Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey
Opens July 15, 2016
Time for the moment of truth. Since the Ghostbusters reboot was announced, it’s been an internet war between misogynists who pre-hated the movie and anti-misogynists who pre-loved the movie to overcompensate for the people who were pre-hating it, with a crossfire of people who thought the movie looked like ass but felt like they couldn’t say so for being prejudged as misogynists. All the while, nobody was answering the question: how is this movie on the merits?
Ghostbusters (2016) is…competent. It’s not great and just doesn’t match the very specific charm of the original movie, but it’s not a failure either. Stylistically, it’s essentially a modern superhero film that mirrors much of the plot of the original movie, albeit with a genderswapped cast (though gender has no particular bearing on the story). If this were a completely original film in a world where the 1984 film didn’t exist, then it probably stands fine on its own two feet. In our real world, where it’s now the third film in a beloved franchise…well, it ranks below Ghostbusters (1984) but above Ghostbusters II (1989).
Ghostbusters at least parallels the plot structure of the original. There’s strange happenings at a prominent New York landmark, so some semi-discredited paranormal scientists (Wiig, McCarthy, and McKinnon) are called in to investigate. Seizing upon an opportunity to further their research and earn money for it, the three end up becoming prominent professional ghostbusters. Meanwhile, a New York transit worker (Jones) uncovers the makings of a larger plot by a disgruntled man with a passion for the supernatural (Casey) to bring the ghost world into our own, leading her to join the team after she brings them in to investigate. Unlike the 1984 team’s celebrity success, however, the new Ghostbusters find themselves impeded by a government that would rather discredit them than allow the world at large to be panicked by a ghostly invasion.
In terms of plot structure, this is all fine, and there’s plenty of funny moments and witty dialogue that will keep the audience laughing. The show stopper, if anything, is Chris Hemsworth’s role as the team’s “blond” secretary who quite convincingly comes off as being dumber than a bag of hammers. Where Ghostbusters goes wrong is that, when inevitably compared to the original, just isn’t as funny. Ghostbusters (2016) was good; Ghostbusters (1984) is better.
The original had two things working for it that the modern just didn’t to its full capability. First, the 1984 movie had a distinct “lightning in a bottle” cast of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson who had perfect chemisty with the right script. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, and Jones have okay chemistry with a script that includes a fart joke in the first five minutes. Consider that the original movie actually had relatively little ghostbusting–after the fight with Slimer, the 1984 film relied on montage imagery and otherwise focused on the four characters. This movie doesn’t do nearly as much of that (Wiig and McCarthy’s characters have a personal issue in the beginning which is mostly ignored until the climax) and overcompensates with an army of ghosts that the first film didn’t need.
Second, it’s a little disappointing that the new Ghostbusters doesn’t make much of New York City itself as a character. The original was very distinctly a New York film (granted, much of the movie wasn’t filmed there) and truly felt like it brought the city to life. The new film, despite its best efforts, really just feels like the city is just backdrop. Sure, it’s nice to see Hook & Ladder No. 8 get a cameo, but the firehouse’s appearance is unavoidable given the number of original character insertions into the film.
Ghostbusters (2016) is watchable, but not special like the original was. Go see it if you’re a fan, but remember that lightning in a bottle is hard to duplicate indeed.
Three Proton Packs Out of Five
The 2016 Ghostbusters did not disappoint. It’s about a bizarre appearance of apparitions showing up in Manhattan, New York brought on by a sinister scientist that in turn joined four self-determined women together to battle and take down a barrage of ghosts. Erin is a college physicist professor close to tenure, who in her childhood, experienced and became a believer in the paranormal. Abby, Erin’s childhood friend, is an unconventional scientist that dedicated her life’s work studying ghosts. Jillian is a crazy but talented engineer partnered with Abby to build devices to investigate these beings. And lastly Patty, a transit employee and native New Yorker who knows the city in and out aided in their quest.
Going into this movie blind from the original Ghostbusters and favoring the main actors/comedians (mostly SNL alums) from other movies and TV shows, I knew it was at least going to put a smile on my face. However, I was haunted (excuse the pun) by the thought that all the movie trailers I was exposed to beforehand would possibly ruin it for me. Surprisingly, once in the context, many of the scenes shown in the trailer enhanced my laughter. From the beginning of the movie, Ghostbusters had me going with its spooky opening scene. Throughout the movie I saw many familiar faces with cameo appearances and nods to the actors from the original Ghostbusters in some form or fashion. Keep your ears peeled because there were also snippets here and there of references to other TV shows, movies and geekdom that were funny to hear being incorporated.
There was a lot of silliness at times that was a little exaggerated, but the movie gave these women an attitude and they held their own. The Ghostbusters team had to make others believe in them as women and in the paranormal. It was relieving to see a movie involving intelligent woman and not using their feminine wiles to get ahead. A not much seen, but fun to watch role reversal happened with these women not holding their tongue when it came to their not so intelligent but attractive male assistant. Through my graphic designer’s eye, their experience of building their identity as Ghostbusters, I saw how their brand improved over time. In every instance that they would battle the ghosts, it was for me as woman, an important aspect to proving their significance. I enjoyed their journey as women proving doubt and not letting society effect what they believed in. Don’t sleep on staying after the credits, their mission lives on.
4 Proton Packs out of 5.