My Super Late Movie Review of ‘Ghostbusters’
You can read Gfunk’s review right here!
Plot: A remake of the 1984 comedy classic, the 2016 edition finds physicist Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) on the verge of tenure at Columbia University. However, her dreams are dashed when former high school friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) re-releases a book they published on the paranormal years ago. Angry, Erin tracks down Abby at a science institute where she works with Dr. Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), an eccentric engineer who believes that ghosts can actually be captured. Reluctantly Erin pairs up with Holtzman and Yates to investigate a haunting at a renowned New York City mansion. Suspecting further paranormal activity, the trio found the Ghostbusters, a paranormal investigative unit. Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) an NYC MTA worker and an expert in the history of the city, also joins the group when she discovers a horrifying secret in NYC’s subway tunnels. You see, someone has been using advanced technology to amplify spectral activity and only the Ghostbusters can find a way to stop it.
Review: I find myself in the odd position of having to defend my review before it even begins. This is due in large part to the vitriol that began on the Internet regarding the 2016 version of Ghostbusters before the cameras even rolled. Vitriol so corrosive and hateful that it eventually forced Leslie Jones off of Twitter entirely. I began to wonder when it would take physical form ala the “mood slime” from Ghostbusters 2. Ghostbusters detractors seemed to fall into one of three categories. Either they hated the idea of a Ghostbusters film not involving the original Ghostbusters, they thought the film was unnecessary, or they were misogynist dickbags who deplored the idea of the cast being anchored by four strong, intelligent women. I fall into the middle category. A third Ghostbusters film was about fifteen years too late so where was the pressing need to remake a comedy classic? The fact that all four of the cast were women had never even factored into my thinking. All this preamble stems from the fear that no matter what I write here some troll in the comment section is bound to call me a misogynist, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. My opinion of Ghostbusters had zero to do with the all female cast. That’s why with a full heart and a clear mind I can say this:
It’s not a very good movie.
Mediocre, slapdash, and narratively weak, director Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters generates some decent laughs here and there, but never fully works as a cohesive film. I think what’s most frustrating is that the movie started out so well. The first twenty minutes are a great blend of comedy and action with some hilarious one-liners. Unfortunately, the middle slows way down where the main action consists of two equipment tests and repeated complaints about the number of wontons Abby gets in her soup. The third act then fizzles out in a predictable final confrontation that’s unfulfilling in the extreme. At one point the four fight the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in giant parade balloon form and thwart him with (SPOILER ALERT!) a Swiss Army Knife! Like I said, FIZZLE.
Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold’s screenplay while not derivative of the original, certainly lacks inspiration. It’s all well and good to put four very funny women together and hope that the chemistry is there (it is), but you can’t just expect that to be your only component to sustain a film for almost two hours. Part of the problem stems from there being very little ghostbusting to speak of. Essentially there’s one confrontation for the ‘busters at a death metal concert (not very subtle) and then the final battle. Other than that, there’s Holtzmann showing off her new gadgets and a very funny cameo from Bill Murray playing a paranormal debunker. There’s also a scene, shown extensively in the previews, where Abby gets possessed by a ghost. If you didn’t think it was funny in the trailer the expanded scene isn’t going to change your mind. A larger part of the issue however, comes from Feig’s tepid and poorly paced directing. For the life of me I don’t understand why this guy gets so much credit. Spy and Bridesmaids were mediocre at best and The Heat was marginally funny. Look I’m not saying Feig is Uwe Bol bad, but he may be the most overrated director working today.
While people may disagree with me on this, one of the strong qualities of the original Ghostbusters is that the special effects still hold up well after thirty years. The ghosts in the 2016 film are awful. They look like something out of Eddie Murphy’s Haunted Mansion. When you take into account that the film’s budget was just shy of $150 million, the poor quality of the special effects is surprising in the extreme. I know that a film like Ghostbusters requires more suspension of disbelief than normal, but when the ghosts resemble a high school project your kid brother put together on his laptop, it’s hard to get invested.
Let’s take a minute to talk about Chris Hemsworth’s character Kevin Beckman, the Ghostbusters’ gorgeous but dim-witted secretary. He’s really not that funny despite what you may have heard. I get that he’s supposed to be the loveable dumb guy who makes up for it with his looks, but Kevin’s stupidity borders on ridiculous. He doesn’t even know how to answer a phone and repeatedly forgets he hates coffee. It’s simply not believable. However, I will say it was nice to see the paradigm flipped on its head. For years audiences have been exposed to dumb beautiful bimbos who can’t even type but are kept around for their looks. It was refreshing to see a dumb, handsome, male secretary be fawned over by Wiig’s character.
The most egregious flaw in Ghostbusters has to be the villain. In 1984 we got Gozer, a truly badass badgirl. Five years later the fearsome foursome confronted Viggo the Carpathian who, while he didn’t measure up to Gozer, was still formidable. For the 2016 version we get…a frustrated bellhop? Rowan North (Neil Casey) is a mad scientist stuck in a dead-end job who is bent on opening up a portal to the spirit realm and unleashing ghosts on NYC. His motivation? Basically being ignored, marginalized, rejected, and picked on. Rowan embodies the angry troll you’d find on Twitter, Reddit, or 4Chan. Really??? That’s all you got? An angry fanboy?
What’s pathetic is that Feig’s choice of villain is blatantly transparent. He picks a villain that’s a direct representation of the angry, misogynistic, bitter fanboys who raised holy Hell when they found out the cast would be all women. It’s a giant “fuck you” to all those idiots. In fact the situation becomes patently obvious when the Ghostbusters literally shoot Rowan IN THE BALLS with their proton packs. I’m torn on this. While I kind of delighted in this (women have been getting short-changed in these types of films for years) it also seems rather petty. Furthermore, the fact that Feig expects people not to see through this thinly veiled pretense is pretty insulting.
In spite of the nerdrage, I’m ecstatic to report that the best part of Ghostbusters were the four female leads. They were all hilarious in their own right and each was given the opportunity to shine. Kristen Wiig turns in another solid comedic performance and McCarthy actually delivers a somewhat more restrained performance than normal. Leslie Jones crushes it as the vibrant, sassy, MTA worker as well. The real show stopper was Kate McKinnon as the quirky Holtzmann. Her non-sequiter lines and delivery were impeccable. I could watch a whole movie just on Holtzmann. For fans of Saturday Night Live, enjoy McKinnon while you can because her career is just taking off. The group had amazing chemistry and I hope Wiig, McCarthy, Jones, and McKinnon reunite for another film, whether it’s a sequel to Ghostbusters or not. And on a side note it was truly refreshing to see four capable, smart, and confident women on the big screen. They set a great example for young girls, something Hollywood desperately needs.
Unfortunately, the four actresses’ chemistry, camaraderie, and humor aren’t enough to save this lukewarm remake. The Ghostbuters franchise should have remained in the Ecto -Containment Unit. So if you’re wondering “Who ya gonna call?” the answer is not this movie. I suggest you watch the original two films. You’ll have a much better time.
My rating: 4/10
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