Review: Ghostbusters (2016)


The standard operating procedure after attending a screening is that the PR representation wants comments to send back to their overseers. Now you can approach it one of few ways. There’s the hyperbolic reaction quote that might get you a promotional blurb. Or you could write a short essay on its quality. I tend to go for the short essay route – not looking to go aboveboard. But with Paul Feig’s re-imaging/update of Ivan Reitman’s classic ’80s comedy Ghostbusters I went hyperbolic. The blurb read something like this:

These female ghostbusters are no Bridesmaids. They brought The Heat and I Spy-ed many call backs and cameos. An audience crowd-pleaser, for sure.

Yeah, I spread on the compliments pretty thick, as if I were buttering a piece of bread, making sure to mention Paul Feig’s previous outings as a director. But in-the-moment reactions can backfire once you allow yourself to ruminate on a film for twenty-four hours. 2016’s Ghostbusters is enjoyable to a degree but seems mediocre when matched against other horror-comedy hybrids like Shaun of the Dead or The Cabin in the Woods.

Still, the shear amount of backlash this comedy has endured sight unseen has been an albatross. When the announcement was made that the ghostbusters were headed to the big screen again for the first time in thirty years but with an all female cast you’d think the sky was falling. Middle-aged white men taking to comment boards to vent their frustrations as if a piece of their childhood was being sullied by the feminine mystique.

I’m not one of those men. The original Ghostbusters arrived when I was only three years old. Growing up I would watch it every now and then but the ghost-busting exploits of parapsychologists Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) – and Winston (Ernie Hudson), the non-scientist just looking for a steady job – was never near and dear to me. Give me Indiana Jones. Take me back to the future or tell me a never-ending story. Give me the John Hughes compendium of high school life and teach me the crane kick – even though its application in a real fight would never work.

The outcry for 2016’s Ghostbusters has been such a bunch of hooey that unloading the baggage is like flipping the switch and allowing all the ghosts of the Big Apple to scare the bejeezus out of New Yorkers. It seems that Feig and the writers were keenly aware of the Internet ruckus they stirred that they even incorporated a few vitriol responses into the script as YouTube commentators try to discredit the female team.

The comedy is relatively amusing with a chemistry that grows as the plot moves forward. The comic highlights are undoubtedly SNL alum Kate McKinnon and, surprisingly, Chris Hemsworth. That’s right: Thor lets his hair down (figuratively) and dons a pair of eyeglasses (glass removed) as the dimwitted office assistant Kevin.

Part of the problem is that Paul Feig can’t shoot action. This, and the combination of special effects and our ghostbusting team battling supernatural foes, hurts in certain situations. Give us more comedy and less CGI wizardry. Also, a male supporting character not associated with the team could have helped in establishing a potential case that needs solving. Instead of a “keymaster” and a “gatekeeper” we get a bullying victim as the antagonist. Too bad snarky remarks and rebuttals on social media pretty much nixed the idea of having a third-party character villain to rile you up. The ’80s and ’90s had no shortage of “that guy” actors you loved to hate.

Plus, considering that Melissa McCarthy has been Feig’s muse of sorts appearing in all of his comedies since Bridemaids (along with Ghostbusters co-star Kristen Wiig) it is unusual to see both actresses in understated roles here.

Undoubtedly, Ghostbusters is an unnecessary remake. It would have worked much better as a soft reboot; have four girls be inspired by Peter, Ray and Egon as their ghostbusting made national headlines to grow up and become ghostbusters themselves. This could have breathed new life into a stale franchise with the old team mentoring the new team, or at the very least showing up during the climatic fight.

Ivan Reitman’s original film may be a classic comedy but it is not a sacred property. And yet the 2016 remake looks to do whatever it can to make audiences recall the 1984 film. There are homages to hallmark ghosts (Slimer, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man) and the original cast pops up in cameos as different characters (including an in remembrance bust to Harold Ramis).

An all-female team is a good concept and if Ghostbusters is successful it will likely decide if Hollywood gives in to more female-driven properties. While there will be those who are totally against this remake, I ain’t afraid of no remake. I have no emotional ties. The end result, though, is entertaining junk food. Fun but not as fulfilling as it should be.

Ghostbusters (2016)
Director: Paul Feig
Writer(s): Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Notable Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

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