Who you gonna call? For a bunch of middle aged, die-hard Reddit reading fanboys, when it comes to Ghostbusters it's never gonna be women. Too bad for them, the new Ghostbusters reboot starring Irish American comedy icon Melissa McCarthy is a genuine hoot and a half. It's been 32 years since the first chapter and 27 since the last, a very long time to wait for a new episode, but CAHIR O'DOHERTY thinks the new Ghostbusters, opening this week, is every bit as clever and funny as the originals.
Nineteen eighty four was a long time ago. Ronald Reagan was president, a British band called Duran Duran topped the charts, and a movie called Ghostbusters was busy becoming the most successful live action comedy ever made.
A winning blend of inventive storytelling, special effects and charismatic leads, Ghostbusters become a monster hit that in far-off summer and, for reasons that are increasingly hard to understand now, also a sacred part of many young men's childhoods that apparently they just can't let go of.
Too bad for them that the 2016 reboot of the ghosts on the loose caper is every bit as charming and funny as the originals. The biggest difference this time around is that the four leads are played by women not men.
You wouldn't believe how much grousing and gnashing of teeth this female casting development led to among conservative men. On Reddit, often called front page of the Internet but more accurately known as the Island of Lost Boys, a non-stop drumbeat against the film (which the site is praying flops at the box office) started up the moment they heard the four central parts would be played by girls. Girls? Yuck, cooties.
Lucky for us those four girls are Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones. Any one of these ladies could play the lead in just about any comedy Hollywood is currently making, but all four together represent a formidable gang of funny gals.
Saturday Night Live alumnus Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, a college physicist and human doormat who abides by all the rules that powerful men lay down for her. Erin is desperately in search of that elusive golden egg -- academic tenure. But her colorful past as an ardent ghost hunter threatens to upend her ambitions in the stuffy college that she's working in now.
When her old buddy Abby Yates (McCarthy, in the character arguably modeled on Bill Murray's in the original) starts publishing web-links to the book they once co-wrote together, Wiig's character freaks out at the thought that her kooky past might upend her boring present.
As Abby, a brilliant but scattered scientist, McCarthy reminds us exactly how and why she became a star in the first place. She's a wisecracking spitfire that tough on the surface and tender underneath, like some of the most iconic funny women who paved her way.
“I grew up with strong women and I have a great dad that supports strong women. That’s why they’re in my film,” she told me two years back when she was promoting the comedy Tammy, and it looks like her mission statement for Ghostbusters hasn't changed. Strong women – kickass strong women – abound in the new movie, and they elicit cheers of delight from the audience when they're powering up their proton backpacks and putting the bad guys in their place.
There are a lot of laughs had at the expense of the original films. When McCarthy goes in search of a New York base for the new fledged Ghostbusters operation she's shown the fire station made famous by the original cast. But in 2016 no one can afford the rent on a space that big in Manhattan, so instead the girls move their operations to a spot above a Chinese restaurant.
Once the four principles (rounded out by McKinnon and Jones) find a base, comedy gold quickly ensues. This quartet has chemistry, and when they assemble the movie kicks into gear.
Ghosts that will make you jump out of your seat appear. People are suddenly possessed by evil spirits, and a evil eyed villain plots to unleash the dead on the living, bringing Manhattan to its knees. Yes, that includes a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Part of the fun is seeing this male buddy movie genre upended, which is what director Paul Feig previously did to his breakout hit Bridesmaids. He also ups the ante by making the 2016 Ghostbusters much scarier than the originals. You'll laugh, but first you might jump, because he really knows what scares you.
In New York City in 2014 at the film premiere for Tammy, McCarthy told the Irish Voice about some lessons she learned growing up in an Irish American family in Plainfield, Illinois. Onscreen and in real life she’s clearly at her ease among other strong minded, spirited women. Is this preference for vivid characters a product of her own Irish background?
“I would say so. My grandmother and grandfather both came over from Ireland. They had a tough go of it. But family was important to them and they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and kept it intact and took each day at a time. I strongly relate to that,” McCarthy said.
“Being Irish is part of the way I approach the world. Well, we’ve had a rough enough time you know? We’ve had a rough go of it but I think there’s a sturdiness that comes from that too, and I think that there’s a really realistic way of looking at the world that comes from it.”
With that in mind she's unlikely to be put off by the windy sighs coming from the man-babies who think their childhood is being ruined by the casting of women in the central roles. Newsflash to these squawking boy geniuses: your childhood is over, no one can ruin it now one way or another.
As Kevin, the dumb as a box of hammers male secretary, Chris Hemsworth is exceptionally funny as a beautiful but bumbling dork. His depiction has angered so-called men’s rights activists, the conservative group which is howling with outrage that this “man hating” film even exists.
Lemons will be served bitter to these angry activists this weekend, since Ghostbusters will almost certainly be a blockbuster rather than the bomb they have prayed for over a year for. How do I know this? Because Ghostbusters is already better than this year’s Avengers, Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War capers combined.
Maybe it's the women in the cast, maybe it's the script, maybe it's the special effects or maybe it's the spirited performances, but Ghostbusters has an old school this-is-how-we-used-to-do-it feel that makes it sweetly nostalgic with more than enough of 2016 level special effects to make it take flight.
In particular McKinnon is a scene stealing revelation as the brilliant but batty tech boffin Jillian Holtzmann, emerging as the unqualified star of the film in the process. She's in charge, walks with a swagger that never quits, and spends most of the movie flirting outrageously with the clueless Erin who's so busy crushing over Kevin she never notices a thing.
The charisma between the four women suggests that a Ghostbusters sequel is already in the works, and with the host of banner name cameos – don't worry I won't spoil it – that turned out to support the girls this time around, both the studios and I know we'll all be lining up for a ticket.