Sony has tried and failed to conjure a new Ghostbusters so many times, it’s not surprising they would embrace a daring new take from femme-friendly comedy director Paul Feig. Most famous for Bridesmaids and The Heat, Feig wants to transfer that formula for a Ghostbusters reboot that would be driven by girl ghost hunters.
That turns on its ear the original construct that consisted of three earnest ghost chasers (Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson) led by a disreputable misogynistic womanizer (Bill Murray). Great comedy ensued from that dynamic, and left room for comic turns by Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Signing Feig would be great news for Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, and maybe Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne and Rebel Wilson, but what about the rest of us? The ones who feel a level of ownership of the classic 1984 guy comedy Ghostbusters, the ones who endured a disappointing sequel and waited years for Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) to finally say he was not going to answer the call for a third film so we could get to this point? I feel slimed.
I had it in my mind that we’d see some combination of Jonah Hill, Kevin Hart, Channing Tatum, James Franco, Zach Galifianakis, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis carry on the spirit of the ghost-busting tale.
I know, some of those guys spit the bit in The Watch, a movie that also dealt with otherworldly forces (aliens) and sucked. And, there is the potential fiscal upside: we are seeing a recognition that women will come to the movies if there is something in it for them, as evidenced by the Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Other Woman and last weekend’s winner, Lucy, with Gone Girl and Fifty Shades Of Grey sure to add to that box-office win streak. And Marvel Comics just gave Thor a gender do-over and made the hammer-wielder a woman.
But does that give them the right to take Ghostbusters from knuckle-dragging Neanderthals like me who have little else going for us but our all-time top 10 or 20 favorite guy movies, and the prospect of a revamp that feels like the original guy version of one of the films on that list? What’s next, a Goodfellas redo with female mobsters pulling off the Lufthansa heist? A Raging Bull redo with Rhonda Rousey? Brian’s Song, set in in the WNBA? Animal House at a sorority? Sony has been looking for the right director since Ivan Reitman told Deadline he’d decided no more ghost busting for him, that he would oversee the revamp as producer but that it was time to hand the torch. This was after the great Harold Ramis passed away.
Sony courted Cloudy with a Chance Of Meatballs helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (they also did The Lego Movie) and others, to no avail. Freaks & Geeks creator Feig is one funny dude, and he served up two female-driven comedies as raunchy as The Hangover. His participation in the Ghostbusters reboot is by no means set in stone; Feig has a rich deal at Fox, and plenty of R-rated comedies percolating there to keep him busy.
Nowadays, a conversation triggers trade stories. For purists, you never win when an attempt is made to reboot a classic comedy you love, especially in an era where franchise titles are at a premium and the entire business is driven by tent poles and giant opening weekends and little else. Casting with girl power is certainly a way to differentiate the new film from the old, while exploiting the financial benefits of an iconic title which shows up on some studio spreadsheet as a potential gold mine. It’s just going to take me awhile to wrap my arms around this one.