When I saw the first trailers for the new movie Ghostbusters I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Sure, Kate McKinnon is one of my favorite SNL cast members of all time and Melissa McCarthy has certainly earned her chops in dramedy roles, but I wondered if these comediennes carry the weight of this groundbreaking blend of action, comedy and sci-fi?
Despite my reservations and a lukewarm Rotten Tomatoes score of 73% from critics & 53% from the audience, I headed out to the theater to give it a try.
The movie tells the story of two longtime friends, Erin Gilbert & Abby Yates (played by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, respectively) who use their knowledge of physics combined with an affinity for the paranormal, to track and hunt ghosts in the city of New York. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) is the quirky genius of the group who builds their specter-slaying gadgets. Imagine James Bond’s “Q” played by Tank Girl inspired by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Somewhere along the way Leslie Jones, as Patty, “joins the club” as their Everywoman loudmouth New Yorker character. Sure, the role was a bit stereotypical, but I definitely feel it was a good balance to the drier comedy and technobabble from the Science Ladies.
Chris Hemsworth takes some time out from his iconic role as Thor as the ditzy eye-candy “receptionist,” Kevin. He had some good moments throughout the film but it was sometimes a bit much. Like, we get it, you’re a dumb blonde.
The team had some branding issues at the beginning, but eventually adopted the name “Ghostbusters” (as the title would suggest) during a media circus event.
One of my first nitpicks is a personal issue: Abby asked Kevin to design the company logo since he “dabbled in web design”. Listen, guys, just because someone is good at ONE TYPE of design, doesn’t mean they will be good at everything! (For YOUR design needs, though, check out Zellsbells.com.) The ladies redeemed themselves a bit later when a street artist accidentally created a logo and the team clearly had a designer redraw it with style. This obviously didn’t all happen on screen. Meetings with graphic designers are often not that exciting to anyone.
From the first scene, we are brought full speed into an alternate reality version of NYC where vengeful spirits haunt historic buildings. A tour guide appears to have woken the ghost of the house’s long-dead owner, imprisoned in the basement over a century ago. The visual effects were really quite nice — they weren’t too cartoonishly fake, nor a pathetic attempt at slavishly avoiding CGI by using only practical effects.
One of their earliest outings takes them to a metal concert where the audience predictably thought that the ghost (somewhat reminiscent of 1984’s classic Gremlins) was part of the light show. One of few things that really took me out of the movie was this scene’s laughable “metal” music in the show. It was really awful. I mean, that statement doesn’t adequately describe how bad it was — I think I physically winced. I mean they could have used Nickelback, at least that would have been funny.
It was a huge relief that the writers didn’t force us to endure a silly romantic subplot. Erin fawns over Kevin a lot but is happy to just objectify him as the piece of meat that he is. She never goes on any dates with him or, say, a client, and doesn’t chase after him during key plot points of the movie. I can never figure out why writers feel the need to do that. Mostly it’s a lazy way to “build character,” as if someone (especially a woman) can’t be interesting unless they’re in a relationship. More often than not, pointless romance scenes are just the equivalent of commercial breaks in movies. Time to go refill your drink or take a piss!
Instead the pacing of Ghostbusters often feels a little frantic, as if they are trying to squeeze in a bit too much, or it was poorly edited. Can’t there be a good balance?
However I did enjoy seeing how their ghost-catching equipment evolves over time. It could have been a really easy cop-out for the writers to just let them show up at their first job with weapons & traps that worked PERFECTLY. Instead they let us see things put together and improved as they go along. Since they don’t have a huge bankroll to get their project started. That’s a pretty Mary Sue way to go, you know? “Hey look at me, I’m a smart science lady who just got fired from my cushy job so I have no money, but I somehow managed to put together this innovative, experimental ghost-shootin gun that has zero problems from day one. Never mind that people don’t even BELIEVE in ghosts let alone fight them.”
Throughout, Ghostbusters are scrappy underdogs dealing with bureaucracy, media spin, Internet trolls, and even a debunker who believe that they are creating the ghosts themselves. (Perhaps as holograms? And to what end? They didn’t really explain the debunker’s motivation other than to imply that he is just being a dick.)
This brings me to my next point: there were a series of really bizarre cameos tossed in to the movie. Bill Murray plays the paranormal skeptic, which was truly really a waste of his talent since he was on screen for only about 3 minutes. This was definitely a silly, fun comedy not too unlike the ones that helped build his reputation as a beloved icon, but since the 80’s he’s since moved on to more low-key humor and drama films. For instance, everything by Wes Anderson ever.
We also got a couple of lines from Dan Aykroyd as a flippin cabbie (another tragic waste of talent), Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts. I mean, a couple of them were fellow SNL alum but other than that I can’t figure out why they shoehorned these actors in. And why did the actors agree to it? Were they just really bored or something? Did the director have blackmail dirt on them? Who knows. Shit, Sigourney Weaver’s cameo was IN THE CREDITS. Why bother?
The after-credits scene left us on a cliffhanger as they get a call from a new client who has a recording from a haunted house or something. They hear a voice saying School, or the Zoo, or something like that. I couldn’t really understand. It was a very brief comment without explanation, so either it was an inside joke that I don’t get, or they were setting something up for the sequel.
Ghostbusters isn’t the best movie of the year or even the decade, but dammit, it was a lot of fun. Yes, some of the jokes were a little forced , crude, or trite but no more than the average summer popcorn comedy. Kate McKinnon stole every scene as always, and it was cool to see Hemsworth let his hair (and his hammer) down. The villain was creepy and a bit weak, which was off-putting, but the movie wasn’t about him. it was about the bad-ass broads shooting FRIKKIN GHOSTS OUT OF THE AIR.
I truly can’t understand why audience reviews are so low compared to goofy comedy classics like Step Brothers (69%) or even sci-fi/comedy genre-benders like Weird Science (69%) or Zombieland (86%) (which of course also had a memorable Bill Murray cameo.
I mean for crying out loud, a movie is coming out later this year called Sausage Party. I’d love to see what the GB haters think of a movie about talking food which in my opinion is a weak concept that could fill a 15 minute film short AT BEST. The current box office competition is essentially a remake of Toy Story but with pets instead of plastic. There’s clearly a double standard going on, right?
Dare I mention the M word? And I mean misogyny, not marshmallow.
If the movie is successful enough, I can easily see this being “rebooted” in 30 years or so with a gender-bent cast and perhaps a slightly different genre, if they’re still doing that sort of thing in 30 years. It’s really trendy now so it’s possible that it’ll circle back around as Hollywood runs through its cycle of Good Ideas. Take a couple of flavor-of-the-month guys from SNL as the Ghostbusters, swap Chris Hemsworth for a cute chick with an attitude, update a few things and it’s instantly refreshed for a new generation. I’m honestly a bit surprised that this movie starred so many women right out of the gate since men still seem to dominate prominent roles in both sci-fi and comedy.
Bottom line: 3.5 / 5
Forget the formulaic trailer, we know they all suck. Drop your reservations and forget the rumor that “the movie sucks.” Head to a theater and share the movie with some cool friends.