“Saw Ghostbusters. Childhood still intact. Manhood still exists. Apocalypse- on and off screen- averted.” – Me, on Facebook, like last night.
It seems every year there’s two or three lightning rod issues that divide the nerd community into contentious camps. Such seemingly innocuous remakes like 2009’s Star Trek or Batman v Superman or the de-canonizing of non cinematic Star Wars material or the not so innocuous Hugos hijacking are all like the end times for a group of people who are not known for expressing their passions in moderation. The 2016 Ghostbusters certainly falls into that category. And I won’t be touching on any of that because I’m out of high school.
The new Ghostbusters is a fun and dynamic movie with an engaging cast and a decent, but not perfect, story. If you’ve ever found Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, or Kristin Wiig funny in any other movie or product, you’ll probably find them funny here, too. But if you hated Bridesmaids you won’t like this, either. This film is very much a vehicle built around the women, much as the 84 version was built around Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis.
Aside from the name, premise, number of team members and their racial make up, the music, the tech, the setting, and all the cameos (sooo many) there isn’t much connection between the 1984 version and this. So obviously comparisons are going to be made and that’s probably fair because even though the flick was hilarious (it was) and the cast was spot-on (they were), I suspect the reality is that this movie would not have been made if the 84 version wasn’t so iconic in our collective memory.
This is why we’ve never made another Hamlet movie since 1948.
The story, on paper, probably couldn’t fill 10 pages. The movie is very much a creation of new comedy versus old, where we get more of the actors personalities with improvised rather than scripted dialogue. This makes for some genuine belly laughing moments, where you’ll have to watch the movie a second or third time because you missed still funnier jokes because you were still laughing at the last one! But that sort of comedy can come at the expense of a good plot. Ghostbusters has the beginnings of a good plot- the premise is obviously a fun one that’s worked in the past and works here, but it never quite has time to find its legs since it’s so distracted by the star personalities. The entire movie might take place during a week’s time, while the character development could be measured in months.
It always comes back to the phenomenal actresses. Crazy Eyes McKinnon (no OitNB relation) steals the entire movie with every word, look, and manic smile. I can’t believe I didn’t like her when she first started on SNL. My bad. As strange as it may sound, McCarthy plays the slightly saner character with Wiig being the full on straight woman to the crew, just trying to get by. Jones is funny, but never really has a chance to open up and give it her full on hilarity. In one much needed concession to reality, her character, despite not being a scientist, still brings a necessary knowledge to the team that isn’t tokenism in nature. I really feel like a lot of her best stuff, both in story and comedy, got cut, though. And Chris Hemsworth, while maybe being a little too overused as a joke, is adorably charming in the role of ditz.
Obviously, director Paul Feig isn’t afraid to let his cast do their own thing, with the expected pay off. Keep an eye out, there are plenty of other Feig Easter eggs if you’re familiar with his work- bonus points for people who saw the underrated but awesome Other Space.
The movie is special effects heavy, but you’d sort of expect that of any modern movie and any movie dealing with the paranormal. Disappointingly, the color palette choices for the ghosts, while visually stunning, aren’t in the least bit frightening. I don’t know, it may be a product of my age when I saw the first film, but it had an element of scariness to it that this one completely lacks. Of course, it may be that a child seeing this Ghostbusters at the same age I was in the 80s may say something different, and remember this one with just the right amount of scary.
So is it as good as the original? I really hate that question. The comparison is both valid and unfair. For me, personally, no. It’s not as good. But so what? It’s not bad, and it’s certainly way better than Ghostbusters 2. Most importantly, it doesn’t challenge the memory of the original for me in any way, shape, or form. And here’s the kicker; while not challenging that sacred place, this Ghostbusters is perfectly capable of, and absolutely will, create its own place in my inner movie-going workings. I’ll remember this movie fondly in 30 years (I mean, barring a machine uprising, or alien invasion, or zombie apocalypse, or that other person I don’t like winning the election), and I’ll want to watch it again before then, and I’ll probably stop to watch it when it comes on TV while I’m flipping through channels.
Go see it, judge it for what it is, and not for what’s come before it, and stay through the credits!
Better or worse than the original doesn’t much matter to the Geek Stranger Score calculator which is based solely on the objective principle of how much caffeine I’ve had before typing in numbers. Also, obviously originality does matter, but even so, can the new Ghostbusters stand on their own?
And there it is. Politics and nostalgia defenders won’t be able to scare away this movie in this life, and won’t have much better luck in the next when their objections are busted as easily as some ghosts.
Ghostbusters (2016) on the Web: