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Movie Review: Ghostbusters (Dickless Edition)

ghostbusters_ver11Lets’ get the nonsense out of the way first:

  • By “Dickless Edition,” I mean that the central characters are women (this apparently bothers some people, but those people are idiots). This isn’t an alternate version of the story told from the perspective of a dedicated EPA agent trying to protect the city from a group of dangerous lunatics in possession of unlicensed nuclear devices.
  • I was annoyed but not surprised when it became increasingly clear that this would be a reboot set in New York City. I’d much rather see a movie set in a Ghostbusters cinematic universe where the original movie happened and the new team is Ghostbusters franchise in a different city. But of course that’s not going to happen because most people in Hollywood can’t get over the idea that if a story set in the modern day has supernatural elements, the supernatural has to be hidden when the movie begins. We always have to go through the unnecessary and usually tedious process of watching either the characters or the world around them accept that ghosts/monsters/psychic powers/whatever are real. It would be nice if more film makers could accept the idea of a world where the supernatural is out in the open as easily as they accept worlds where super-heroes are out in the open, but it’s probably not going to happen.
  • While I agree that reboots and remakes (especially of well-known properties) are often just lazy cash grabs, I’m not as opposed to them as a lot of people (especially entitled fans). Many of them are phoned-in trash (most of the rash of 80s horror reboots a few years ago, for example), but then again many movies in general are phoned-in trash. No matter how cynical the studio’s decision to make a reboot may be, handing it over to a cast and crew who actually want to make a good movie can make it worth watching, if only to compare the changes and see how they update things (I enjoyed the Vacation reboot, for example). Even when a remake is good, I usually think the original is better, but a lot of that’s due entirely to nostalgia. I’d take the original Ghostbusters over the new one, but I suspect there are teenagers who loved the new version but would think the original is hopelessly outdated and dumb if they saw it. Since the 1984 Ghostbusters was made for me and the 2016 version was made for them, it makes perfect sense that we’d have different favorites. Time moves forward, and eventually you age out of the target demographic. Deal with it.

Ok, can we talk about the actual movie now? Good.

The new movie is definitely more of a reboot than a remake. There are a lot of visual references to the original, it’s not hard to draw parallels between most of the characters, and the plots are similar, but the details are different enough that it doesn’t feel like they’re re-shooting the same script with different actors and some minor changes. If you cut out the “origin story/ghosts are real” parts (which are reasonably brief anyway) and propped Harold Ramis’s corpse up between Ackroyd and Murray, the script could easily be used for a lazy sequel to the fist two movies.

The new movie is more of an action movie than the original. In the original Ghostbusters, most of the ghost busting was just the 4 actors standing there with proton packs and letting special effects do all the work. In the new movie, the ghost busting scenes feel more like fight scenes. There’s even one part where the heroes wade into battle against an army of supernatural baddies, which I personally thought was cool as shit.

The better action comes at the price of some of the comedy. The new movie is often very funny, but the humor seems to come more from the actors than the script. The plan seems to have been “these people are funny, so we don’t actually have to write a funny script” That plan worked out very unevenly. Turns out Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy need a funny script to be funny, at least in this context. Leslie Jones does a little better by playing her default SNL character, but it’s kind of a one-note character better suited to short skits than a whole movie. I was disappointed, because I really thought there was a chance Jones would steal the show, but she just didn’t have enough to work with to pull it off.

That brings us to the other actor who I thought might steal the show, Chris Hemsworth. He does a much better job of being funny despite the writers not giving him much to work with. Hemsworth doesn’t get to do comedy that often, but every time he does it makes me wish he’d do more. The comedy I’ve seen him do is kind of limited–most of the laughs here and elsewhere are in some way based around the fact that he is an incredibly good-looking man, though this time he also got to be really dumb–but he clearly has good comedic timing and instincts. He didn’t steal every scene, but he was consistently delightful.

You know who did steal the show? Of course you do, you have the internet, so you’ve already heard about how great Kate McKinnon is in this movie. I’ve heard so much praise of McKinnon in the last week that I went in expecting to be disappointed because my expectations were too high. I mean, I know Kate McKinnon is awesome, but could she really be as awesome in this movie as everyone seems to think she is? Yes. Yes she can. She can and she does. In Ghostbusters, Kate McKinnon somehow manage to exceed even the even the very high Kate McKinnon baseline for funny. Al the hype is true. She’s what saved the movie for me. Without her, it would have been another enjoyable but ultimately forgettable reboot. With her, it’s something I’ll watch a sequel to despite having seen Ghostbusters 2.

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