because the country bans entertainment that “promote[s] cults or superstition.” As of Tuesday, Variety and Deadline predicted “Pets” would top “Ghostbusters” by as much as $20 million domestically, despite impressive pre-sales for the latter. That doesn’t mean it’s an outright bomb, considering “Pets” is coming off an overwhelming $104.4 million debut. The end goal is for “Ghostbusters” to recoup its $144 million budget, which shouldn’t prove difficult.
How about a sequel?
Is this Hollywood? Producer Amy Pascal says the franchise’s possibilities are “endless.” Reitman’s Ghost Corps production company is still in the picture, but Reitman has made it clear that he doesn’t know the full plan yet. He called the Tatum-Pratt rumors “bullshit” in an iO9 interview earlier this week, while still stating his team has “a number of things that are in the works already.” We at home know that one of those “things” is an animated movie.
Who ya gonna call?
Your mom, hopefully, to tell her how great it is that women are headlining an expensive studio comedy. And then your (future) children, to tell them that one day we will no longer consider such things revelatory.
“We were in the middle of production and getting hammered on all sides just trying to make this funny movie, and I get sent this picture on the internet of this guy who made his daughter the jumpsuit with the orange stripes and a proton pack,” Feig told The Daily Beast. “This little girl, looking fierce. I burst into tears. This is why we’re doing it. It’s not for all these guys!”