Perhaps never before has a film been so divisive and polarizing as this remake of the beloved classic flick it springs from. Online, many voices cry ‘FOUL!’ at the supposed disrespectful cash-grab from Sony, defended by SJW’s and feminists. I went into this wanting to see it for myself and decide for myself. I’ve seen reviews calling it horrible and not worth watching, while some rave, though most seem to agree it’s just an average comedy. Well, what do I think?
Ghostbusters (2016), directed by Paul Feig, is a reboot of the original 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson and the late Harold Ramis. This time, an all-female cast takes over- Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) play two former best friends and scientists who once shared dreams of investigating ghosts and paranormal phenomena, and have now reunited under less than friendly circumstances. Jillian Hostzmann (Kate McKinnon) is Abby’s assistant in her paranormal lab and an apparent mad inventor of ghost-extermination gear. Finally, joining the bunch along the way is streetwise Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a subway attendant who has a ghostly encounter of her own.
As the new team comes together to investigate a sudden rise in paranormal activity and ghost sightings, they soon make the disturbing discovery that someone is actively causing this rise in ghost sightings for some reason. Unfortunately, things get a bit more complicated when the city mayor (Andy Garcia) decides adamantly to keep things under wraps to prevent panic, even if it means discrediting the female heroes.
All right, for starters, I don’t think this new Ghostbusters is as terrible as some are making it out to be. I do think that there is a bit of emotional baggage or nostalgia for the first flick that causes a natural dislike for this new film. That said, the film, as a comedy, is pretty hit-and-miss. Many of the jokes, gags and self-deprecating humor don’t really hit well and seem to just pass by in the midst of dead air. I understand that the leads are all talented and very funny actresses and comediennes, but here I think they’re pretty much hamstrung with pretty bad writing, in terms of the humor. You have a fart joke, some jokes about the group’s hunky new male secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) being as dumb as a doorknob- no exaggeration, this guy seems to only have enough brain power to qualify him as a sentient being.
There’s another bit that probably elicits a lot of the anger out there for the film, and its that pretty much every male character is either an asshole or a moron. That’s how males act, as feminists would like to think, I guess.
Plot holes abound and pacing problems make things just seem uneven and awkward, with little satisfying explanation. The Ghostbusters begin their company by just stealing what lab equipment they can carry from their former campus. Then in a bit they seem to have enough nuclear material and components to create a Q-Branch’s worth of proton-throwing laser weaponry. One moment, we see physical comedy moments as these ladies fumble about with the obviously dangerous weapons rather carelessly- then later we see them taking out ghosts (how is it suddenly that these proton packs graduate from being instruments that are simply used to lasso or temporarily snare ghosts to outright DESTROYING them?) in the street in an action scene that would do the Avengers proud. It doesn’t seem earned or logical- it all just happens because hey, we’re in the third act and the ghostbusters gotta look cool killing ghosts.
I guess the most interesting part of the movie are the ghostbusters themselves- instead of a squad of model gorgeous heroines, we get a more colorful group of comedic talent. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are the straight people; Kate McKinnon’s Hotzmann is so offbeat and just plain weird in her mannerisms I seem to get a hunch that she’s ad-libbing most of her stuff and just doing improv, and it sometimes works, sometimes… not. Finally, Leslie Jones’ ‘token’ streetwise girl with the inevitable “HELL NO!” mannerisms may irritate for being such a stereotypical cliche character, but in honesty, I didn’t find her at all annoying.
The best parts of the film for me are some of the creepier ghost encounters- the first ghost, just before the rather tasteless vomit gag was well done. There’s a sequence with mannequins which is genuinely creepy and hilarious at the same time. And the endgame with the girls going toe-to-toe with a possessed Kevin was pretty cool.
The movie works when it is about these female ghostbusters actually taking on ghosts, at least before it devolves into the light show laser tag brawl at the end- the investigation, the creeps and actual ghost trapping was fine. The comedy in the context of these situations is fine. It’s when the script tries to be funny outside these situations which makes things feel like a half-baked SNL skit.
Oh, and the cameos… well aside from Tywin Lannister AKA Charles Dance having a role as Erin’s boss, most of the cast of the original Ghostbusters appear- not as themselves, but as totally different people. Perhaps one can just think that this film is not meant to replace the original- it’s just a different take in a different world and time of this same story. Updated with stuff like Youtube comments and cellphones, but well, that’s to be expected.
I do think that this flick has been made a rallying point by Feminists and SJW’s, and in turn hardcore fans of the original film and some He-man Women-Hater Clubs have just muddled the issue even more. The fact is, this film won’t erase the well-loved and popular original. I doubt that it will be that much of a hot topic in a few month’s time, unless Sony insists of making this a franchise. It’s not a horrible film, and I certainly had a bit of fun while all the while being aware of all the plot holes, leaps in logic and uneven comedy. It’s a Ghostbusters live-action cartoon. It’s light and fluffy and in general, really just overblown but harmless, as easily burst like a possessed giant balloon.
I would not be averse to seeing this same cast donning the proton packs again in a future adventure… but only with a much, MUCH better script (at least one worthy of the name Zuul).