It's hard to judge a movie like Ghostbusters -- a movie which has been bogged down in controversy since it was first announced. A target of Ghostbro misogynists masquerading as the executor of Harold Ramis' will. (What if there isn't enough room in his coffin for him to roll over?) A reboot that #BrokeTheInternet with think pieces -- and then think pieces about the think pieces.
Nobody goes into Ghostbusters with a completely open mind. Some go in wanting to love it to prove the mouth-breathers wrong. Others want to hate it, because can women be funny? And some say they want to like it -- they really want to like it -- but have made their decision for giving it a chance.
Here's how I judge a movie like Ghostbusters: I laughed. A lot.
When Paul Feig claimed -- repeatedly -- that he cast the four funniest people for the roles, imagine that! He was telling the truth! Kristen Wiig is a master of quiet, squirm-in-your-seat-you're-so-uncomfortable humor, like Bridesmaids, but cringe-ier. Melissa McCarthy is peak Melissa McCarthy -- both so great and so funny, but the surprises here are Leslie Jones -- who engulfs the screen anytime she's on it. And Kate McKinnon, the most valuable in play, who either had the role tailor-made for her or took one look at the screenplay and was like, "You know what? I'm just going to do what I want."
The fact that they happen to be women -- Women? In my talking motion pictures? -- is never important, but Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold have some fun poking the Internet bear when Erin (Wiig) and Abby (McCarthy) make the mistake of reading the comments on their YouTube video: "Ain't no b*tches gonna hunt no ghosts." (Never read the comments.) The backlash is addressed and just as quickly, disregarded.
Lest you think straight white men are getting edged out of summer blockbusters, Chris Hemsworth is in this as the dimwitted puppy dog of an assistant! And he is also very good! This is where I would write a paragraph about his performance, but honestly...there are no words. (Stick around through the credits for the Chris Hemsworth dance scene you never knew you wanted!) (Stick around for the after-credits scene, to leave only slightly confused!)
The performances are what carry the movie, but if a Ghostbusters exists without the ghosts, busting and requisite slime, did it ever really exist at all? The reboot, while hewing within the franchise, does its own thing -- take the climax, which, without spoiling too much, is more Ant-Man or Big Hero 6 than anything that happened in the 1984 original.
Still, there is plenty of fan service made to the O.G. Ghostbusters, though none of the cameos -- there's Bill Murray! There's Dan Aykroyd! -- ever feel overly cloying. Ghostbusters 2016 manages to have one of the original cast say, "I ain't afraid of no ghosts" and it's practically subtle. (There's also a kind of Harold Ramis cameo, along with a dedication.) Then Feig takes franchise staples you've seen before -- the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Slimer -- and re-purposes them in ways you haven't seen and never expected to. (Which should equally delight and enrage. Two words: Lady Slimer.)
Which isn't to say this take on Ghostbusters is perfect. It's 2016, eye roll-worthy product placement is expected. It's bigger and louder and busting-ier than the original. It might go a wink-wink and nudge-nudge too far. But there is no disaster of biblical proportions, no wrath of God type stuff. No fire and brimstone from the skies, no rivers and seas boiling. Just an irresistibly fun time at the movies with plenty to laugh about.
Ghostbusters hits theaters on July 15.
Meanwhile, McCarthy recently hit back at haters saying the movie is ruining their childhood, joking, "I just hope they find a friend." Check out her response in the video below.