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Saturday
Jul162016

Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Remember when Sony rebooted Sam Raimi’s take on Spider-Man (2002) with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)? Their whole conceit at the time appeared to be “What if you didn’t know the story?” so they just told it again. Only everyone actually did know the story. The result was an instantly forgettable retread, useless but for the printing of money. While that may have been the whole point, it left a lousy corporate aftertaste. It took the world gargling with some Marvel Studios mouthwash (aka Captain America: Civil War) to make people excited about Spidey again.

The good news is that this mega corporation appears to have learned from its mistake. Ghostbusters NOW does not moronically assume you don’t know Ghostbusters THEN. Sure, it’s the same story again — the Ghostbusters set up shop, refine technobabble gadgets, fight against a supernatural invasion of New York and the bureaucrats that get in their way — but writer/director Paul Feig and his cowriter Katie Dippold (who wrote The Heat together) have correctly guessed that the fun of the movie will be in the makeover... 

the ladies fighting the (undead) patriarchy

The story gets a new look, freshened up details, and most famously, four female Ghostbusters and a male receptionist in place of the original’s four men and a female receptionist; that gender inversion proved more revolutionary that any rational human might have expected because a lot of manbabies have been freaking out on the internet ever since.

It is here where I should probably remind you that I think the original is fine, but nothing more. Its reputation as a great comedy is the work of supernatural mass possession, and/or nostalgia. Neverthless people hold it sacred. Those people apparently include everyone involved with the new film. Given that Ghostbusters (2016) takes every opportunity it can to wink in the direction of Ghostbusters (1984) as if you know it by heart, it’s a mystery as to why they didn’t just write a new story that takes place 32 years after the original rather than revising the origin to take place now. But that’s Hollywood logic: they’re obsessed with origin stories even in franchises that are on film number 3, the case here, or 7 (as with The Force Awakens and its veritable retread of Star Wars‘s plot).


That aggravation aside, it was hard to even stay a little bit mad at the film since it starts well with a tour of a haunted house (with actual jokes for minor characters!) and stays funny for good stretches thereafter. It also knows how to keep a single gag going through multiple scenes as with its clever obsession with the iconic Ghostbusters logo. The cast works hard to entertain.

The original film leaned so hard on Bill Murray’s effortless deadpan for its laugh-out-loud moments that it sometimes felt like a one man show that the goddess Sigourney Weaver was occassionally interrupting to steal scenes. The new version spreads the joking around much more equitably and why not? Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones are all dependably funny women and the screenplay makes sure they each get a big solo moment. But it’s Kate McKinnon as the lusty for science (and…?) “Holtzmann ” who generates the biggest laughs. Sometimes she conjures them from thin air without any joke there.

Chris Hemsworth has a blast mocking his ridiculous attractiveness as their dumb hunk receptionist and the film rewards him with a showstopping finale. The ladies keep him around just for the pretty which is more of a gentle mocking  than a mean-spirited potshot at Hollywood’s perpetual Male Gaze.

In one of the movie’s most memorable gestures, Holtzmann licks one of her weapons; her own genius turns her on. But, keeping it real now, no one will love this movie as much as this badass loves science. I don’t want to oversell it. Let us not speak of the hideous new version of the 1984 theme song. Let’s not dwell on the unfortunate fact that the only black Ghostbuster is the sole non-scientist again. And we won’t check the running time since Paul Feig makes super funny movies (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy) but always risks letting them outstay their welcome.

But “Answer the Call,” anyway as the tagline commands. The best reason to see Ghostbusters (2016), aside from crushing the spirits of misogynists who want it to fail, is that it’s sweet and silly where the original opted for sarcastic and smug. They may have nurtured the script with that 1984 template, but by its very 2016 nature it becomes a different beast. And the feminist revamp, if we can even call it that, is of the affectingly subtle variety. These four women respect each other and work together to get better at Busting those Ghosts. It may not be the freshest popcorn entertainment in the world, but in this particular mainstream movie summer, it’ll more than do.


Grade: B
MVP: Kate McKinnon by a mile
Oscar Chances: They don't like comedy or remakes. Also it's not awards worthy, just a fun diversion.

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Reader Comments (26)

I just came from seen this movie and I agree that Kate McKinnon is MVP, but right behind her is Leslie Jones, who does marvels with her character and has some of the funniest dialogue. But the movie, in my opinion, is overly long and without a strong center around which to create tension. It is a good time at the movies (a little scarier at the beginning) but it could have been so much more.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Go ladies!
Fck misogynist fanboys

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

If it weren't for the middling reviews, I was actually planning on seeing this. But an average retread of an average movie doesn't sound like something odd be interested in.

Still it makes a lot of money though to shut up all the haters.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

Love this new "MVP" thing with the reviews.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIbis

Ibis, thanks. i'll try to get the others to do it too.

July 16, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I had the same problem with this as most comic book movies: incredibly underdeveloped villain. The ladies were great and I laughed a great deal (kudos on the MVP pick), but there was never any tension -- that even the original provided.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

Any chance you could get your readers to check their spelling, etc. before they submit?
"I just came from seen this movie" rather than "seeing".
"sound like something odd be interested in" rather than "something in which I'd be interested".
Spelling errors and bad Grammer make this Gramper angry!

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRJL

I'm seeing this tomorrow. Girls rule, Boys drool.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@RJL: think you mean "grammar."

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames from Ames

@RJL - I'm assuming most of us here comment on our phones which are prone to auto-correcting in the worst way. And when you're always on the go, it's sometimes difficult to go over your text before you post.

Oh and one more thing: be sure to pull that stick out of your ass.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

If you had told me 3 years ago that a female remake of "The Ghostbusters" would cause a full on meltdown from so many immature sexist fanboys I would not have believed you.
However they really did react badly and fortunately the female version is on it's way to being a success. These fanboys probably have trouble with the fact that women can vote as well.

Imagine being alive 20 years in the future and being able to tell people that you were present during the year that was the last gasp of the patriarchy. I just hope this last gasp doesn't go on too much longer.

July 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

I don't know. Remaking semi-recent films is kind of absurd. This, spiderman, what are they going to remake next Memento or Donnie Darko.

With that said, at least they switched it up with a female cast - even if it looks like they otherwise mostly stuck to the same story. I hope it fails, just like I hoped the Garfield-Stone spiderman films would fail. McCarthy & Team could be making much better ORIGINAL films instead.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

is there a gender flipped version of sigourney's character?

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I saw Ghostbusters on Friday afternoon. It’s fun and silly, as you would expect a mid-summer family movie to be. Its sheer good-naturedness makes the fanboy outrage seem all the more weird and overblown.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLiz S.

Especially during this 'summer' season (it's winter here!), Ghostbusters was a bright breath of fresh air. I enjoyed it greatly.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I can say happily that I enjoyed this remake.

However - and it pains me to say it - there are large failings in pacing and actual storytelling in the film. It felt too much like a series of sketches tied together to make a plot, and where the original actual works is combining some genuinely effective scares with a combination of humour and storytelling.

Zuul, the hauntings and the possession sequences in the original were very effective, whereas the glossiness of this and elements of humour just don't really work as well. I felt that Melissa McCarthy - oddly - was the weakest part of this and it doesn't fall down on her, but what her character was given.

I totally love that it's an all female reboot. The haters are just sexist toads. But there were a lot of missed opportunities in this. It might be more to do with the state of big budget filmmaking today, but it left me wanting so much more. Not the original, just something that struck that balance more.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSeán

You know im reading this review and all these comments most of them Are very one sided not to mention the article writer. Im a girl 28 years and i thought this movie was terrible one of the most terrible films ive seen!!! Does that make me a woman hater being a woman NOOO the script is a pile of garbage and gag after gag made me almost walk out. Got nothing to do with being all woman or that crap. And i see me women on youtube that dont like it either. Stop saying its all men that hate this move because they hate women because that is just not true. Yes some did say they didnt like the all female thing, but read and watch everything and it you find out "people" dont like it because of many other reason beside the women thing. If you want strong female charachter sigourney weaver in alien films, god force awaken girl in star wars, the new rogue one movie with strong female lead, but no one talkes about those stong female roles, not the slap stick crap( and i likes these actors also!!) in ghostbusters..

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJessicalives

Jessica - There are still some people who belong to Log Cabin Republicans too so....

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Jessica, most of the haters came out against this movie before they even saw it. That is the difference. And that is blatant misogyny. Period.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I thought it was quite funny, although the ghostbusting finale was a bit overlong and uninteresting. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones were definitely the standouts.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

brookesboy

See what i mean you totally disregard every else i say. OH ITS BLATANT MISOGYNY. And yes i did watch the trailers and thought omg what is this!? But i gave it a chance because yes i am woman and i did see the women hating comments but its not all the comments so dont just make it black and white like sony and paul feig make it out to be. No one can probably criticise this movie without being a woman hater. God dammit this PC BULLCRAP is disgusting sometimes.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJessicalives

I loved it. It was so much fun, those ladies are incredible. Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones especially, but I loved Cecily Strong too. I've never seen the original and found the constant breaks for fan-service annoying (I didn't understand them but the girls next to me were freaking out so I assumed the people they were freaking out over had been in the original film), but that's my only complaint. I have no interest in seeing the original anyway, why bother with the dudes when I can have these amazing ladies?!

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I saw it last night. It was decent. This is a seriously talented quartet, but I felt that other than McKinnon they weren't given especially funny characters to play. I saw the original as a kid but don't have any particularly significant memories of it--it was never a favorite of mine.

That said, I hope it does well financially because I'd love to see these ladies get offered good film work and for there to be more female-fronted comedies.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The only people to make an issue out of the all-female slant of this film are a vocal and virulent group of men that *regularly* make an issue out of things like this. It's not "all the comments" but it was more than a fair share and more than enough to shape the dialogue around this film. Denying that is just delusional.

That being said: this is a fun film, perfect summertime fare. It's entertaining and bounces along before some third-act drag. Kate McKinnon absolutely steals the film with her wonderful and specific weirdness- we learn next to nothing about her character but McKinnon is able to create a fully-fleshed brilliant weirdo out of it. I wish more performers were as unique and weird as McKinnon has proven herself to be- she is a one-of-a-kind performer and that makes her work equally one-of-a-kind. From her SNL work (hers is the best take on Hillary anywhere, to say nothing of her work as Ellen, Bieber, or original characters) to Holtzmann, McKinnon is just a gem. I hope Hollywood knows what to do with her.

July 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

Just saw this last night, and what a refreshing time at the movies. This is what a summer blockbuster used to be--fun, silly, scary, good-natured, with memorable characters you really love watching. My one complaint was that it could have had a few more great jokes, but all in all, this was a really fun time at the movies. These chicks busted ghosts with a fierceness.

July 18, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Special Thanks for this from your friends at...
Christmas Countdown
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September 7, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

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