Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ghostbusters Movie Review

In this era of reboots, sequels, re-imaginings, and reinventions, one thing has consistently escaped the Hollywood executives who greenlight this stuff. They continue to make blockbuster cinema a boys club, catering to and casting men in most major action and comedy films. But leave it to Paul Feig, the director of the hysterically funny female response to the male gross-out comedy – Bridesmaids – to bring us the female Ghostbusters. A second sequel in the franchise was part of Hollywood lore for years with talk of Chris Farley being involved shortly before his death in 1997. But now we finally, at long last, even though almost no one was demanding it, have a new Ghostbusters with the all-lady cast of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.

Unfortunately, Ghostbusters arrived in cinemas preceded by poor public reception of the trailer. People already weren’t willing to give the movie a chance. Whether that’s because the original is so beloved or because the idea of a female Ghostbusters is anathema to the fan base is hard to say. But the fact is, these four women are incredibly funny actresses. They produce great laughs in everything they touch from “Saturday Night Live” (three of the women have been cast members and McCarthy has hosted) to their feature films. You put them together with a decent script and they’ll make it funny. They have chemistry, so much so that it seems odd McCarthy did not work regularly with Wiig on “SNL”. They have the rhythm of two comedians who know each other’s every move.

I say that while being disappointed in the final product that was served up to have us believe that they will take up the mantle and carry on the franchise. As funny as they are in their best moments (and McKinnon’s incredible timing and irreverence provides for the majority of the best moments, taking up where Billy Murray left off), the number of bits that fall, no exactly flat, but lumpy, is far too many. It’s only the actresses’ wit and banter that has any real life to it. All the gags that were likely designed by Feig are lame by comparison. A sight gag involving Wiig getting covered in ecto-slime feels like it belongs in a movie with lesser talent.

But it’s not just the laughs that come up short. The plot is kind of lame. Feig and Katie Dippold did just enough to get some laughs, but didn't put much effort into making a story that measures up. The original had these ancient forces of evil using an old building as a conduit between two worlds. This one has a bookish bully victim making contact with the other side to initiate an apocalypse. Zuul was a terrifying villain (who doesn’t even make an appearance until the end of the original). This dude is just silly, at least until his ghost possesses the Ghostbusters’ secretary, Kevin (Chris Hemsworth playing mimbo to the extreme).

Even with a story I didn’t like, these are still funny actresses working at or near the top of their game. I guess the movie’s biggest problem, its highest hurdle, is how to make people of a certain generation not just want to watch the original. Because I spent most of the movie saying to myself, “Boy, I really need to watch it again,” or “Man, I’d rather be watching the original.” So then you have to ask yourself, is it worth watching this new iteration when there already exists a version that we love and probably love more? Or is this just a retooling of familiar material and character types? Overall it just didn’t work enough for me to care to consider watching a sequel (for which there is a post-credits teaser). The answer is no. It’s not worth watching these funny women in just any material. I’d prefer they focus on something original that isn’t going to make me sad that Harold Ramis is gone and Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray got old. And their cameos in the movie only serve as constant reminders of what you’re missing out on.

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