DISCLAIMER: No, I was not “Paid off” by Sony/Columbia Pictures, NOR was I given a lifetime supply of Dan Aykroyd’s “Crystal Head Vodka” to write what I’m about to write. If I was, there would certainly not be a need to have a blog in the first place. Just thought I’d point that out since so many people seem to think that way via various other critic’s reviews of the movie earlier this week. This is ALL me, and I’m just an ordinary guy saying it. FURTHERMORE, this is based on just One showing of the movie–this is to the best of my recollections, and chances are I Might leave a detail or two out. Maybe after i see it several dozen times, my thoughts could change.
When it was announced that a new “Ghostbusters” movie would be in production for the first time in 25+ years, an entire spectrum of fans from the casual to the hardcore rejoiced. Ecto-1 was going to ride again, Slimer would slime again, and it looked like things were going to pick up where they left off…When it was announced a few months later that Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones & Kate McKinnon would Star in it AND that “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig would be at the helm…World War 236 broke out. Almost immediately, there were protests from all corners of the world—whether it be the fact that it was a reboot and NOT a continuation of the story/original characters, or the fact that men-children didn’t want women playing the parts because “It didn’t feel right” (or some equal/greater bullshit statement), all Hell broke loose despite the fact that Ecto Cooler is back on supermarket shelves. Quite honestly, speaking as a person who possesses both a penis and 2 testicles, both kinds of these “Haters” are SEVERELY mis-informed…I just care that the movie is funny.
I don’t want to take too much time to cover the “Feminist” “Backlash”, so before we get to the actual movie content, I would like to quote from a recently released book titled “Life Moves Pretty Fast: The lessons we learn from 80s movies, and why we don’t learn them from movies anymore” (Which you can buy anytime at Amazon.com). It’s a great series of essays where author & journalist Hadley Freeman talks about her favorite movies and the life lessons that can be followed by watching them. Yes, she does an entire chapter on the ’84 GB’s as an allegory on what it means to be a man—which strangely enough dovetails into a discussion of “Top Gun” and Homo eroticism in the same chapter. But the quote I want to share actually comes from a chapter she wrote on that all-time chick flick, “Steel Magnolias”. In THAT chapter, she sums up how female-driven movies—particularly those that Paul Feig makes—is really more of the next step in an evolutionary ladder that few are noticing is on the grow. And I Quote (with apologies for the blurry bottom)…
Speaking as a man, this makes all the sense in the world. Why SHOULDN’T there be female Ghostbusters, or a Black James Bond, or a Gay Superman? Hell, why not go the whole nine yards and make the NEXT GB movie a port of the short-lived “Extreme Ghostbusters” cartoon series; now THAT was a diverse crowd. Long story short, if you saw the new movie, and you STILL hated it because the leads were female. Chances are, you’ve probably never kissed/touched/looked at a girl without stuttering “Jackie Gleason” style. Role reversal is a moot point, Moving On…
As for the “Originalists” out there; Keep in mind, I’m NOT 100% For remakes, but I’m not 100% against them either. Yes, the Original GB is hallowed ground to a number of people. Yes, people have been waiting for years to see some signs of life from a stagnant franchise that probably should never have been a franchise to begin with. And sure, one of the co-creators of said franchise is no longer with us so he could shake his head in disapproval over what beasts these so-called “fans” have become the same way William Shatner would tell overzealous Trekkies to “Get a Life”. But time marches on, and so must we… Movies get rebooted all the time; more often than not to cash in on existing properties, but at the same time I see them as a way to bring certain audiences up to speed. Sure, you can always watch the original movie to do that, but sometimes it’s better to get a fresh perspective on things. Reboots are capable of having one of two outcomes; they can either Tarnish the source material, or they can enhance it. As long as it remains an entertaining story, it doesn’t matter what you throw out there, it’s STILL an enjoyable story. Think of it this way; when you were a kid and you went to bed, you were always told stories. But sometimes after hearing the same story over and over, you kind of want something different to happen (I.e. “Snow White throws the poison apple at the witches head” or “Goldilocks works out some sort of Payment plan for using the 3 Bears’ things”). An audience needs to be entertained, and more often than not, the “Tried & True” works, but even the Tried & True needs to take the road not taken once in a while; and it often leads to experimental and unexpected results. So For the sake of argument, let’s put the Pitchforks & Torches down for a second–Let’s pretend the Original GB (or even the ORIGINAL Original w/Larry Storch) never existed for the next few paragraphs, and this was created as a wholly original idea. You’re going to have to do that because if you keep comparing this one to the original, OF COURSE it pales in comparison—but it would still be an unfair one to make.
ALL of that being said, it’s now time for the horrifying truth…….
The New 2016 Reboot of Ghostbusters WAS………(*DRUM ROLL & CYMBALS*)
Yes, the movie that had god knows how many fanboys thinking that Dogs & Cats would live together in Mass Hysteria turned out to be perfectly serviceable………….OH, THE HORROR! Seriously, it was perfectly fine and harmless…and even Funny.
*Melissa McCarthy? Fine. If her delivery was a little more clipped in recitation, she actually would be channeling the (Still alive) spirit of Aykroyd.
*Kristen Wiig? Dull, but still palatable…Plus, as a person who’s “On the fence” about her comically, I had to giggle a little every time she got slimed—as though it was a comeuppance for all the bad SNL sketches she did.
*Kate McKinnon? STAR OF THE FUCKIN’ SHOW, if being HRC on SNL isn’t enough to make her a star, her turn as Not!Egon Spengler is more than enough to launch her into the stratosphere…also, I may need to re-examine El DeBarge’s career thanks to her.
*Leslie Jones? A not-too-distant but respectable 2nd place scene stealer…give or take a few “Aw, HELL NO!” type jokes. (P.S. #LoveForLeslieJ…people can be cruel on the internet sometimes)
*Chris Hemsworth? A Close 3rd because of just how dumb he played himself as; but at the same time, he’s there as obvious lady eye candy…Still funny, though.
The Story? I almost feel a little silly saying **SPOILER ALERT**, partly because with the exception of a few cosmetic changes, it’s pretty much the same plot as the Original…except for ONE instance that got changed around, and thankfully for the better. Follow along with me now on this checklist:
*Movie Starts out quiet, but then something “Ghostly” happens that winds up freaking out a minor character [CHECK]
*A Scientist at a major university is dismissed as a fraud for his/her beliefs [CHECK]
*Scientist (and fellow scientists) get a call about said strange thing happening at the start of the movie; which they soon investigate, and are then scared out of [CHECK]
*They use their newfound knowledge to start up a new “Ghost Hunting” business [CHECK]
*Another person winds up joining the group after seeing ghosts appear…[CHECK] but with a condition. Unlike the Original GB where Ernie Hudson joins the team rather late in the movie (for reasons also mentioned in Freeman’s book), Leslie Jones grabs the bull by the horn and manages to team up with the other girls only 20 minutes in. I’d say that’s progress.
*GB’s become popular after busting ghosts in high-profile venues [CHECK]
*The Big, Bad Government wants them shut down for illogical reasons [CHECK, but with a twist that I Won’t Spoil here]
*Government manages to make things worse [CHECK…Sort of. Again, I won’t spoil how]
*GB’s eventually save the day from “Shit that will turn you White”…Almost Literally [CHECK]
So, yeah, it’s pretty much the Same movie as the Original, but clearly they HAD to do a few things different aside from Gender swapping and a Special FX upgrade, right? Well, the jokes certainly had a lot more “Backhandedness” to them (a Paul Feig staple). There was certainly more action than the original, but on the flip side, a LOT more “Bodily Fluid” jokes. And of course, there were so many “4th wall” jokes that I probably needed to go to Home Depot ahead of time to get some spackle. Not that they didn’t wink at the camera too hard, but you could tell they were trying to give the old-school fans some fan service. This is ESPECIALLY true on a few scenes where the Ghostbuster Girls comment on—what else—Youtube comments that pretty much mirror all the other comments people have been making regarding this movie’s production in the first place…and you know what, in a movie house that was 100% sold out the day I went, it got probably the BIGGEST Laugh of the entire movie. So again, if you think that Feig & Co. didn’t know what they were getting into; believe me, he knew, and he came in with guns blazing. In fact, you could tell Feig’s fingerprints were all over this considering the crux of story centered around Wiig’s character falling out with McCarthy’s years earlier over a book they wrote. A Lot of Feig’s work has the “Mended Friendship” trope, and not even a Proton Pack is immune from it.
And speaking of “Old-School Fans” and Fan service, here’s another part of the movie I don’t have to spoil because countless others have already done it for us: The Obligatory “Original Cast” Cameos. Long story short….
*Bill Murray = Still Awesome; though I’d be lying if I didn’t think he was playing a cross between Truman Capote, the guy who played “Walter Peck” in the original, and Mr. Fischoder from “Bob’s Burgers”
*Dan Aykroyd = Still Paranoid; He actually has the fewest lines among all the cameos, most of them are derived from ’84. But then again, he’s also Executive Producer of the film, he probably didn’t want to be TOO big a distraction.
*Ernie Hudson = Still Working; but for GOD’S Sake, Why did he get exiled to the end of the movie? (Some things—Sadly–never change)
*Harold Ramis = Still Dead; but at least they gave him the honor of a dedication credit at the end AND making him into a Statue Bust of Egon at the beginning.
*Annie Potts = Still Sassy, and still answering phones with an exaggerated Long Island/Queens accent (But seriously, she needs to be in a Crime Drama on TNT or something).
*Sigourney Weaver = Still Stunning, even in her 60s, and even in a Labcoat.
*Slimer = Still Slimy…and believe It or not, he was actually integral to the plot this time (which I won’t spoil).
*Rick Moranis = Still Retired from Acting………Sorry to get your hopes up.
OK, so I mentioned the good parts, clearly there had to be SOMETHING about it that outright sucked, right? Actually, just one thing, but I’d find it more “Questionable” instead of 100% God-awful (Except for the remix of the Ray Parker theme by Missy Elliott & Fall Out Boy…Fuck That Shit to the Ground!). The biggest problem for me was the Bad Guy (played by character actor Neil Casey) and his lack of Backstory. I mean, sure, the overall intent of any bad guy in a Ghostbusters movie is to open up some sort of portal to the other side and cause all Hell to break lose; but unlike Zuul, Gozer and even Viggo, Casey’s “Rowan North” seemed a little directionless. He sort of came off as an “On Steroids” version of a nerd who got picked on in High School and vows that “You will ALL Pay someday”. But what exactly happened that made him go down this path? What were the circumstances that set him off? And Why the Hell does he have those Sideburns? Zuul, Gozer & Viggo had motivations; this guy sort of felt like a cross between “Generation X Slacker” that’s stuck in 1994 and the “Goth Kids” on South Park minus the attitude. He just did nothing for me…except maybe provide GB fans one additional piece of fan service by tipping its hat to the animated series, but again, that part I’m not spoiling here. Let’s just say, if you EVER saw “The Real Ghostbusters” growing up, you’ll know what to expect.
All in all, the movie is Fine! As a stand-alone movie, it’s Fine! As a part of the GB Franchise, it’s Fine (Despite inevitable comparisons)! If all the negative backlash was made just to drive ticket sales in the other direction, it backfired spectacularly because people still went to see it, and they Still liked it—or at least the people in the theater I was in (Even got a cool Pin for attending–sorry for the blur).
Does this mean reboots are going to continue? Probably, in fact, the new “Star Trek” movie comes out next week, and countless other re-boots/sequels/prequels are on the horizon, so I really don’t see the trend ending any time soon until the Box Office numbers tell us Otherwise. Does this mean people will think twice when it comes to role-swapping in cinema–and not just of gender? I hope so. If we can put a woman on the $20 Bill, I’m sure there’s hope for a Black James Bond, a Gay Superman or even (Dare I say it) a Female Darth Vader. If after reading ALL of my otherwise mindless droning you’re STILL not convinced that “GB16” is worth seeing, I can only conclude with the wise words of a guy who tried to make his own Ghostbusters movie many years ago…Take it away, Jay Sherman.
FINAL SCORE: B+