Ghostbusters July 16, 2016
The loud disdain for this year’s Ghostbusters remake has flummoxed me, to say the least. Yearly, filmgoers are bombarded with announcements of cinematic projects that might not tickle their fancy, and, worst case scenario, are able to look the other way and move on with their lives without having to spend two hours watching a movie that doesn’t interest them. Much as I adore them, movies, the last time I checked, are not an art form a totalitarian government forces us to consume without choice. Audiences are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to spend $10.25 on anything they’d like to. On a different film, perhaps.
But the backlash regarding 2016’s all-female Ghostbusters has been so extreme that an outsider might come to the conclusion that something drastic might have happened to cause such fury, as if law enforcement officials broke into the homes of VHS and DVD owners and destroyed all known copies of the 1984 classic. As if someone assassinated the original cast. As if Ed Wood’s reanimated carcass had been hired to write and direct. As if it suddenly were against the law to ignore a remake and simply re-watch the original.
Of course, none of these melodramatic falsities bear a hint of truth. But the comment section crybabies of the internet have acted as though they do. The trailer for Ghostbusters has now become the most disliked in YouTube’s history. Negative ratings flooded IMDB before the movie even came out. Forums have become characterized by proclamations so absurd that I stumbled upon a post today that decided that, before seeing the film, that the only people that will like it are SJWs or — if you can believe it — women. Another exclaimed that one should see the film only if they’re looking for frilly comedy, not meaningful comedy of its ancestor’s sort.
But Ghostbusters wasn’t a meaningful comedy in the first place; just a wonderful, idiosyncratic romp with characters and scenarios so warm and so humorous that indelibility was unavoidable. And the 2016 reboot isn’t trying to be a masterpiece, either; all it wants to do is take the shape of a likable summer blockbuster with hearty laughs by its side. Is it as good as the original? Of course it isn’t. But it’s better than Ghostbusters II and is certainly worth the price of your ticket. Put aside needless points of comparison and you’ll notice that it’s a comedy with enough charm to stand on its own two feet. Why the heated disfavor?
The disarming quartet of the original (who, with the exception of the gone-too-soon Harold Ramis, makes memorable cameos) is replaced by the equally disarming quartet of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, who are among the finest comediennes of their generation and do more than just pay tribute to their irreplaceable predecessors. In the 2016 version, all play endearingly fickle parapsychologists (with the exception of Jones, who portrays a loud-mouthed MTA worker) driven by self-fulfillment and the need to prove themselves in a doubtful world.
Not much different, story-wise, that is, than Ivan Reitman’s envisioning, no. The real difference lies in Paul Feig and Katie Dippold’s screenplay, which is a goldmine of sinewy one-liners and witty banter, and the chemistry between the leads, which is lovably offbeat but perfectly complementary. Feig, who also directs, has proven himself as a dependable comedy filmmaker through such enthusiastically zany pieces as Spy and Bridesmaids (which were similarly propelled by the talents of McCarthy), and Ghostbusters is no exception — it’s fueled by his sharp brand of humor and is able to forge new paths while also paying ample respect to the paragon it’s so indebted to. The cast is as comparatively exceptional: straight-men McCarthy and Wiig are spotlessly deadpan, and Jones and McKinnon, long gems on Saturday Night Live, position themselves as hilarious breakouts distinctly of the moment. (And Chris Hemsworth, as the Ghostbusters’ dim-witted secretary, unexpectedly steals the film with his impeccable comedic timing).
Ignoring the ersatz CGI (which looks paltry when considering the movie’s sizable $144 million budget) and the relatively uninspired final showdown, 2016’s Ghostbusters is, nevertheless, a rollicking spree with enough gusto to cause one to wonder what all the opposition was about to begin with. I’m sure the petty fanboys and stubborn naysayers will continue calling the film trash years after going on without having ever seen it — but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself, which you, more likely than not, will. B+