Any big screen reboot is a tricky business – how do you make something relevant to a modern audience without sacrificing what made it so popular in the first place? Rebooting Ghostbusters is an especially tough task, though, because the original 1984 film (and, to a lesser extent, its 1989 sequel Ghostbusters II) still inspire such affection. Ask “who you gonna call?” and everyone knows exactly which film you’re referencing.
A third Ghostbusters film has been in the works for around a decade, hampered by Bill Murray’s reluctance to return as Peter Venkman and persistent problems with its script – both Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, who worked on the US remake of The Office, and Tropic Thunder scribe Etan Cohen couldn’t get it to pop. When original Ghostbusters star and co-writer Harold Ramis died in February 2014, it felt like the final nail in the whole sorry project’s coffin.
Until last October, that is, when Bridesmaids director Paul Feig announced that he was working on a new Ghostbusters film starring “hilarious women”. Actresses including Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone and Rebel Wilson were all linked to the project, but Feig has now confirmed his four main cast members: Bridesmaids alumni Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, plus two less famous names, at least to British film fans, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones from iconic US sketch show Saturday Night Live.
Yes, it’s going to be difficult to match original stars Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis and Bill Murray, a man who could probably kill a cat in an endearing manner, but this line-up is very promising indeed. The super-talented Wiig is overdue a prominent role in a big mainstream movie and McCarthy has proved she can carry a hit comedy flick: The Heat, in which she starred opposite Sandra Bullock, and The Identity Thief, which paired her with Jason Bateman, both raked it in at the box office in 2013. McKinnon and Jones aren’t as well-known, but if these actresses didn’t have knife-sharp comic timing, they wouldn’t have landed jobs on Saturday Night Live.
Going “all-female” is a great call generally. It makes the reboot feel genuinely fresh and inventive, rather than a mere rehash of past glories featuring younger, buffer male cast members. The reboot has the potential to carve out its own, proudly feminist identity at a time when the number of comedy films featuring female leads is still woefully low. In 2015, the idea of a new Ghostbusters movie featuring hilarious women is far more appealing than one in which Dan Aykroyd returns, 30 years on, to get another blowjob from a ghost.