REVIEW: Ghostbusters

12 07 2016

While watching Paul Feig’s take on “Ghostbusters” (splitting hairs over remake vs. reboot just doesn’t feel worth it), I often felt like I needed to keep a tally chart. In one column, the header would read “one for progress;” the other, “one for fan service.”

One for progress: women are scientific masterminds and ingenious problem solvers. Chris Hemsworth’s secretary Kevin fills the traditional role of the dumb blonde objectified by the protagonists (with aplomb, I might add). The human villain is a socially isolated white male with a bone to pick. Welcome to 2016.

One for fan service: these newfangled characters are locked into hitting most of the same plot beats as the original film. Better than today’s hackneyed franchise origin stories, I suppose. Welcome back to 1984.

One for progress: acknowledging the differences between 1984 and 2016. With the rise of the Internet, computer graphics and the larger conspiracy culture, the Ghostbusters and the paranormal apparitions they hunt would be all too easily laughed off today. Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold reimagine the team successfully in a world that is more incredulous than ever – yet also more terrified of the random and the unexplained.

One for fan service: just giving us the ghosts we already know anyways. Feig brings back all the most familiar ghosts from the Marshmallow Man to the green slime monster. The latter even gets a female companion. Neither the characters nor the effects used to bring them to life feel particularly new, exciting or terrifying. I cannot put myself in the shows of a 1984 moviegoer, but this 2016 viewer saw a whole lot of bright blue light beams that look a whole lot like the ones in basically every other action movie these days.

Quick break from the rhetorical device, in case you’re getting tired … One for I don’t know who: fart jokes and a lame “your mama” line. Really? Did they throw those in the mix just in case the “Ghostbusters” bros who made the film’s trailer the most disliked in YouTube history actually decided to show up?

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters

One for progress: going back to the drawing board with new characters that are not meant to directly correspond to the quarter from the first film. This simple decision frees the actresses to do their own thing, from Kate McKinnon’s queer-infused comedy to Leslie Jones’ street-smart joke cracking. Feig interestingly chooses to shoot Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy primarily in two-shots, which juxtaposes their reactions, while filming McKinnon and Jones primarily on their own. It’s as if these two “Saturday Night Live” players are performing their own version of the film entirely, a development which is entirely welcome.

One for fan service: stuffing in virtually every member of the original “Ghostbusters” cast into cameos that distract more than they enhance the new film. The callbacks lose their appeal after the brief dopamine rush triggered by seeing the familiar face and rarely result in significant laughter.

One for progress: balancing the humor styles of the four leading ladies, along with the relentless insipidity of Hemsworth’s Kevin. Feig previously pulled this off in 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” allowing room for both the larger-than-life McCarthy and the subtly nuanced schadenfreude of Wiig. He does it again in “Ghostbusters,” providing plenty of room for McKinnon to pull off a Peter Sellers-like comic performance without completely upstaging the other women.

One for progress AND fan service: maintaining the patiently paced comedic stylings of Ivan Reitman’s original film. This move feels simultaneously like a throwback and a radical refusal of the genre’s status quo, which favors stuffing as many gags into a scene as possible and hoping at least a few work.

Tally it up, and “Ghostbusters” ends up mostly in the progress column. It’s a change of pace and a breath of fresh air when it needs to be, as well as a bit of recycled nostalgia perhaps more than it should be. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts – nor a future that can build on the lessons learned here. B2halfstars

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2 responses

13 07 2016
The Vern

Im just glad to read that it wasn’t a complete train wreck as everyone thought it was

16 07 2016
Matt

I’m with you on the special effects, I was pretty underwhelmed by them. But the four leads and so many great cameos: so glad the haters were wrong.

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