57. Ghostbusters (2016)

I have returned!  After a wonderful week in rural Alaska, I feel like I haven’t seen a movie in about a year.  But I did see glaciers, beaches, sea otters, eagles, and a great friend, so it was well worth the trip!

But it’s back to business with the much-anticipated Ghostbusters!  I hated that I was unable to catch this on opening weekend as there’s been so much pre-release discussion and even controversy (if that’s the appropriate word) surrounding the film.  This is one of those movies that people decided to hate long before it was even released.  But, for some reason, the anonymous, emotionally-stunted Internet trolls have seemed to reach a new extreme regarding Ghostbusters.  People professed that the trailer was the worst trailer they’d ever seen (for what reason, exactly, I’ve never been clear on).  They rejoiced with every negative review (even though the positive reviews were greater in number).  And many people sunk to a frighteningly-more-common-and-acceptable low, launching personal attacks at star Leslie Jones (Patty, in the film) on Twitter to the point that she left the social media platform.

That’s absurd.  As much as I love movies, allow me to clearly state: it’s just a movie.  It’s not a justification for hate speech or slander.  But what about the attacks on the movie, itself?  Are those justified?  Well, that sort of thing is never justified before a movie has been released or viewed.  But now that I’ve seen it . . ..

I enjoyed it.  I was entertained from beginning to end and that’s all I was hoping for.  The cast is unquestionably the backbone of the film and are to credit for maintaining much of the tone and atmosphere.  I would say that Kate McKinnon is the standout as the delightfully bizarre Jillian Holtzmann.  I’m not sure how much of the dialogue is directly from the script and how much is improvised but McKinnon consistently delivers lines and performs sight gags that I can’t imagine working with anyone else in the role.  Even better, the film offers no explanations or apologies for why she’s as hilariously absurd as she is.  Just enjoy her.  Just accept her and enjoy her.

Chris Hemsworth has to get a specific mention, as well.  He’s perfect as the Ghostbusters’ well-meaning dolt of an assistant, Kevin.  Kevin is also regularly ogled by the women (particularly Kristen Wiig’s Erin) and nobody is offended because 1) he’s obviously a good-looking fella, so what’s the harm in acknowledging it?, and 2) the whole thing is pretty funny.  As is Hemsworth, in general.  His earnest, deadpan delivery is spot-on and, for me, the funniest scene in the whole film is his job interview.  If there was a Comedy Mjolnir, Hemsworth would be worthy of wielding it.

Melissa McCarthy, Wiig, and Jones all hold up their end of the deal, as well.  McCarthy and Wiig have both had better and funnier roles in the past, but they aren’t wasted and neither is Jones.  I won’t go further into the cast, but – for all of the objections that were solely based on their gender – they nail it.

The 2016 Ghostbusters isn’t a direct remake of the 1984 classic.  There are elements that remain the same and many, many references to that film, but this is an original story with original characters.  I can’t help but wonder if much of the initial backlash against the film would have been curbed if this film was set in the same universe and timeline as the original.  In my head, I see this new group being inspired to continue the original Ghostbusters’ mission when the need arises.  Very little of the final film would have required change and the whole project would have been seen as a continuation and not an attempted replacement.

By the way, that backlash started so early in the film’s production cycle that there are many (not-so) veiled references to it in the film, itself.  There’s even an entire character that represents the armchair haters.  I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that.  The character exists to make the point that these people’s opinions are irrelevant and they shouldn’t be given any credibility or attention (which I do agree with).  But then, director Paul Feig (who was very publicly angered by the attacks on his film) goes against that very idea with this particular character.  I see both sides of it, though I feel it ultimately distracts from the main ongoing narrative.

There’s also one line in the film that I feel didn’t belong.  It’s heavily featured in the trailers and TV spots and involves Leslie Jones’s Patty crowd-diving, only for the crowd to sidestep her entirely, allowing her to crash to the floor.  She angrily retorts with, “Okay, I don’t know if it’s a race thing or a lady thing, but I’m mad as hell!”  This is also possibly at least a partial reference to the sexist backlash that began as soon as the project was announced, and there are films where lines like these work, but I truly feel it isn’t a good fit for Ghostbusters.  This material is supposed to be a lighthearted escape fantasy and this just dragged me right back into our racist, sexist world and reminded me of how very unfunny those particular realities are.  It’s an ill-conceived moment but it’s also, thankfully, the only one of its ilk.

Also worth noting is that Ray Parker, Jr.’s legendary, beloved Ghostbusters theme gets two covers: one by Fallout Boy and the other by Walk the Moon.  Neither are anywhere near as good as the original but Fallout Boy’s, in particular, is pretty atrocious, completely abandoning the jovial spirit of Parker, Jr.’s classic hit.  The original gets a lot of play, though, and is a running theme in the film.

All in all, Ghostbusters is a fun time at the movies.  The humor works more often than not, the creature designs are outstanding, and the cast (particularly McKinnon and Hemsworth) delivers.  It’s not going to win any Academy Awards or make many Top Ten lists at the end of the year but it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: it provides an entertaining diversion and an introduction to the property for a generation of audiences who refuse to watch anything that came out before 2010.

And stay through the credits.  You’ll get a hint of things to (hopefully) come.

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