Ghostbusters – a classic comedy for the ages, an iconic remembrance of some of the best the the 80s had to offer. For my generation, one of things we gaze back upon with fond memories of hilarity and joy. If someone is going to mess with our childhood, they better do it right. This attitude seems to be the source of so much of the distrust and even hate that has been thrown at the new movie, and with good reason.
By their nature, movies are timeless and represent not just a good story or a good performance, but are a slice of time and space which is saved forever, a memory that never fades and can be viewed over and over again and which helps us recall all the emotions and experiences we had when we first saw it. So given Hollywood’s penchant for re-booting franchises for the sake of a quick buck and damn the quality, it is with good reason that the Ghostbusters remake was viewed with doubt, suspicion and contempt. There’s no way to talk about this movie without comparing it to the original – re-boots do not stand on their own and very very rarely are they better than the films they are based on.
What’s more, as some of you may recall, the original 1984 Ghostbusters had a marketing buildup that lasted for months, silently teasing just this image on our TV screens before we even knew that it was signalling an upcoming movie. Finally we learned that comic geniuses Harold Ramis, Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray were involved and that something fresh, original and hopefully amazing was coming our way. When it was released on June 8, 1984, our hopes were realized and very few were disappointed. It was comedy gold and a blockbuster hit. Ghostbusters was even nominated for two Oscars. To this day, it holds a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the re-boot. The marketing buildup on this one was an epic fail. Whoever made the trailers for this movie should be shot, because those trailers reflected a movie that is pure suckage. I had to force myself to clear my mind and just let the movie roll out, because the trailers left me with such a bad taste that I was sure this was going to be an awful experience.
There’s been a lot of hate about this movie on the internet for months and while I understand it because of the bad trailers, apparently there’s also been sexist comments about the all-female crew. Before breaking down where the movie goes wrong, I want to say that this point is not one of them. The sexist critiques of “why a female Ghostbusters” and “these women are going to ruin my childhood” are unwarranted and they actually did succeed at bringing a new and decidedly female slant to what was a classically male-oriented tradition.
The first act is great with the characters all fully realized as relatively rational and motivated characters, except perhaps for Kate McKinnon. She is the one-joke-eccentric-electronics wizard who except for one line at the end is just the goofy punchline to a lot of sight gags. Her goofiness is infectious, though, and a lot of the laughs in this movie come from either her setups or punchlines. Without a doubt, she is the most badass of the new Ghostbusters crew. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones do their jobs competently given what they have to work with and I’m sure brought their own ad libbing to fill the void where the script leaves them hanging. I was actually happy to see Leslie Jones not come off as just the steretypical dumb black woman with attitude, which is what I expected to see based on the previews.
The second act is where things start taking a turn for the worse. It takes the familiar setup from the original movie and starts moving it in a new direction that I didn’t really like so much. There’s a plot twist entered in which I won’t spoil but will say that while the Ghostbusters start kicking ectoplasmic ass, they have to do so without much cooperation or recognition. I think there were some major opportunities lost here, because if you were looking for a point where some kind of statement could have been made about these women doing the same or better than men, this would have been it. On the other hand, maybe the idea was to just show that women can kick ass through their actions and they don’t need validation, but that too was ruined by where the story goes.
This leads to a third act which is haphazard, unoriginal and frankly is quite a mess, making what could have been an amazing or awesome experience into only a so-so climax that felt stilted and fell flat. I was ready for this movie to be over about thirty minutes before the credits rolled.
As a comedy, I laughed hardest at some of the antics and lines in the first half but they became fewer and far between as the end drew near, broken up pretty much only by the cameos of the original film’s stars. These cameos worked alright, some better than others. Dan Akroyd’s really didn’t make a lot of sense and Bill Murray was totally wasted here, literally disappearing off screen and not seen or heard from again when there was actually a lot more potential for what his character was doing in the movie.
In terms of sexism, there is one thing I have to point out which critic Chris Stuckmann noticed too. Every single male character in this movie is either an idiot or a jerk. There is literally not one realistic or sympathetic male character anywhere in sight, including the lame psychopathic geek villain who has independently developed the same technology as the Ghostbusters except he wants to use it to destroy the world in the ultimate nerd revenge fantasy. So while writer/director Paul Feig succeeded in not stereotyping the women, he did an insanely good job of stereotyping the men. Well done, Paul, thanks. Chris Hemsworth has a few truly inspired moments and is surprisingly good at comedy, but his character is so stupid that he’d fail a blood test and again, there was a lot of wasted potential there.
And that really sums up what I think of this movie: wasted potential. It had all the makings to achieve the comic gold of the original. The acting talent was all there in spades, the special effects and props and locations were all there and the laurels upon which this film rest were all there. What wasn’t there was quality writing or a story that actually works. I could talk about the financials and the fact that this movie does not appear to be gaining a return on investment based on first weekend’s sales, which itself is a pretty good indicator as to what people are thinking, but in the end, I can only shake my head and say “Ghostbusters 2016? Meh. It’s not really worth your time.”
Thanks for watching.