Ghostbusters (2016) Movie Review
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig, based on characters developed by Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ivan Reitman
Release Date: 15 July 2016
Running Time: 116 minutes
Editor's Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Chris Hemsworths dancing
So, a Ghostbusters movie got made with an all-female cast. Believe it or not, the world still exists, dogs and cats are not living together, and the only mass hysteria to be found is in following the election. So after all of the bluster, all of the people my age getting their jimmies rustled at the mere thought of a film remake tromping and desecrating their cherished childhood memories, is the new Ghostbusters any good?
The answer, without a doubt, is yes.
However, now that I have answered honestly, I must speak quickly and clearly, for my time is short. It won’t be long before the fans who didn’t want a movie in the first place find me and destroy me through sheer psychic hatred.
First off, I think it’s important to note that this film is a remake, not a reboot. People have been bandying about both terms for awhile now, but this film is in many ways a retelling of elements of the first two movies in a sort of parallel universe. And while the new ‘Busters might have their similarities to the original crew, they are their own characters. Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is a paranormal-expert-turned-professor at Columbia University who’s had to give up her dream of chasing ghosts to make it in the real world, and it’s those hang-ups that kind of follow her around and make her the more cautious end of the team. Melissa McCarthy is Abby Yates, the absent other half of Erin, a paranormal scientist who never compromised and as a result is working, happily, in the academic equivalent of a broom closet. Crammed in there with her is her colleague Jillian Holtzmann, played to perfection by Kate McKinnon. Holtz is a weirdo with a mouth that never stops, no matter if it’s appropriate or not (most of the time it’s not). She’s also an expert engineer and scientist, making most of the gear that the team uses. Leslie Jones plays Patty Tolan, a last name that I was not aware of before I looked it up on IMDB. She’s a worker at the MTA, and her first appearance in the film has her basically in a toll booth. Womp womp. Where the first three are scientists of some description, Patty is more of the team’s researcher, knowing every single nook and cranny of New York City, thus giving us the impetus to keep the story moving. She’s also a great layman’s foil to all of the science-speak and technobabble coming from the other three, much like Winston was in the originals. The four come together to make a balanced, interesting, and most importantly, funny group. Tack on Chris Hemsworth as literally big dumb eye-candy, and we’re golden.
The conflict is straightforward, feeling a bit more like Ghostbusters 2. Some nutcase is trying to bring about a ghost apocalypse, and it’s up to our would-be heroes to save the day. The result is an over-the-top adventure through New York that’s just as fun as the originals. Speaking of, basically everyone from the original cast makes a cameo in one way or another, with my personal favorite being the adorable Annie Potts and her unmistakable Jersey accent.
This film really does try to pay a lot of homage to the original, to the point that it distracts from the story they're trying to tell, or the lack thereof. It’s like the film is nervously asking for validation: “Hey, aren’t we just like the first series, guys?” However, more often than not it’s an enjoyable throwback than it is a needy cry for confirmation, but part of me can’t help but think that the film’s troubled reception from step one played a part in that. There is a solid sense that everyone involved here is not trying to disrespect the franchise at all, knowing full well they were under insurmountable scrutiny all the way through, and they overcompensated at points to ensure they wouldn’t offend any more people than they already did just for existing.
The biggest throwback to the originals, and indeed the one that’s almost as important is having ghosts in the flick, is having the theme song in it. The Ghostbusters theme has always been an iconic song, but this time around it takes up about a third of the soundtrack with remixes and different takes on it. And ya know what? I loved every single one of them. They really showed the versatility of the song and the people on the soundtrack here, breathing so many different kinds of life into it. I liked the song before, but I love it now. It can go from chintzy and classic to broad and epic, and all it takes is a little tempo change and bunch more strings.
Speaking of remixes, I spoke before about Kate McKinnon’s character, Jillian Holtzmann, being a master engineer, but I didn’t elaborate on the types of goodies she makes. Yeah, there’s your standard issue proton packs, but by the end of the film, the Ghostbusters are using ghost grenades, proton whips, and dual-wielding proton pistols like Annie Oakley. It’s a realm of Ghostbusters lore that I didn’t know I wanted to see expanded on until Holtzmann introduced them to me, and now I want to see more.
Now, onto the question everyone has been asking: is it funny? The answer is yes, but the approach to making the audience laugh will turn off people who were expecting it to be true to the format of the 80s. It’s true, and it’s been true for awhile now, whether you like it or not: comedy as a whole has evolved since the 1980s. It’s a hard pill to swallow for those who revel in some notion of glory days that they’ve arbitrarily set the boundaries on, and where a lot of the anger that isn’t immediately “OMG NO CHICK GHOSTBUSTERS WTF” ends up pooling after that train of thought rightfully gets slammed as misogynistic. People say they don’t want their classics “ruined” with a modern interpretation. I’ve never understood that. The classic is still there. Nobody tampered with the footage. Nobody took the Twinkie line out of the original ‘Busters to make the new one. There’s still no Dana, only Zuul. We know these films. We treasure them. No one can take them from us.
The truth is, we remake so others will remember as we did. And if the movie’s crap, like say the new Point Break, then it won’t come back and maybe another generation down the line, another filmmaker will try his luck at retelling the story.
Comedy movies now are an evolution of the absurd comedies from the 2000s, stuff like Anchorman and Dodgeball, where absurdist characters made jokes that were only funny and believable in the world the story creates. For whatever reason, there are enough people to fill a stadium to watch grown men play the final scene of Dodgeball and react to Ben Stiller(‘s character) as if he were a human. But in the real 1970s, if somebody on the street yelled with no provocation that he was in a glass case of emotion, everyone would all think he was some wacko they should probably steer clear of.
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters lives in a world of characters that always have something witty to say, all the time, no matter what is going on. They’re taking the moments developed in scenes like the “Afternoon Delight” scene in Ron Burgundy’s office and setting it in the real world (kinda). As such, a lot of the humor comes in waves with clusters of characters just cracking lines back and forth about the situation at hand, and those moments feel more like an improv session than they do a normal scripted comedy like the original Ghostbusters was. Sure, there’s still sight gags, physical humor, and all of the other things that make movies funny, but this scene structure sets up a pattern in the movie. Action happens, the characters snark-chat about it, the snark-chat ends up discovering something that moves the plot forward, then they move on to a bigger action, and so on and so forth until the film climaxes and ends. The thing that sets me and other people that liked the film apart from those that didn’t is the realization that both forms of comedy have equal merit in creating truly funny moments. Things change, guys. It’s the nature of the beast. Who knows, in ten years or so, we might be back into a new golden age of 80s-style comedies. But until then, try not to be sticks in the mud for everyone else, huh?
I watched this film in theatres. I was not compensated for this review.**
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