Ghostbusters: Unnecessary, But Welcome


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No matter what anybody involved with the film may have thought going into it, Ghostbusters — the 2016 remake, not the 1984 original — was never going to be a success: at least not the kind of success that studios are banking on when they remake a widely beloved movie with a big name cast and even bigger budget.  It wasn’t going to pull a Batman Begins by revitalizing an increasingly stale franchise.  It also wasn’t going to pull a Days of Future Past by untangling decades’ worth of hopelessly convoluted continuity.  And despite their best efforts to do otherwise, the franchise never found the same latter-day traction as Fury Road or The Force Awakens: picking up the narrative threads from years — even decades — prior.

And that was before the film’s bungled marketing campaign muddied the waters.  The announcement of the gender-swapped cast brought out the worst in internet sexism, which itself was further fueled by the awful trailer and increasingly eyebrow raising decisions surrounding the film’s production.


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I went into my screening of the film with as open a mind as I could manage given the firestorm surrounding its release.  And although I was encouraged by the surprisingly positive reviews trickling in from critics, I secretly wished that I’d just waited for it to come out on BluRay instead.  The film itself, however, was shockingly okay.  Not great, mind you, but also not terrible: just the same, forgettable, decent-enough kind of “okay” as Spy or Man of Steel.

The cast represented the best possible permutation of acting talent for the job: a fact only made possible by the head-line catching decision to gender-swap the cast.  Paul Feig is probably the best mid-level comedic director out there not already working on something better.  The script didn’t let the girls get away with too much improve and mostly knew which beats were the important ones for the movie to hit.  Three decades worth of advancing technology meant that more could be convincingly shown and interacted with on screen than the original movie could have ever hoped for.


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In fact, there were actually a lot of things that this remake did that were better than the first film.  Bill Murray’s “paranormal debunker” subplot is infinitely superior to Walter Peck’s dickish EPA agent (and is bound to age more gracefully in the decades to come).  Given that Leslie Jones’ character was brought into the film far earlier than Ernie Hudson in the original and was given much more interesting things to do than just “round out the cast,” she is both more compelling and more fully realized as the team’s final member.  And although his character’s antics frequently derail the natural flow of events, Chris Hemsworth’s inclusion as the eye-candy secretary was nothing short of inspired.

Where the new Ghostbusters stumbles, however, is in its third act.  And when I say “stumbles,” I mean “damn near falls flat on its face.”  The ultimate reveal of the movie’s antagonist — a disenfranchised genius seeking revenge for a lifetime of belittlement — fails to draw sufficient parallel to Erin and Abby’s own story of succeeding despite the same.  This is especially true given how much narrative weight the revelation that his paranormal research is based on theirs wants to have.


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Kristen Wiig inexplicable separation from the rest of the team never really goes anywhere and her eventual reunion with the rest of the team feels oddly underwhelming.  The transformation of downtown New York into a veritable ghost town populated by disembodied spirits from several centuries of American history seems like the culmination of a Patty story arc that we sadly never got to see.

While a visually clever take on the Stay Pufft Marshmallow Man from the original, the giant “Oogy Boogy”-esque ghost rampaging around Time Square seems liked an eleventh hour plot point rushed into production for lack of something better.  What’s more is that the movie devotes so much screen time to cameos from the first movie that I still haven’t figured out if it wants us to take it on its own terms or bask in the nostalgia of the original.


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When all is said and done, Ghostbusters is a perfectly fine, genuinely funny comedy that will inevitably be buried by the Internet’s unfair presupposition that Paul Feig is killing our collective childhoods.  Truth be told, this is as close as anybody could have hoped for after greenlighting this this conceptually misguided remake.  Check it out if you’re in the market for a good laugh this weekend.  It’s worth the price of admission.


Rating:  7/10

Buy on BluRay:
  Stick with the original.

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