Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat)
Synopsis: Four professional ghost hunters save New York City from supernatural paranormal activity.
SPOILER-FREE QUICKIE REVIEW
- It’s fine. Not even close to as great as the original (no shock there) but not as horrible as the trailers and misogynistic trolls made it out to be.
- The effects look like Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride. Way too much bright colors, especially green. Way too much slime.
- For the amount of “talent” involved it should’ve been way funnier. The jokes were very slapsticky and sophomoric. There’s an actual fart joke included. A lot of yelling for no reason. Kristen Wiig was totally miscast being such a funny person yet was basically the straight lead. And when she attempted to be funny it was awkward, like her dancing to “Party Up (Up In Here)” and trying to impress Chris Hemsworth’s cock.
- However, for any reason to see this, see it for Kate McKinnon, who steals every ounce of frame she’s included in. Just her eyes and expressions are comedy gold. She saved this sinking ship for me. If she wasn’t in it, this would be like Batman v. Superman in terms of disappointment.
- Overall, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and had some fun with it. I probably would only see it again because my daughters actually liked it and may want to get the DVD down the line. Yes, this is somewhat appropriate for the younglings but you will have to explain some minor cuss words, especially what the flipping the bird is.
Score: 4.5 “Dances to DeBarge” (out of 10)
What works: Kate McKinnon. Kate McKinnon. And Kate McKinnon. Like I said above she was the glue to the humor in this film. Without her it would’ve been terrible. After my first viewing it’s just lame to me. But McKinnon’s Holtzmann was a character who is memorable and worthy of the praise. She’s delightfully funny and wacky whether she’s tinkering in the lab, getting off on doom and destruction with her toys or dancing to El DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night.” There’s definitely a great screw or two loose in her but I’d pay to see more of her.
I will also give praise to Leslie Jones who is way funnier in the full film as opposed to her “hip-hop, Aww Hell No!” ethnic persona shown in the trailers. Most of what she said was smart and funny and her character arc was the most developed throughout the whole picture.
While the second half is a complete mess, story-wise, I did like the idea and some of the execution of the street fight between the Busters and the ghouls. Something we never saw in the ’84 or ’89 movies was them up to their necks with ghosts and have a shoot-out in the streets. However, this also doesn’t make much sense because when does their Proton-packs actually destroy ghosts? They are really only for “roping” or “grappling” them to get pulled into their traps but here they are essentially guns that blast the ghosts away.
I also liked how we saw way more development of the Busters in terms of experience and science of the job. In the original, they just have the Proton-packs and traps—we never see them make them and they even make a point of them never testing them. In the 2016 version, they have many scenes of Holtzmann tinkering away, coming up with new gadgets and weapons and them testing them in the back alley somewhere. Which if I was being nitpicky should land them in jail for destruction of property and possession of deadly weapons but whatever I guess. And I like how they do have new and unique weapons like the Proton-grenades (or whatever they’re called), it gave the end battle a little more interest to it and a little more originality from the 1984 version. However….
What fails: For a movie that got so much flack and vitriol for rebooting/remaking the classic original, it sure doesn’t stray enough from the original’s iconic parts. The proton packs are pretty much the same. They may not be in the firehouse for this movie but they visit it and decline it based on price but end up in it at the end, so if there’s a sequel (I’m sure there will be) they will be there. Almost every single original cast member makes a cameo which were pretty much all poorly done. Lots of people are praising these cameos but they were not great for me, especially Murray who obviously phoned it all in by playing a paranormal expert that tries to debunk the busters only to get killed in one of the worst scenes in the film. There’s also the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in a big dumb metaphorical cameo as well as Slimer. And this is the main problem with remakes, they want to continue the tradition of the franchise but want to be their own entity, yet put in unnecessary cameos and nods to the original. Depending on your admiration for the original (for any movie) these cameos and nods will either make or break it for you. It’s basically The Force Awakens syndrome of rebooting a franchise.
The humor is not great. I guess it’s impossible to do this review without comparing it to the original but most people want to know how it stacks up, after all it is a remake. But comparing the tone and humor of the two, the original was light at times but took the tone very seriously. It was basically a horror comedy with a lot of wise-cracks thrown in. You can’t tell me that the first librarian ghost didn’t make you jump or that Gozer and its hellhounds wasn’t frightening back when you were young. This version is mostly comedy with some goofy horror thrown in. And the comedy wasn’t clever but immature and sophomoric mostly. The first one had clever banter, jokes and quips that a scientist with a high IQ would use. This one had fart jokes and a complete idiot of a receptionist (Janine Melnitz was surly and brash but she was qualified to do the job). The jokes were childish and lame. The original busters were way more serious about their lives, careers and their profession. Especially Egon and Ray. Here we have a very goofy Holtzmann and Melissa McCarthy’s Abbie being a Kevin James-type of doofus.
But if I could address something about modern comedy that I’m just starting to realize is that most comedies are based on immature man-childs (& woman-childs). Back in the day, most adults in comedies acted like adults and the teens acted like teens. Maybe the adults were somewhat reckless and were rebellious but it was in the face of a higher institution—for example, Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack, who if you recall he didn’t act like a kid or teen when he continually pissed off Judge Smails. He basically just didn’t give a shit but still acted like a man. But take the characters of The Hangover, Wedding Crashers, Step Brothers, Bridesmaids, Sisters, Grown-Ups, Neighbors, they all feature prominently either irresponsible adults or really dumb simpletons. Alan from The Hangovers for example—how is that guy living as long as he did with that intelligence and social skills? I hated Tina Fey’s Sisters because every adult in that picture acted like a teenager to the extreme. Why is every comedy have teenaged adults acting out against the norm? Clark W. Griswold never acted that way. Uncle Buck didn’t act that way. Ferris Bueller acted that way but he was supposed to. It’s a very odd trend of comedy these days. Look at the trailer for Bad Moms and thats a perfect example of ‘what the fuck are these adults doing?’ Just 2 minutes with Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin in Ghostbusters and anyone will assume he’s retarded and wonder how he made it to full adulthood in the world. It’s somewhat insulting to the audience and shows a lack of clever screenwriting. He doesn’t even know how to answer a telephone. Great gag. Rick Moranis in the original Ghostbusters was a socially awkward adult but he was a professional accountant that could function in the real world and still acted in accordance with his age. There’s a dean of a college in this new one who, as the joke goes, is so under qualified for the job that he thinks science is spelled with a “Y.” How is that possible in the real world? There’s plausibility and a fine line with suspension of disbelief with a movie about ghosts and weird science but why do we have to believe that a college hires a moron to be the dean? That’s just so crazy to me and poor screenwriting.
Another thing that bugged me was the new “adversary” being the mayor and the Department of Homeland Security trying to stop the Ghostbusters. In the original, it was the EPA and that made way more sense and was written way better but in the new one, the mayor and the DHS believe and even accept the Ghostbusters and their actions in saving the city but can’t publicly give them credit because it would cause a panic and cause more trouble. Even though people are witnessing all the bustin’ the team is doing like at the metal concert and the end battle with a ton of ghosts flying around causing havoc but sure, let’s tell people that the Ghostbusters are frauds. So dumb. And at the end, they are working with the Mayor’s office to combat and research the paranormal activity but it’s still “under wraps” publicly. Makes zero sense.
The paranormal adversary, Rowan, was a complete mess. He was a socially awkward occultist who has just grown tired of being spit on socially and wanted to purge the Earth by starting the apocalypse. I’m still not sure of his ultimate plan other than a ton of death and destruction and his transformation into the Mega-Ghost at the end is so unbelievably stupid and out of place. I was literally angry at the decision to have the Ghostbuster logo become corporeal and take the form of a giant bow-tie wearing monster. Seriously what the hell was that? Again, they want to homage/rip-off the original with a giant, white and somewhat cute monster (like Mr. Stay-Puft) but it was done so poorly and made no sense. Rowan was able to possess humans and as a ghost himself (after he kills himself) I can totally buy that logic but him making a cartoon logo into a monster? No effing way. Then they very subtly shoot him in the dick. Nice.
But my main gripe with this new installment is the cast over all. Kristen Wiig is not my favorite actress or comedienne. I’ve seen her in a bunch of flicks and I’m sorry she’s too mopey and depressive to be the Peter Venkman type. And she’s the straight-woman in this movie! They barely gave her anything funny to do. She was the lame duck of the cast! Which only proves to me that she is not funny enough for this franchise. She’s super serious in the beginning of the film and once she meets Kevin she becomes a horny, idiotic teenager trying to impress him and saying inappropriate things to him. Her character basically does a bad 180º and it went from unfunny on purpose to unfunny by failure. I seriously cannot recall anything funny she said for the second half of the film. But when they announced the female cast for this remake, I wasn’t at all impressed with it. (Full disclosure, I’m not a mega-Ghostbuster fan and didn’t really care they remade it nor that they cast it with all females) I haven’t watched SNL since the 90s because I can’t stand it so I didn’t even know who Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon were at the time they were announced. Now I like them but I still think better comediennes should have been chosen for the team. Someone like Kaitlin Olson would’ve been a great choice as would Kathryn Hahn or Wendi McLendon-Covey and maybe you’re thinking, ‘Hey those are just women you would prefer because you already like them’, and my answer would be, ‘you’re mostly right’ but when casting female equivalents to the original Ghostbusters with basically the same personas (which, let’s be frank, is essentially what they did) then have someone with more confidence to play the Venkman type. I could rattle off a dozen other better actresses and comediennes to play the Ghostbusters and don’t pretend you didn’t come up with another list in your head a year ago either. Kristen Wiig should’ve played a confident wise-ass and she failed in every attempt.
Overall: I sure did give more criticism than praise for this movie and it rightfully deserves it. I would’ve avoided it completely in the theatres based solely on the marketing of the film, but after I read some reviews from sites I usually agree with, my interest piqued some. I then took the family because we had the free time and my daughters were a tad interested in it. I went in with an open mind and a glimmer of hope and I can honestly say that they disappointed me. I didn’t hate the movie completely though and this wasn’t a Batman v. Superman train wreck of a flick by any means. I had some fun with it, especially because of McKinnon and actually look forward to seeing her Holtzmann again, my better judgment be damned. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the original in any way shape or form whether it’s the tone, the jokes, effects or even music. Although I will say, this new one made better use of the theme song than the original. But the score was forgettable, while I can still hum the Bernstein score til this day.
Should you avoid it? I’d say no. I actually think this is better for younger audiences, so take the tweens and use them as an excuse to check it out if you’re curious. If you have no kids and happen to be a big Ghostbusters fan, don’t bother because it will most likely just piss you off. If you’re a comedy fan also pass on this and check it out in a few months on BluRay. In fact, I’m hoping there’s a director’s cut that maybe has better jokes and has scenes with more improvising with the actresses. But again, I’m holding out hope for a failed comedy, and that’s just not right. However, I will end saying that this film in no way deserves all the poison apples thrown its way for all the wrong reasons. I think now that it had a decent opening weekend and some critical praise that they do better with the sequel because I do feel there’s potential there.
Score: 4.5 “Female Slimers” (out of 10)