Critic's Notebook: Parsing the New 'Ghostbusters' Trailer
Even those who have no particular nostalgia for the '80s classic, or for the work of director/co-writer Paul Feig, may have to admit that this reboot looks funny as hell.
For all the bickering over the wisdom of rebooting the '80s classic Ghostbusters — with lady 'busters instead of dudes, no less — any serious comedy fan knew the talent involved would demand we at least give the pic a chance.
Now comes a trailer for this year's model, and after seeing it even those with no allegiance to director/co-writer Paul Feig may have to admit they're excited: This looks less like a run-of-the-mill brand resuscitation than a J.J. Abrams-level reinvention, nodding to original elements while adapting them to the times and the players involved. And it looks funny as hell.
After faux-solemnly alluding to the first film (does that shot of the Tribeca fire station mean this team will have the same beloved HQ? How will they pay the 2016 rent?), the trailer's action starts with the most iconic item on the Ghostbusters menu: an icky green sliming.
The ghost dishing out that goo (a fun mix of CG and practical FX, by the way) isn't a cute globby goblin, as in 1984, but a grisly one showcasing present-day design. (The old cuddly poltergeist pops up later in the trailer, surrounded by a menagerie varied enough to make one desperate to see what this movie's version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man will be.)
Pretty ghosts are nice, but Ghostbusters sinks or survives on the dynamics of its human leads, and the trailer offers hope that the film will crack that code. A viewer intent on drawing literal comparisons between old and new (the characters' names are different) will likely call Melissa McCarthy the Bill Murray of the crew and Kristen Wiig its Dan Aykroyd, if only because Wiig's character, a doctor of particle physics, seems nerdier. But it's hard to tell whether or not McCarthy is shooting for the screen-hogging swagger of Murray's Peter Venkman: In one shot, even the characters themselves aren't sure who's leading the team.
If she's stepping into the late Harold Ramis' shoes, Kate McKinnon wears them with a wholly different attitude: She gets just one line (and a prominent wink) in the trailer, but her physical presence says smart-ass, not dweeb. And as for Leslie Jones, there's little risk of her being as minor a character as Ernie Hudson was the first time around. Did Hudson have anything like the moment Jones gets here, slapping around a demon-possessed McCarthy like a Bible Belt Exorcist?
Biggest question mark? Chris Hemsworth, reportedly cast as the paranormal team's receptionist. Annie Potts made that itty-bitty role her own, and in this trailer, a quick beefcake shot of the Thor actor gives little hint what he'll do to replace her.
But that's fine — trailers should leave plenty of questions hanging in the air. Here's another: What of-the-moment producer have the filmmakers hired to put a new spin on Ray Parker, Jr.'s "I ain't 'fraid of no ghosts" theme song?