by Michael B. Hock
It’s difficult to discuss the new Ghostbusters movie without acknowledging the controversy around it. And that’s sad. That’s so. Incredibly. Sad. Mostly because there shouldn’t be any controversy around the new Ghostbusters movie. Each ticket doesn’t come with a Paul Feig paid enforcer who comes to your house and destroys all your memorabilia of the original. The movie doesn’t spend two hours telling you how the first one was terrible. It’s a remake. Of a movie. That was made 30 years ago.
For perspective, Cabin Fever was remade this year as well. If you’re thinking “I didn’t hear about it” you’re right, it was terrible, but that doesn’t change the fact that a movie was made in 2016 that was a remake of a movie that came out in 2002. Ghostbusters waited 30 years. For more perspective, they made a new version of Star Trek that recast Captain James T. Kirk. James. Tiberius. Kirk. Was. Played. By. An. Actor. Other. Than. William. Shatner.
What I’m saying is, maybe rather than throwing a hissy fit over a movie in the first place, we should be grateful we didn’t get a remake of Ghostbusters that starred Adam Sandler and David Spade ten years ago, when we probably should have gotten it.
I can’t believe I have to start out my review of the movie like this. For a brief moment, I’m sad to be a movie fan. The way people have acted regarding this remake – pretending it’s because of the fact that it’s a remake – is sickening. There are plenty of other movies that are being remade, including a King Kong remake and a sequel to Mary Poppins. Where they recast Mary Poppins. I don’t see the vitriol hurled that those movies, or the actors and actresses in it.
No, this was about the casting of four women in the roles. And that’s sad. This is 2016.
But I digress. A lot has been written about it, I don’t have anything else to say about it other than how sad it is. Also my review, which is going to say what I have to say.
The original Ghostbusters is the first movie I remember seeing in the theaters. I was too young to get a lot of the jokes, and I know I’d been taken to other movies. But I remember Ghostbusters. I remember my dad was excited to show me this guy named Bill Murray… he was supposed to be really funny. I remember laughing at the stupid jokes, not getting a lot of the sexual innuendo. That was the day I fell in love with movies, to be honest with you. No movie has ever left me with the feeling that the original Ghostbusters did. I’ve seen it every time it’s been back in the theaters. I must have seen that movie more than 100 times at this point.
Would I have loved to seen a third outing with the original cast? Of course. Especially after looking at the synopsis written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd. It looked great. But it didn’t happen, and Paul Feig stepped in to direct a version starring the wonderful Melissa McCarthy, the talented Kristen Wiig, the hilarious (and frightening) Kate McKinnon (I mean that as a compliment. Never change.) and the wonderfully talented Leslie Jones, sadly recently attacked by online trolls with nothing better to do.
Of course, the remake doesn’t live up perfectly to the original. I mean, that movie is a classic that relied largely on luck to happen the way it did. But it comes so incredibly close. It comes as close as I expect any remake to come.
The good news is: My childhood came out in tact. Not only was this movie good, but I’m an adult who’s childhood won’t get ruined because someone made a movie.
You know the story at this point. Ghosts. Then these women bust them.
Ok, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, up for tenure at Columbia when she begins to gain some notice for a book she wrote a few years ago about the paranormal. She goes to see her old friend, Abby Yates (McCarthy) who’s now working under the radar on her paranormal activities with engineer Jillian Holtzman (McKinnon). As the ghost activity rises, the women eventually get the help of an MTA worker named Patty Tolan (Jones) who knows the history of the city and can help pinpoint the rise in ghost activity. The women must then dodge some strange federal agents, the Mayor himself (Andy Garcia), and a creepy dude who is trying to bring ghosts into the New York realm for reasons.
Oh, and they had a dimwitted receptionist named Kevin played by the dude that played Thor, and he’s hilarious.
First and foremost, this movie is funny. The women work well together and have a chemistry that is reminiscent of the original. It’s important to remember that the original wasn’t as planned as we saw on screen: it was mostly created as a buddy hang-out movie that happened to involve ghostbusting. The women here have their own unique chemistry, especially Wiig and McCarthy, who play long-time friends and have a nice bond. If anything, the only part that could have seemed a little forced would be the addition of Patty to the mix, as she isn’t a scientist, but she still placed into the cast nicely with her knowledge of all thing New York adding to the mix of people who have spent a lot of time in their labs, and not a lot of time friendly greeting people in New York.
The standout (everyone is saying she’s the standout, I guess I’m no different) is McKinnon, who adds a touch of weird to the movie that I didn’t even know it needs. The reasons she’s such a standout is because she manages to expertly balance the weirdness with the rest of the plot, never working to overshadow McCarthy, Wiig, or Jones, but still is memorable enough to make me wish for more of her work. But she does manage to tone it down during the parts where she needs to tone it down, like fighting ghosts, or moments when there’s a real element of danger. And that’s not saying the others aren’t great… seriously, there are some funny women in this movie.
Also, a great standout is Chris Hemsworth stretching his comedy muscles as Kevin, the dimwitted receptionist. He spends a long time basically making fun of his persona…. and it is perfect.
If I had any complaints about the movie, it was that the moments that fell flat were the ones that suck too much to the original. It starts with the haunting in a historic place (check), a scene of someone being fired (check), a part with an old lab (check again, complete with reference to “Burn in Hell Venkman” scene in the first)… it’s when the movie finds its own voice that it really takes off. But this is minor, as it breaks from these beats within the first fifteen minutes. Also, as I noted I spent a LOT of time watching the original… so I’d notice.
There was also a few moments where the movie attempts to add pathos and a backstory about ghosts that is really unneeded. Where the original largely played off the obsession with ghosts an odd fascination by odd scientists (and in the cast of Venkman, a way to not do any work) this one adds a backstory of a haunting. Sweet for the friendship, but a little unneeded.
But these are extremely minor.
To me, this is very much what a remake should be. It relies on the original as a jumping off point, then focuses on the chemistry and talents of the new cast. It was also nice to see cameos and references to the original Ghostbusters, including Bill Fucking Murray, and an extremely sweet moment dedicated to Harold Ramis.
My childhood isn’t destroyed (Although I may have to get back to you after the Pete’s Dragon remake next month), the legacy of Ghostbusters isn’t any more tarnished than it was after Ghostbusters 2 …. It’s just a fun remake of a fun movie. I’m really glad I saw it, and I’m looking forward to the next movie.