Blu-ray Review — Ghostbusters (2016)

There’s no denying that some people are overprotective of things they like, and in a time when the remake runs rampant in Hollywood, this is especially true when it comes to movies that are viewed as classics. The original Ghostbusters is a classic that stands the test of time and holds up incredibly well to this day on all fronts. Maybe not everyone feels that way, but in the big picture, there’s no real denying that that’s mainly how it’s seen. So when it was announced that it was being remade with an all-female cast, well, the Internet community did what the Internet community does and complained – a lot.

Yes, childhoods were being ruined and life as most knew it was over. The trailer became one of the most disliked videos on Youtube of all time. Now, it didn’t do terribly at the box-office; but it also wasn’t the hit that a franchise is built off of. Did this have to do with the hate it received before it was even released? I’m sure that didn’t help, but one must also take into account that the movie itself is, well, fairly average across the board.

Now let’s get a few things out of the way right off the bat: I’m a huge fan of the original film, but I’m always open to remakes and sometimes prefer them when done right; I have absolutely nothing against women taking the reigns of the Ghostbusters, and actually thought it was a pretty smart move to change things up when it was announced long ago that this was the direction they may go; and lastly, if your childhood was ruined because of this film, then you should really look deeper into the repressed issues you clearly have. Does nobody remember Ghostbusters 2? I mean, it wasn’t an abomination, but it’s also nowhere near the caliber of the original, so lets ease up on the life altering dramatics, shall we?

The best comparison I can give the new Ghostbusters flick is to fast food. It’s fine if you’re looking for something quick and easy to enjoy, but once it’s done it’s not really something that you’ll reminisce about or look back on fondly. It’ll do its job for the time you spend with it, and then it’ll likely be forgotten about because it’s just not that memorable.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of funny scenes, and I laughed out loud more than once, but that’s something you’d expect with this top-notch comedic talent involved. It’s more the story that’s lacking, and quite often a lot of things are set up either for a gag, or for storyline purposes in such a blunt way that it doesn’t feel natural.

For example, at one point when the crew is out testing the new gadgets made by Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon’s character), Jillian tells fellow Ghostbuster Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) to choose any weapon on the table. Erin does so, picking up a small gun, but Holtzmann is quick to tell her that that prototype isn’t ready yet, and instead gives her a Swiss army knife to hold onto. This seems incredibly random, as why would Holtzmann even have the prototype that they couldn’t test out with them? And why just pass off a Swiss Army knife in its place that – due to the rules of film – must be used later in the movie? Well, that’s because later on when a ghost balloon is smothering the ladies, Erin shows up and pops it with said knife. It’s just so forced and unnatural in its delivery. That was the only way to get Erin this knife? Not to mention that not long after she has the prototype gun with her anyway, and uses it as if it’d been with her all along and she was a pro.

Now there are a LOT of times that I look past things in movies, and I’m fine with a million bullets being shot at a protagonist, who somehow dodges them all and leaps out a window to safety – as long as it’s handled right, or fits in the world that’s been created around that character. The original Ghostbusters felt as though it could be a story that’s happening in New York at the time. Sure it had all the popcorn, blockbuster features to it as well, but it was grounded in a sort of reality that made the characters feel real, and the situations that took place around them feel possible.

This time out, things just feel off on the story front. Quite often people just feel like caricatures in the film. Most notably, McKinnon’s character just feels overly wacky and nuts, and while she’s supposed to be the smart, engineering “Egon” of the group, it just feels like McKinnon is doing a shtick the whole time with no off button. I get that her character isn’t supposed to be as…well, stable as the others, and she’s more of the odd duckling, but it’s again, just so forced so often.

In the trailer, there’s the moment when Erin is sneaking around, and is startled by Holtzmann, who’s wearing a wig and hiding amongst mannequin heads. Her character is doing it because she doesn’t really take things seriously, and that’s fine; but the comedy that it brings with it is what I’m referring to when I say it’s unnatural. That’s a forced gag, which is okay from time to time, but they’re unfortunately how the majority of the jokes throughout the film play out.

Another flaw in the script and execution is that this group isn’t a group that you believe could save the day when the time comes. The original Ghostbusters were built up throughout the film, mocked at first, but then slowly gaining popularity until the point where we, the viewers, believed that when the mayor said, “Somebody get me the Ghostbusters,” that they were indeed the only ones who could save the day.

This time out, the mayor (Andy Garcia) is against the group entirely, even though he knows about the ghost problem in New York. You see, The Department of Homeland Security is actually investigating things behind closed doors, so they want the Ghostbusters to stop bringing attention to it. Again though, the Homeland Security guys are complete goofs who are there for a couple of forced, drawn out gags and to be a roadblock for the Ghostbusters advancing.

Unfortunately, it never feels like the group is gaining any ground government roadblock or not. as the extent of their popularity is various videos popping up on the Internet that are met with a mix of hateful comments and positive ones. I can appreciate the meta way the online bashing of females being cast as the Ghostbusters was handled here, in a “if we laugh at ourselves then we take away their power,” type of deal, but because their recognition never goes much higher than this, when it comes right down to it, even though we know that they’ll save the day because they’re the stars of the film, it’s just not overly believable when it comes about. They never really earn it, and because of this, their take-charge moment seems somewhat out of character, because I’m not exactly sure how they all became proton-pack-wielding badasses out of the blue.

There are more issues with the script later in the film, but I’ll avoid those to avoid any spoilers, but it’s more or less a constant barrage of things just working out perfectly, with no sense of dire circumstance at any point. In the original, when the group was warned that crossing the streams meant total catastrophe, it felt ominous and truthful. It even played out that way, more or less, in terms of them nearly blowing themselves out of the sky when they finally had to do it. That sense of caution or possible sacrifice just never lands this time around, which likely has a lot to do with the fact that the film never really tries to take itself seriously on any level, at any point in time.

Wow, sometimes as you write, things just kind of write themselves, and this is coming off as quite a hateful review. The film isn’t that terrible. As you can see by my rating, it’s an average flick. It’s not something you’ll likely regret watching, but it’s not something you’ll rush out to recommend to friends either. As I mentioned before, it’s the type of movie that is entertaining enough, and that may be all that those curious about whether or not they should watch it or not need to know.

The main reason why the movie is entertaining is because of the talent involved. While the story may have its faults, and there are caricatures abound, these are some talented and funny women, and having them all together on the screen will definitely bring some laughs.

Now I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing to say Melissa McCarthy (who plays Dr. Abigail “Abby” Yates) is basically Melissa McCarthy once again, because, let’s face it, Melissa McCarthy is, more often than not, hilarious to watch do her thing. So when I say that here, I say it as a positive. She’s got some solid chemistry with the rest of the crew, and her comedic delivery is rarely off point.

Wiig is also strong in her role as the co-leader of the group. Her character is much more reserved than McCarthy’s, and the two play well off of one another here, which is no surprise given how well they’ve worked together in the past. McKinnon is a very funny woman, but I just felt that her character was one-dimensional, and as mentioned before, came off as more of an ongoing shtick than an actual person we should be invested in as a viewer – even on a purely comedic level. Holtzmann is just a character that could really benefit by being humanized – even on a minor level.

Lastly there’s Leslie Jones, who plays Patty Tolan, an MTA worker who knows New York better than any of them, which is basically what gets her on the team. Jones is someone I’m not overly familiar with, though she won me over here, as she’s got some great comedic chops, and her chemistry with the rest of the ladies worked quite well.

Oh, and I mustn’t forget Chris Hemsworth, who is a scene-stealer every time he appears. His character, Kevin Beckman, plays the receptionist for the Ghostbusters, and is the type of caricature that works perfectly in this sort of film, as he’s sort of the comedy relief to even those who supply the majority of the jokes throughout. He’s around often enough that it’s always funny when he appears, but he never overstays his welcome or becomes tiresome to watch. He’s actually one of the major pros of the film overall.

I should also mention that I watched the extended cut, which adds about 15 minutes to the film as a whole. I can’t compare it to the theatrical version, as I hadn’t seen it before, but the extended version can feel somewhat drawn out at times. Doing a bit of research does show that the extended edition has more character moments, which is definitely a good thing for a film that I still felt was lacking them. So even if there are a few moments when jokes go on a bit long (which is something that tends to happen with extended versions of comedies,) it’s still the version you should choose to watch since the choice is readily available here. Also, there’s more Kevin to be had, so if you have to choose, always choose more Kevin.

In the end, the new Ghostbusters doesn’t come close to the original, but it also doesn’t come close to destroying childhoods either. Some may enjoy it more than others, but it’s entertaining enough to at least warrant a viewing to see which side of the fence you land on.

This movie looks fantastic. There are some distracting moments when they took the 3D effects and actually have them exit the letterbox confines of the screen, which takes you out of the movie if you’re one to notice things like that. I’m sure it worked nicely in theaters for an added 3D effect, but here in 2D, having things flying outside of the boxed in world makes you realize you’re watching a boxed in world, which in turn, takes you out of the moment. But aside from that, on a purely visual level, the Blu-ray transfer is gorgeous, as is the audio transfer. It’s really a superb job done here on both transfer fronts.

The special features are loaded here, so I’ll break it down as briskly as possible:

Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Paul Feig along with writer Katie Dippold talk quite in-depth about the creative process of the movie, filming, performances, and so forth. If you want to learn more about the film, these are the two who will deliver all the information you’re looking for.

Audio Commentary #2 – Here we have a more technical commentary, with Editor Brent White, Producer Jessie Henderson, Production Designer Jeff Sage, Visual Effects Supervisor Pete Travers and Special Effects Supervisor Mark Hawker. These guys know their stuff, and while it’s definitely more technical, it’s not boring or full of jargon that will leave the listener scratching their head. These guys are informative, while also just enjoying talking about what they love.

Gag Reels – There are two gag reels to be found on the disc, both just under eight minutes in length, and both filled with, well, gags from the set. If you’re a fan of gag reels, there’s double the fun for you here!

Deleted Scenes – There are four scenes to be found here that are just under 10-minutes in total length. I’ve never really been a fan of deleted scenes, as they’re more often than not cut for a reason.

Extended & Alternate Scenes – Lots of scenes to be found here, at just over 21-minutes in length. Much like deleted scenes, I usually avoid extended or alternate scenes, as the extensions usually hurt the scene more than they ever help it.

Jokes A Plenty – Here’s a 35-minute feature that sees alternate lines used from various takes. These are less painful than deleted or extended scenes, but you best be ready to strap in for a long ride if you want to watch these all at once.

Meet the Team – This eight-minute feature sees Feig and the cast talk about their characters, what the actors brought to the roles, and so forth.

The Ghosts of Ghostbusters This is a 14-minute feature that delves into the creation of the ghosts for the screen, make-up, various effects, and also the different levels of ghosts used in the film. Ever wonder what a class-5 apparition is? Now you’ll know!

Visual Effects: 30 Years Later – This is a 15-minute feature that talks about the advancement in visual effects over the years, but how they still used practical set pieces as well, to help make their effects that much better. An interesting watch, for certain.

Slime Time – If you’re curious about how many times people get slimed throughout the movie, this five minute featurette is for you!

Chris Hemsworth is “Kevin” – This eight minute featurette is the highlight of all the features, because Kevin. Seriously though, it’s a fun look at Hemsworth, his improve skills, and how he tackled the role of Kevin.

Sony Pictures Presents Ghostbusters. Directed by: Paul Feig. Written by: Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Andy Garcia, Neil Casey. Running time: Theatrical Version -117 Minutes / Extended Version – 134 Mnutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Oct. 11, 2016.

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