Ghostbusters

            This one is just plain fun.  And that’s quite an accomplishment, considering how difficult it is to pull off tongue-in-cheek humor, straddling that fine line between parody and drama, and also between spoofing and frightening.  But the new “Ghostbusters” lands itself squarely in the vortex of both those intersections, as it also engages the viewer in its explanation of the paranormal vortex which will soon descend on New York City.

            Yeah, that sounds kind of hokey, and one of the principal characters, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) has spent much of her recent adult life debunking all things paranormal, as she attempts to gain tenure status as a scientist in a prestigious university.  That means she has to disavow her previous flirtation with the subject, as she’d collaborated in a book with Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), a snub which definitely ended their friendship as well as their writing partnership.

            But Abby Yates hasn’t given up researching all reported ghost sightings, and the movie begins with a definite fright sequence, as a venerable old mansion turns out to be a true haunted house.  Ms. Yates is fascinated, and brings along her current business partner, the scientist Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon).  They’re soon joined by a clerk in the transit system, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), and finally Professor Gilbert herself.  Now the new Ghostbuster team is ready for action.  And they get plenty of it.

            But first we have to establish a few other comedic lines, as they hire the incredibly good-looking but inept Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as a receptionist, because, well, he’s eye candy.  And here is the irony of all-female employers clearly ogling for the pure pleasure of it, which, of course, male employers have been accused of doing since….they started hiring receptionists?

            But that light-hearted skit sketch stuff quickly gives way to a serious crisis, as a hotel bell hop manages somehow to harness the dark paranormal forces, and so our brave, intrepid spook-spotters must do battle with the bad ghosts, the ones who spray goo all over everyone, and frighten the unsuspecting (though it’s also humorous how they appear in a hard rock concert and the festival goers cheer wildly, because they think it’s part of the show).

            Plenty of homage to the original “Ghostbusters,” including cameos from the original characters.  Some scary images for small children, but we’re really all about the farce, not the fright.  Or the fight.  It moves quickly, and it entertains consistently, even through the final credits.  Yes, “Ghostbusters” an odd duck.  But it still flies.

Questions for Discussion:

1)                   Do you believe in ghosts?

2)                  What’s the scariest ghost story ever?

3)                  What horror story is supposed to scare you but doesn’t?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association