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Family Movie Review: Ghostbusters (PG-13)

Ghostbusters ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG-13      Length: 116 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. This addition to the ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise ups the scary factor a bit, with more demonic-looking ghosts that attack people; some fights between the humans and the ghosts and some creepy possessions; a good amount of sexism directed at our female protagonists that is thoroughly rejected by them; some flirtations between a few characters; and some cursing, bathroom humor, and rude jokes.

The much-talked-about all-female ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot acknowledges its detractors and wholly rejects them in this often-hysterical, smartly written new addition to the franchise. It has problems with pacing and shaking off its predecessors, but ‘Ghostbusters’ delivers enough laughs and scares to stand on its own.

By Roxana Hadadi

There are people who will never enjoy a female version of “Ghostbusters,” and that’s not OK. But the film itself is often hysterical, cleverly written, and defined by star-making turns from Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, two “Saturday Night Live” veterans who bring their own zany energy to this group. Don’t let the detractors get you down. “Ghostbusters” is a worthy addition to the beloved franchise, unique enough to stand on its own.

What the film smartly does is pay homage to its predecessors (including a variety of fun cameos from the original cast) while also updating elements of the film for a more modern audience (a subplot on bullying; scarier ghosts). It helps, too, that there is some good meta writing here, like when the four female Ghostbusters sarcastically read misogynistic comments on their YouTube videos (bringing to mind the kind of online vitriol directed at the film since its announcement) or when the villain spews the same sort of garbage to the team, only for them to reject his rejection.

The original “Ghostbusters” was goofy and fun, a slice of New York City in the 1980s; this new “Ghostbusters” manages the same thing while also acknowledging that the world now, with its hyper-connectivity and its Internet equalization of digital voices, is very, very different.

“Ghostbusters” begins with physics professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig, of “Zoolander 2”), who is up for tenure at Columbia University. With her prim skirt suits and her skeptical demeanor, you would never think Erin believed in ghosts—but years ago, she wrote a tome with her former best friend about the supernatural, and that book’s online availability may damage her reputation. So she treks across town to see Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy, of “Central Intelligence”), who at a lower-tier institution is pursuing the research Erin abandoned. Accompanied by engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon, of “Finding Dory”), Abby is trying to prove once and for all that supernatural beings exist.

She gets a break when the three women go to the Aldridge Mansion, a supposedly haunted historical location in the city that is, in fact, plagued by a murderous, demented ghost. Soon enough, there are ghosts popping up all over the city, including in the subway, where MTA worker Patty Tolan (Jones, of “Lottery Ticket”) sees an angry prisoner, in a striped prison jumpsuit, reaching toward her on the tracks. Patty meets up with Erin, Abby, and Jillian, and the foursome is complete—ready to track down who is letting these ghosts free and what they could possibly want.

If “Ghostbusters” struggles with anything, it’s pacing; the film develops somewhat erratically, jumping weirdly along in the beginning while the group sets itself up, and there’s too much of a reliance on complicated science talk to pass time. Plus, there isn’t as much character development for Erin and Abby—perhaps because they are played by the recognizable Wiig and McCarthy, whose chemistry audiences already know from “Bridesmaids”?—as there is for Holtzmann and Patty, so the foursome feels a bit uneven.

But “Ghostbusters” hits its stride when the women cement their friendships and start interacting with other people—including a scene-stealing Chris Hemsworth (of “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) as the group’s clueless-but-hot receptionist Kevin—letting their loyalty and affection for each other shine through. The friendship between Patty and Holtzmann brings to mind the affinity Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd had for each other in the original films, and the competitive, flirtatious vibe between Holtzmann and Erin is amusing and unexpected, too.

The best scenes are when the women are spending time together, being good at what they do—from getting down to DMX to facing off against a group of pilgrim ghosts—and not letting anyone discourage or discredit them. The film struggles to find itself in the beginning, but it ends so confidently that you’ll respect how funnily it manages to slyly tackle bullying, Internet culture, and sexism. In that way, “Ghostbusters” is a gleeful shut-down of the online naysayers who were so offended by the idea that women could fight ghosts—but they can, and they do, and you’ll laugh the whole time they’re doing it.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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