I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, not these ghosts, and especially not the hate this review is sure to bring. I’ll be nicer to Ghostbusters than Richard Roeper, but it still won’t be pretty.
As the polarizing Max Landis tweeted and deleted, Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters will “stand or fall on its own merits.” The negative fan reaction to the initial trailers has been well documented and lambasted. In the end, both extreme reactions seem wholly unnecessary.
I find myself in a funny real-life situation. Defenders of the reboot think that I am looking to trash it because its female cast. Adversely, I have friends who thought the movie was complete garbage and that I’m trying too hard to defend it.
The truth is really in the middle, with this movie’s quality. A large amount of the jokes in Ghostbusters simply don’t land.
After meninists called it a spit in the face and saner individuals just didn’t find it funny, Ghostbusters shows up to give us some lowest common denominator comedy. Roger Ebert described the original as “a sly dialogue movie, in which everybody talks to each other like smart graduate students who are in on the joke.” This reboot is anchored by dialogue about won-tons and school bullying.
The original Ghostbusters was a sarcastic, wry affair that made you feel these characters really could be slumming intellectuals who would resort to busting ghosts. This reboot eschews any semblance of intellect with its dumbed down sight gags and over the top improv.
The side characters who populate the universe all seem to be cartoon parody versions of what their characters should be. I am a huge fan of Cecily Strong on Saturday Night Live, but her character here feels like it’s trying to hammer you over the head with how stupid she’s supposed to be.
Many of the characters hammily chew up the scenery to display stupidity. When Ed Begley Jr. has trouble landing a joke, I have to believe it’s the writing.
Kristen Wiig’s character is terribly underdeveloped for a lead character. Not only that, but the jokes she attempts are sorely out of character for what little of her character is established.
When we first meet her (Erin), she’s a quirky graduate professor at Columbia on the verge of tenure. Two scenes later, she’s following Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates into a supposedly haunted tourist attraction.
Even after being estranged for several years over what seems to have been a nasty fallout, she takes no issue with following Yates and Kate McKinnon’s manic Holtzmann. Erin pretty much devolves into a loon after being exposed as a believer of the paranormal.
Where she starts off straight-laced, less than halfway into the movie she cartoonishly fawns over dimwitted lug Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). Of course, the women end up hiring Kevin as their secretarial eye-candy, besides the fact he thinks you hear through your eyes (get it? Because that’s how dumb he is.) After the group is discredited by the media again, she causes a vaudevillian ruckus at an upscale restaurant while trying to get people to flee the city.
Most of the humor in the movie feels like it belongs in a series of skits on a high production value YouTube series. The jokes and characters are so throwaway and forgettable, I’m finding it hard to remember the times I did laugh.
I must admit, there are times I did laugh, since after all, I am human. I especially liked the use of internet comments in the movie as a callout to their online haters. But the majority of the laughs were played as laughs of lowest common denominator stupidity.
In an early scene a museum worker is asked by the Ghostbusters-to-be for their contact Ed Mulgrave. he tells them he’s dead and they are shocked because they were just contacted by him. Dead for forty years, he tells them. Then the man that spoke to them stands next to him. Oh, he’s actually Ed Mulgrave junior, his father’s been dead for years. This was the level of comedy at play in this movie.
But comedy wasn’t the only place this movie was less than progressive. For a movie that rode so much momentum about being progressive for casting all women, it felt like they made a huge misstep with Leslie Jones.
I’m not going to claim many films are perfect and the same goes with the original Ghostbusters. This reboot had a chance to correct one of the biggest flaws of the classic, the diminished role of the black team member.
Leslie Jones is one of the funniest black women in entertainment right now. Jones is so funny that Saturday Night Live was forced to hire her as a writer despite them being unable to use her to impersonate Michelle Obama. Secondly, they were forced to put her on camera because she could not be contained on the page or the writer’s room.
In this movie, she’s not bad, but she’s not great. It’s hard to overlook the fact that she’s being a stereotypical “sassy black woman.” For crying out loud, she’s even a subway worker; why not give her a second job at the CVS?
Writer Katie Dippold (The Heat) co-wrote with director Paul Feig. In an interview, Feig remarked that he wanted to make something different. Leslie Jones’ character being a scientist would have really shifted the status quo.
Had they kept Patty’s personality and made her a scientist instead of a subway worker, it would have really broken the status quo and been funnier. Giving her character an internal juxtaposition would make her funny without stooping to Scary Movie-level Exorcist spoof gags.
A sassy black scientist says that you can still be smart and “street” at the same time. Before I get any backlash for calling her “street,” “urban,” or “ghetto,” I was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles and I think that’s the only real way to describe her character’s demeanor.
While we’re on the ghosts, these ghosts were not scary. Each ghost feels like Generic Ghost No. (fill in the blank). The original movie’s ghosts had backstories and some of them were truly scary.
Remember the Scoleri Brothers who were sentenced to death by electric chair returning to face their judge? Remember when Dana (Sigourney Weaver) was being haunted in her own apartment by Zuul? You’d be hard pressed to remember being thrilled by the ghosts in this reboot.
I’m really not being that demanding with this movie; make characters, rules, and stories and stick with them. This movie wasn’t all bad, I did have a few laughs.
Kate McKinnon steals the movie and runs away with it, proving America is ready for more funny lesbians besides Ellen Degeneres. As Holtzmann, she really lets her manic energy take center stage. I would have loved to seen Holtzmann as a part of a stronger ensemble of Ghostbusters.
Holtzmann is the engineer of the group; a wildcard who is part Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and part MacGyver. Unlike the other characters, her oddball behavior and seeming nods to a nonexistent audience are well within her character.
Holtzmann constructs the team’s tech, including some rather cool concepts for ghostbusting. Some of the cool conceptual gadgets the movie throws out are a ghost bomb (which would work better as a ghost version of a Pokeball) and a bear trap for ghosts; exactly what you’d expect from a wildcard.
The movie in general has a lot of poorly executed good ideas. I actually liked the idea of the villain.
Rowan, the villain, is just like the Ghostbusters, a shunned intellectual. Many other reviewers also noted that his characterization seemed to resemble that of stereotypical meninists; which to be honest, what white man with a grudge doesn’t?
He sets out to break a wall between the dimension the ghosts are from and to lead them as a ghost himself, against the society that turned its back on him.
He takes possession of Hemsworth (because who on Earth wouldn’t) and in an out-of-place scene that runs over the end credits instead of its proper chronological place in the movie, leads a dance party? I don’t think many withdrawn, loners would do that, even in the possession of Hemsworth.
I loved seeing Hemsworth thrust his pelvis as much as the next gay, but it just didn’t need to happen…just like this reboot.
Paul Feig made a great comedy starring all women, an instant classic called Bridesmaids. Dippolo’s Heat wasn’t great, but it definitely wasn’t bad.
Champions of this reboot claim that is was challenging convention and changing Hollywood and the industry. All I found it challenging was the convention of comedy, moreso than an Adam Sandler movie. But at least it wasn’t as bad as one.
Somewhere in here was the idea for a good movie, but the audience didn’t get to see it. The cameos were fun.