‘Ghostbusters’ (2016) is an okay yet forgettable comedy, a terrible ‘Ghostbusters’ remake and I still feel fine

Lord have mercy, there is so much unwarranted bullshit surrounding this freaking movie sight unseen that it was nearly impossible for me to enter it just a little grumpy.

There was the much publicized misogynistic assholes that will hate on just about any movie that lets a woman speak for more than 30 or 40 seconds and this did exist, particularly on sites like Twitter and Reddit. News flash: it’s called the internet. I think the aspect of this side of extreme that irked me the most (other than, you know, the piggish misogyny) was the entitlement. As if Hollywood really cares that you think the original Ghostbusters is some sort of sacred cow upon which they are not allowed to touch. I’m calling it now: there will be a remake, reboot or whatever you want to call it to these beloved franchises within the next 20 years: Back to the Future, The Goonies, Harry Potter, Gremlins, Indiana Jones, Men in Black and even fucking Space Jam. 

I think the only true sacred cows are the films of Steven Spielburg and I am fully prepared to eat my words with that statement. It sucks, but its something you need to suck up and move on from. Maybe its a bit harsh to say. I get it. I really do. The original movie is a really special movie for a lot of people, but it is always going to be there. And unless one of the cast members murders one of your loved ones, your cherished memories of it are going to be just fine.

Look, Hollywood is a business and there isn’t a lot of room for sentimentally in business. The point is to make money. I can only assume this song is playing LOUDLY in those rooms filled with executives and producers since the film industry became a thing.

Then, on the polar opposite side of the annoying press that surrounded this goddamn movie like flies to a carcass, there was the extreme white knight, safe space-loving, “feminist” side jumping to the movie’s defense and sought to equate any legitimate concerns or criticisms as fanboy bitching or the rantings of women-hating cavemen.

"The picture that singularly justifies the new Ghostbusters and feminism. Yay girls! Fuck fanboys!" - Buzzfeed, Jezebel, UPROXX, the AV Club and other such sites

“The picture that singularly justifies the new Ghostbusters and feminism. Yay girls! Fuck fanboys!” – Buzzfeed, Jezebel, UPROXX, the AV Club and other such sites

Why judge a movie based on its own fucking merits right? The hatred some reviewers was appalling, missing the entire point of their actual, non-harmful, NON-SEXIST concerns altogether.

Screen shot 2016-07-17 at 10.39.46 PM

It’s rather infuriating to get lumped in with a very vocal minority where most of people simply just looked at this as a simple, fun movie whereas many die-hards simply looked at the movie with at worst cynicism and at best cautious optimism. (While I acknowledged the cash-in feel of the movie, I was firmly in the latter group by the way.) It pisses me off to see film critics labeled as “sexists” for the simple fact of doing their jobs. What kind of person actually gets mad at another person for not liking a movie? Answer: the fucking internet. It’s always been like this. This movie should not serve as some sort of massive feminist issue. It’s a fucking Ghostbusters remake. Real world politics really have no relevance in the matter just because a vocal minority doesn’t like a movie with ladies in it.

We go to film reviewers to get honest reviews, whether we agree with them or not. Richard Roeper isn’t a sexist because he honestly hated this movie. To expect him to lie and say he loved the movie because it featured four female leads is condescending and pandering of the highest degree and to attack him for speaking a harmless opinion is bullying, something I thought femenism was supposed to be fighting against. I don’t know. I am a man and didn’t love this movie, so what the fuck do I know?

Here’s a video basically reiterating all the points I just made, but does so much more eloquently…

Both sides of the argument decided how they felt about the film well before seeing it, and now that it’s out I’m honestly glad so we can all collectively move on with our lives as this movie fades into the ether. I have to applaud both the studio and the media for spinning this whole affair into something much more than it actually was for a movie that did not deserve it.

Now, we’ve spent a lot of time in the present. Let’s go back a bit and wax like Harry Knowles on this mother…

Like a lot of people, I love the original 1984 film, Ghostbusters. I don’t think I hold in the same regard as many of my friends (who hold it as dearly as I do Star Wars and Alien), but I’d agree that is a damn-near flawless movie. It such a cinematic oddity that was assembled from so many disparate elements that it could have easily been a gigantic mess. However it starred (and was co-written by) some of the greatest comedians the world has ever seen at the top of their respective form and was in the hands of competent filmmakers that, rather than be hindered by the limitations of effects at the time, rose to the challenge, embraced these limitations and, in doing so, elevated the craft. As far as horror comedies go, it is perfect. It is as funny as it is scary and accessible to both kids and adults without heavily pandering to either side. What always stands out to me most every-time I revisit it is that director Ivan Reitman, being the genius that he is, shot the film not like a comedy but as a wholly conventional, real-world narrative. It’s important to note that Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman may be the most influential comedic creation in how it influenced my sense of humor. It’s often said the film was simply a multi-million dollar excuse for Murray to riff, and its hard to argue given how effortlessly he glides through the film, nearly stealing the show.

It’s humor wasn’t a joke a minute. It was more dry…with a few exceptions. Least we forget Ray got a dream(?) blowjob from a ghost at one point. It also established a world that was unique without sacrificing realism. I love that the Ghostbusters don’t meet the bad guys on their own terms. In most movies, heroes must use some sort of mcguffin (magic or what-have-you) to beat the antagonist. The Ghostbusters say, “Fuck that,” and combat magic with science and that’s so fucking cool I still get giddy whenever I go back and they pull out those proton packs. Their as cool as lightsabers.

That all being said, I could not tell you more than 3 things about the second film. If I have seen it, it’s been a very long time since the fact. I remember they were in court at one point and that there was purple ooze in the sewers. I also remember being a fan of the cartoon but would be hard pressed to name one individual episode of either series outside of the insane “Christmas Carol” one. So I wouldn’t place myself as a die hard fan of the franchise of the whole per se; simply a casual one and a major one of the first film.

With the passing of Harold Ramis, another film helmed by the remaining cast would have just been…awkward. Ramis was such a critical element in why that first film succeeded and to have a movie starring everyone else BUT him would be wrong and misguided. So props to Sony for at least having the sense to bring an entirely new cast in and luckily the filled it with some of the best comedic talent of the current era.

Is it cool to have a female-led mega-budget franchise? Of course, and I support that 100%. However, that means very little if those characters aren’t worth a damn and the trailers did very little to build my confidence. It’s as if they pulled all the worst looking elements as a dare to see if people would still come see the movie just because it had “Ghostbusters” in the title.

Now, before I really get into this, I want to preface by warning readers that I’m going to be comparing this new film to its predecessor; that being the 1984 original. Is that fair? Nope.

You know what? Fuck that, it is completely fair.

It’s a Ghostbusters movie!

Look, I get that movies (remakes included) should stand on their on two feet and I’m going to point out when this movie does just that below but this movie is called “Ghostbusters.” Comparisons are inevitable, and I’m not going to pussyfoot around that fact.

This is a remake.

Not a reboot.

Not a sequel.

For better or worse, this is the Ghostbusters remake for a new generation. That means: extended, scenes directed by improv rather than story but still a beat-for-beat carbon copy of the original. Does it work? As a regular comedy? Sure, I guess. As a Ghostbusters movie? No…not at all and is ultimately about as flavorless as a bowl of rice.

ghostbusters_ver6

The plot:

“Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.” – IMDb.com

The review:

I think it’s fitting that one of the last lines of Ghostbusters (2016) is to the effect of, “Well…that wasn’t terrible,” because I felt the exact same way by the end.

I had fun…at times, and was bored in others. It’s largely flavorless as it falls squarely in the middle of being a watered down Paul Feig comedy and Ghostbusters cash-in, failing to really achieve success at being great at either.

Let’s get this out of the way now: if any single movie is enough to “rape your childhood” or even “ruin” it, you are a fucking loser. Plain and simple. 

A shitty reboot should not be enough to “ruin” something you cherish.

Unlikely as it was however, I was pulling for this movie to succeed at capturing that proverbial lightening the bottle once again. If only to shut up the smug naysayers that dismissed the film upon entry. Yes, the trailers fucking sucked but looking at the level of talent involved, I was hoping it’d actually turn out to be something utterly and truly special. Something definitive; a testament to the comedic prowess of some of the best comedic talents of this current comedic batch….

Mostly kidding. This movie was….fine…it was fine. Truly a lot of pomp and circumstance for ultimately just a…fine movie. It’s even fun at points but (spoilers) it’s obviously largely inferior to the first film and a pisspoor attempt at recapturing what made that movie work so well or even revitalizing a long-gestating franchise in need of a shot to the arm. It’s also a disappointing output for director and co-writer Paul Feig who brought us Bridesmaids, a movie I adore, as well as The Heat and Spy, two completely watchable rainy day comedies that made me laugh consistently throughout. All of those films are hard R’s and largely succeed because they operate outside of good taste and convention, allowing their stars to swing for the fences. Ghostbusters feels almost neutered in comparison as it doesn’t let a large portion of its talent play to their strengths.

There’s a very frustrating thing about this movie that I want to convey but am afraid that I’ll fuck up the execution in my explanation…fuck it, I’ll give it a shot:

This movie is fine when it goes off and does its own thing. It even (kind of) succeeds during a couple of scenes that harken back to the original. HOWEVER when this movie opts to largely carbon copy exact plot points from that earlier film, it sucks. It’s the exact same main problem I had with The Force Awakens although in that film ripping off the earlier film was less of a detraction. It still sucked at times (coughStarKillerBasecough), but it clearly came from a more sincere place whereas this film’s riffing was more…deliberate coming off as lazy. That film however did a fairly commendable job at mixing both the new and old elements. Put bluntly, that at least FELT like a Star Wars movie most of the time in that the tone of spirit and fun was there where this film ever rarely feels like its in line with the iconic Ghostbusters tone. I think the closest it comes is the opening and even that feels more like a weaker version of the first film’s.

If the writers (sorry, Max Landis) Katie Dippold and Feig spent just a bit more time on their script, I could actually see this being a somewhat decent sequel. Even better, how about an original horror comedy that plays to this cast and crew’s strengths by going for a full-on hard R-rating? 

Something that felt off immediately about this movie was the pacing. It believe it clocks in around the same runtime as the original but it feels about 2 hours longer. Where Reitman was rather disciplined in the way he shot and orchestrated the comedy of the original film, Feig, informed by movies from Adam McKay and Judd Apatow, goes for the exact opposite; letting humor dictate pace rather than story.

Feig’s rapid fire way of shooting and assembling improvised comedy scenes is all well and good for his films (of which I am largely a fan), but this is a Ghostbusters film and the two styles just never really mesh. This allows for scenes to either go on way too long or end almost abruptly.

This unevenness bleeds over into the new characters as well.  The original team largely felt like real people. These are cartoon characters. (In fact, this felt more like a remake of The Real Ghostbusters than the original film, only strengthened by Kate McKinnon’s look mirroring animated Egon’s.)

egon.0.0

Before bitching is unleashed, the fact that the new main characters are women is ultimately inconsequential. What matters is if they are strong, memorable and CONSISTENT characters and they are largely hit or miss. I’ve seen plenty of action movies, particularly science fiction movies, with phenomenal female protagonists. They’re a little obscure but you may have heard of them…

Like they’re mainly little indie movies that didn’t get a lot of attention…

I don’t know, you may have heard of them…

Hmmm….maybe the sucked….I don’t think many people remember them…they didn’t get a lot attention….

What do I know though, right? Those movies are all old and obscure.

One hasn’t come out in a while I think…

I digress…

I really liked that these weren’t replacement characters as in there wasn’t an Egon, there wasn’t a Ray, there wasn’t a Winston and there sure as hell wasn’t a Venkman. Instead, our new leads are largely their own thing with some elements of the original four popping up here and there.

After seeing this film, I’m even all for seeing these four in a better film now that the murky “origin” waters as everyone assembled are A+ comedic talent and one of the film’s biggest strengths is how palpably they play off one another, just not as well as the probably would have had been allowed to actually play to their strengths (something I’ll harp on more than once).

This leads me to the positives, of which there are a number…just not as many as I would have liked. As I mentioned before, the four main leads are all good, even when their respective material isn’t. I was least impressed by Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, who play the more, straight grounded types which ultimately need but here it comes at the expense of what kind of heights both of these women can reach. Like taking the venom out of a pair of cobras.

The real comedic heavy lifting is from current SNL classmates Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. There is quite a bit of hubbub around McKinnon becoming a superstar based off her turn as Holtzmann and its hard to argue against that. She’s almost designed to be the fan favorite character and I completely get why she’s getting the most buzz out of any one involved on the film. It should really come as no surprise to anyone work her magic over on SNL week-after-week much in the same way cast-mate Wiig did during her tenure on the show.

Her character here reminded me a lot of Sarah Jessica Parker’s performance in Hocus Pocus. She’s always making a choice, whether she is the focus of the scene or not.

This is both a blessing and a curse. While she is consistently funny, her constant motion sometimes comes to the detriment to the tension of a scene, particularly when dangerous things are going on. There will be major plot threads being dropped in which she has no involvement and yet the film will cut to her making a face. It’s as if Paul Feig just put a camera on her sometimes and just said, “Do something funny,” and kept it in. Venkman was a yuckster but he took things seriously when the situation called for it….well…most of the time. That “She’s a dog” line still bothers me.

Her character never takes anything seriously. Like, ever and you need that in a movie that purportedly takes place in the real world. HOWEVER as I said before, this is a cartoon so I guess she fits right in whether I like it or not. It’s like the extreme version of Chris Pratt’s raptor trainer character in Jurassic World or Rey in The Force Awakens; she’s never in trouble because she is literally in charge of any situation or conflict that faces her therefore leaving very little in the way for actual tension.

The funniest of the four to me was Leslie Jones’ Patty, who I was honestly the most worried about going in given how poorly she came of in the aforementioned trailers. She’s a nice consistent mixture of both grounded and outlandish, or at the very least, the most successful of the four leads here.

ghostbusters-lesliejones-mta

The editor of the trailer really did her a disservice by picking the unfunniest moments of the film featuring her when in fact she’s the closest thing to an actual character in the movie. She’s funny when appropriate. She’s scared when appropriate.

A lot of people are praising Chris Hemsworth and his turn as the dumb secretary Kevin. While I thought that while his first few jokes (and couple subsequent ones) were funny enough, he got to be annoying. I get the joke. It’s a role reversal of the dumb female secretary troupe. We get it, and this character would have been just as annoying (to me) if it were a woman before that argument breaks out. If he’s supposed to be a shot at Janine Melnitz, fuck this movie. Janine was not a brain dead moron; she was smart, sassy and didn’t take shit. Once again: she was an actual character; Chris Hemsworth is another cartoon character. Moving on…

Speaking of annoying (yep, we’re back in the negatives), I may be in the minority here but the influx of cameos from GB senior staff really started to grate on me, largely due to their execution. My interest in their involvement sort of flew out the window once I learned they all would be playing new characters. Bill Murray’s is the most substantive but also left the worst taste in my mouth if only because Murray seems like he’d rather be anywhere else. He plays what amounts to the Walter Peck character but lacks any point other than being a cameo. The other original cast members appearances are largely throw-away cameos with Annie Potts appearance being the main highlight out of all of them as it was at least a little amusing to see her still be a receptionist.

Another negative that I also need to take a bit to harp on a little bit is the film’s main villain.

This villain fucking sucked. Like, a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

Neil-Casey-Ghostbusters-Photo-by-Jerod-Harris-Getty-Images

Okay, okay: he’s not the worst thing ever, but he sure as shit is weak in terms of execution. Now Neil Casy is fine (albeit highly forgettable) with the dullness he’s given but it all goes back to just that: he’s fucking boring.

Typically, in a cartoon (as this movie is), you’re villain is going to be the most flamboyant, memorable element. Casey’s Rowan is perhaps the most bland, underwritten antagonist I’ve seen in a film this year.  He was bullied…so he wants revenge….on the bullies? Want to know how I know that? Almost every scene he is in either has him being called creepy while he does in fact act creepy. I could see some potential in perhaps tying his outcast plight to that of our Ghostbusters, which the movie seems to be going for at one point but it is quickly dropped for another series of mildly funny improv jokes. Gozer was barely in the first film, and still eons more memorable than this poor excuse for a bad guy.

Some other stray observations:

  • This whole mess was frankly almost justified for me just by hearing Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance, in a two scene cameo) say “Reddit” with a disapproving tone.
  • As gratuitous as McKinnon’s role was at times, she did get some of the best lines.”It’s 2040. Our president is a plant.” Also she had the only proper “hero moment” in the final battle in Time’s Square which actually zapped me back into engagement with the movie, if only for a brief moment.
  • Dan Akroyd actually says, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost,” and I’m still cringing.
  • Speaking of cringe, that Fallout Boy/Missy Elliot “Ghostbusters” remake…
  • The essentially do the “Choose the form of the destroyer” bit again as the climax here so very much in line with the BS Force Awakens pulled with the Star Killer Base/Death Star rehash.
  • On the whole, I thought all the ghost designs were pretty cool, with some even being fairly creepy. However it hits overload once the climax hits which bored me to tears. I was rarely engaged because it was another instance of actors in front of a green screen fighting nothing. If you want an big action ending, a Ghostbusters movie is not the place for it.
  • I didn’t like the Mayor and Mayor’s aid characters or the “we have to discredit you while secretly supporting you angle” in the slightest. The did get a pretty funny Jaws joke out of it though I must admit.
  • Did it kind of suck to anyone else that this team failed to catch even one ghost? The sort of catch one during an Ozzy Osborne concert but it is quickly released because one character acts like a moron and releases it.
  • When Kristen Wiig knocks that “ghost bros” ghost hunter show, I though that the movie may do something with that and have the Ghostbusters go against the phonies…but it didn’t. It was just a joke…kind of? It wasn’t really funny, so I assumed it was a plot point.
  • On a serious note, it is cool that kids are getting introduced to Ghostbusters again given the series’ dormancy. I just wish it were up to snuff. Everyone has to have their own Star Wars prequel, I suppose.
  • I liked the bit where the developed new Ghost-catching tech…not much more than I thought some of the gadgets were cool.
  • A shared cinematic Ghostbusters universe? The Ghost Corps logo at the beginning does not inspire confidence neither does the shameless sequel, Marvel-inspired post credit scene. Also…Gozer was the main villain…Zuul was one of his dogs…so you even got that wrong, Ghostbusters (2016.)
  • Is Rowan supposed to be a shot at pissed off Ghostbusters fans? If so, way to be the better person, movie.

If  Ghostbusters (2016) were just another run-of-the-mill comedy, I’m sure I’d be less harsh but instead the studio opted to slap “Ghostbusters” on the title and pass it off as something it just wasn’t. This is in turn led to higher expectations of which the film ultimately failed to satisfy for me. 

I think my failure to connect with it comes down to is that divide I spoke of earlier. Had it opted to be something standing on its own two feet, I would have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Had it opted to committing to being a full-blown sequel (with the same new leads), I would have enjoyed it more. Instead, it kind did both by being both new stuff (Feig’s improv-driven direction) while also “homaging” the original as to not anger the fans of what came before.

I don’t know. Clearly a lot of people liked this movie a lot more than I did, for which I don’t fault them as it really fits into the comfortable status of “decent, summer comedy” in the same way movies like Central Intelligence and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates did this summer. I’m honestly surprised it elicits a strong reaction, negative or positive, out of anyone really. I experienced no belly laughs nor was I really surprised by anything that happened. I’m seeing it get someone decent reviews on RT and IMDb.com which may come from an honest place but I would not place this movie at a 70%. Hell, I wouldn’t even place it any higher than 30 or 40%. Critics I respect seem to love this movie WHICH IS FINE, but it is starting to feel as if some critics are afraid of a witch-hunt and therefore giving the film a more positive rating in an attempt to either A) not appear sexist or B) support women leads. I’m doing my best to be honest, but even I fear backlash…and I think only 2 people read this blog regularly.

I chuckled often which is all well and good for a run-of-the-mill summer comedy, but this was (I thought) supposed to be a GHOSTBUSTERS film. Forgive me, but when I go into a movie called Ghostbusters, I expect something at least resembling Ghostbusters, more in tone rather than story. I really long for another movie to truly pull off the GB formula once again, the most recent successful example I can think of being Men in Black because you just don’t see too many franchise starters actually succeed at being something totally fresh these days. They are largely repackaged garbage we’ve seen time and time again.

This is (largely) yet another example of that repackaged garbage with a fresh, new orange slice on it, but instead of providing relief, it adds a flavor that clashes with the old, creating a product that does neither of the goals it attempted to accomplish…other than make money, of course.

I really only got genuinely mad once and that was when they defeated the bad guy by shooting him in the dick. Put simply…

This movie isn’t a successor to Ghostbusters.

This is a tween re-telling you the story of Ghostbusters only semi-competently.

This is a cash in, and that kind of sucks because it could have been more.

THAT BEING SAID…

Who in the wholly fuck cares if this isn’t as good as the original film? That earlier, beloved film will always be there, and this film does nothing to change that fact nor does it diminish the legacy of said film. You shouldn’t feel bad for not liking it. You should not feel bad for not seeing it either just as you shouldn’t feel bad for liking or even loving it.

To me?

It is one, big, fat “…meh” of a movie.

I at least laughed a few times.

Do I remember a lot about it?

Not at all.

Do I regret seeing it?

No, not really.

Will I see it again?

I doubt it.

Do I wish it had been better?

Yes, and I think that’s another major disconnect for me personally. Let me reiterate ONE LAST TIME: there’s real talent in the mix here, but it is unrealized and that is incredibly frustrating as all of the major players (both onscreen and off) are capable of better. What really gets me is that that had this IP, this talent, this budget and this is what they came up with.

This movie isn’t a waste of time; it’s a waste of potential.

 Oh well. It’s not the end of the world as we know that there’s a lackluster comedy masquerading as a Ghostbusters running around out there and I may not have liked as much as I wanted to, but you know what? I still feel fine.

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