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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghostbusters is a reboot of the classic 1984 supernatural action-comedy. This time around, it stars four talented female comedians -- Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones -- as the central quartet who must team up to use their knowledge of science and the paranormal to save the city when New York again faces a supernatural invasion. While the film has some pretty scary spirit baddies and intense ghostly battles -- as well as gross-out slime scenes -- it's so over the top that it's likely to be more engrossing than chilling for most tweens and up. Language is infrequent but includes "s--t" and "damn," and one character ogles a character she finds attractive and makes some comments about his hotness (but things never get too racy, and there's less romance/relationship content in this one than in the original). There are also some fart jokes/a hit to the groin, and adults drink beer to relax. It's a lot like the original (watch for cameos from some of the original stars!), but also different in many ways, especially with its underlying theme of female empowerment.
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What's the story?
New York City is under attack from an army of the undead -- who you gonna call? That's right, the GHOSTBUSTERS. But in this update of the the 1984 comedy-action classic, the quartet of supernatural scientists is an all-woman team: paranormal experts Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kristen Wiig), nuclear engineer Jillian (Kate McKinnon), and subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones). They bring scientific rigor and plenty of pluck to their battle against the paranormal. Watch out for slime!
Is it any good?
The original Ghostbusters -- a near-perfect cocktail of brash irreverence, scares, and big laughs -- is a tough act to follow, but this reboot comes decently close. Chemistry is paramount when assembling a team to follow in the footsteps of Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, and the good news is that McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, and Jones are equally inspired and awesome. (McKinnon is especially suited for the franchise.) More raves: Chris Hemsworth shows off his comedic skills to great effect, and fans of the first Ghostbusters will be thrilled by the cameos of the previous ensemble, giving the film a feel-good vibe that's hard to shake. Even the sight of the old firehouse elicits a pang of glee. The story feels of the moment and even amusingly self-referential, with jokes aimed at online trolls who've been quick to condemn the reboot.
Nonetheless, this new Ghostbusters lacks the element of surprise that even remakes should have; the "scary" CGI-dependent scenes lack the spark and fright of that "library moment" in the original, which provided a welcome counter-weight to the rollicking laughs. Strangely enough, the reboot's biggest triumph is that it makes us hope for a sequel, one in which the women can stake their claim on the franchise on their own terms, no longer so strictly compared to the 1984 version. See it -- it will definitely make you laugh -- but you'll have to wait for it to find its own footing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Ghostbusters is scary. It's packed with angry ghosts, but are they intended to be scary or funny? How can you tell? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared?
How does this version of the movie compare to the original? What's similar, and what's different? Do you think one is better than the other? Why or why not?
Does it make a difference that this team of Ghostbusters is all female? How does that affect the story (if it does)? How does it affect the way you feel about the flirting scenes and the way Chris Hemsworth's character is treated?
- In theaters: July 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 11, 2016
- Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
- Director: Paul Feig
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: supernatural action and some crude humor
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