Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Chris Hemsworth, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Neil Casey, Karan Soni, Cecily Strong, Matt Walsh, Zach Woods, Ed Begley Jr., Andy Garcia, Milana Vayntrub, Ozzy Osbourne, Al Roker, Joel Murray, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Daniel Ramis and Annie Potts.
Screenplay by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig.
Directed by Paul Feig.
Distributed by Columbia Pictures. 117 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Ever since this project was announced, there has been a disturbance in the Ghostbusters fan underground decrying the fact that four women would be taking over the iconic characters.
The new Ghostbusters was smart enough to take this backlash on directly, having Kristen Wiig’s character read a phone message to her co-horts onscreen: “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”
Truth is, it’s a silly concern. Not that women can’t bust no ghosts, because they certainly can, but more to the point, Ghostbusters is not some sort of immovable pop culture totem. It’s hard to argue for the purity of vision with Ghostbusters when that purity has already been slimed by knock-offs like Ghostbusters II, the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters and the Ghostbusters video game.
Also, to be quite honest, if you have seen the original Ghostbusters recently, it’s not as good as you remember it being. It’s good, yes, but not the classic it is made out to be. Way too many slow patches and ridiculous SFX overloads have to be waded through to get to the funny stuff, which was mostly Bill Murray riffing.
So, holding on to the original Ghostbusters as if it were a sacred text is probably not warranted. Particularly since the long-simmering possibility of a return of the original team is officially dead: Now that Harold Ramis has tragically died, it is physically impossible to get the original guys back together. Also, it has been no big secret that Bill Murray has been dragging his feet on starring in a third Ghostbusters movie for decades.
So if you’re not going to redo Ghostbusters, you’re going to have to reboot it, or leave it alone. And despite many arguments which could have been made for leaving it alone, you know in Hollywood if there is a chance to make a penny off of the franchise, they would be taking it.
In favor of the new Ghostbusters, they brought back most of the main actors from the original in cameo roles – Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts. Other than the late Ramis, only Rick Moranis, who voluntarily faded away from the acting world a couple of decades ago, does not come back. Plus, in honor of Ramis, his son Daniel does a cameo as a metal head at a rock concert.
So the main question remains. I personally feel the answer is: sure, a version of Ghostbusters with women could work. In point of fact, it does work much better than we may have suspected.
Still, it’s not exactly a comfortable fit. Not because of the women, but because of how the women’s roles are written. Truth is, the two big names here – Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig – are pretty much wasted in dull, lifeless characters. Ironically, it is the two lesser-known Ghostbusters – Kate McKinnon and particularly Leslie Jones – who steal the show and make the new film worth seeing.
It is their good-natured bickering which brings out most of the big laughs to be had here. However, even with a toned-down McCarthy and Wiig, the relationships between the women make for the most interesting part of the film.
However, the movie has a bit of a schism, one that was also part of the original, but in this newly shined up and hyper-realistic movie it gives Ghostbusters even more of a schizophrenic vibe than the original had.
Let’s take one of the opening sequences, shall we?
It shows a tour of a famous “haunted mansion” off the beaten track in Manhattan. The tour guide lays down his slick patter on the place – complete with some surprisingly funny jokes and a few manufactured jump scares, like a candlestick that is rigged to fall over at an inconvenient time. Flash to the end of the day, the tour guide, who obviously knows all this stuff is phony, is cleaning up, resetting some of the “scares” and getting ready to go home when he encounters a real paranormal force which is not happy with his tongue-in-cheek ghost tour.
It’s a damned impressive looking scene – something that would pass muster in a legitimate horror film. However, it’s a bit hard to jump back and forth between jump scares and funny banter – leaving the audience feeling a little off-kilter. Is this a horror or a comedy?
Later, when the Ghostbusters meet up with that same ghost, the scene is legitimately spooky, well at least until they blow it by having the ghost “slime” one of our heroines. (And don’t even get me started on the slime, though in fairness to the new Ghostbusters, that was a problem with the series started in the first film and taken beyond too far in the second one.) So when the character who has been slimed soon tries to make a sex joke about the experience (“it gets into all the cracks”), both the joke and the scare ring hollow.
Unfortunately – and again this was a problem with the original film, too – the movie goes way overboard on its supernatural climax. Hundreds of marauding ghosts terrifying Manhattan, whirling dervishes of light and color, the Mayor trying to hide the panic from the city, a wormhole opening to hell on top of a skyscraper, hell they even bring back the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man (well sort of…). Yet, too many of the scary ideas are simply silly. Someone please tell me, how is it possible for giant parade balloons to become ghosts? They were never living beings, so they could not die in order to become spirits.
The fact is, the last 20 minutes or so of the film feel like a remake of the original climax, though granted with much better special effects than they had 32 years ago.
The truth is, though, Ghostbusters works best when it is more of a buddy comedy with spirits. The high concept keeps hijacking the story, but the movie is at its funniest and its loosest when it’s just the story of a bunch of obsessive nerds trying to build a business and finally figuring out that their passion for hauntings isn’t just a silly hobby, it may be what makes them special.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 15, 2016.