In case you don’t want to read to the end of this: the new Ghostbusters is far more entertaining than Ghostbusters II, which isn’t saying much, but it’s not quite as entertaining as the original because the original was ORIGINAL. But first, I know you’re not supposed to review the actual act of seeing a movie, but Thursday night’s screening of the new Ghostbusters revamp/reboot was incredibly bizarre and I think recounting what happened will help explain why this movie is not the disaster everyone expects it to be.
The screening was held at the Lincoln Square Imax, thought by many to be the finest Imax theater in the world, and a capacity crowd had gathered — regular humans as well as press attended and they were lined up on a sweltering day for hours to see the film on the mammoth screen. So then, as the lights went down everyone put on their 3D glasses and the movie began, almost as one the hundreds of people gathered cried out in terror as suddenly we COULD NOT SEE. Something was wrong and I took off my glasses. One lens was black and one was white!!! Huh, I never realized that was how it worked before. The movie looked awful with the glasses on, and everyone realized that not only was the movie NOT in 3D or Imax, it was actually running from a computer file, and we knew that because there was a white strip at the bottom with the Windows logo in the lower left corner. Despite this handicap (a computer file looks like shit projected on an Imax screen in case you were wondering) as the movie began there were laughs. But just as the story was getting going a bunch of Sony people ran out and stopped the film. Apologizing, they said we could go get candy and popcorn while they got the right “print”. Indeed there was free snacks and soda in the lobby! While they got the Imax version queued up a small riot to get free candy ensued and no one would go back to their seats until they got their Goobers. But finally everyone sat down and it was announced the film would start from the top. Groans, as no one wanted to sit through the same 15 minutes again.
So could there be a worse set up for a film? A risible print, a candy riot and having to sit through the same thing twice?
Despite all this, once the movie got to the new part, everyone started laughing and clapping again, and the film seemed to win over the audience entirely. So literally, a crowd was pleased. Bustin’ made them feel good.
(Also the 3D glasses went back to being white in both lenses. WTF that was all about I have no idea.)
Ghostbusters 2016 has been brutally attacked by men on the internet because it stars four funny women instead of four funny men, and the idea of four women starring in a movie is seen as a gimmick and pandering whereas four MEN starring in a movie is normal and how god intended it. Anyone who objects to this movie just because it stars four women is a bigot and that’s one thing we need a little less of.
And let’s look at the big picture. A new Ghostbusters had languished for decades because a) the original was perfect and a new one starring Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender wouldn’t improve on it and b) well you don’t need a “b” because Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and the late Harold Ramis are/were all aware of “a.” If you’re not going to do something worth doing it would just be a lame cash grab.
So if this movie had not starred Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, who would it have starred? Since all Ghostbusters must come from SNL, let’s say it was Bill Hader, Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Kevin Hart, because all movie must star Kevin Hart.
Would that movie really have been any funnier or fresher than a movie starring McKinnon and Jones, SNL’s latest break out stars?
Really would it?
Giving the Ghostbusters formula a gender swap with four of the funniest people on the planet and Chris Hemsworth, one of the hottest, is not just one of the ONLY fresh things they could have done, but one of the only CONTEMPORARY things they could have done.
OKAY THAT SAID, Ghostbusters 2016 is to the original as Jurassic World is to Jurassic Park, as several have pointed out. It’s basically the same elements — a fire house, Slimer, a hearse, scientists, contraptions, jumpsuits — mixed up with new jokes and special effects. And as with Jurassic World, the charisma of the stars is what gives it a fresh coat of paint.
The New Ghostbusters starts with a haunting at a New York mansion, to give some idea of the threats we’ll face. It then introduces Wiig as Erin Gilbert, a physics professor at Columbia whose tenure review is threatened by the reemergence of a book she wrote with Abby Yates (McCarthy) which was all about how ghosts actually exist. Erin goes to see Abby to beg her not to keep promoting the book and finds her in a new paranormal research lab with Jillian Holtzman (McKinnon), Abby’s new partner. When the three are called to investigate the haunting at the mansion, Erin’s love of ghosthunting is rekindled, and from there, it’s a familiar tale as the three — soon aided by Jones’ Patty Tolan, an MTA station manager who knows all about the history of New York and has an uncle with a hearse they can use for gigs.
Along the way we also meet Neil Casey as Rowan North, a creepy hotel employee who has some scheme to bring the apocalypse to life. And the new Ghostbusters decide to hire a receptionist, Kevin, played by Hemsworth. It must be admitted, Hemsworth is one of the funnest things in the movie. Hired because he’s so dreamy, he takes dimwitted to a new level, and Erin’s doe eyed stuttering around him is another one of the funniest things in the movie. Along the way there are cameos, in jokes, slimings, a mayor (Andy Garcia) who wants to keep things under wraps and all the other things you’d expect from a movie caled Ghostbusters.
The plot of Ghostbusters never sounded inherently funny, and director Paul Feig, who wrote the movie with Katie Dippold, has made this a movie where the humor comes from the characters, just as with the original. Erin, Abby and Patty are all people we like and their jokes spring from that, not from set-ups. I think people were expecting a fall on the floor laugh riot like a Seth Rogen movie, and this is more subdued than that.
McKinnon’s Jillian is something else though. She’s far more cartoonish, a sort of Bugs Bunny/Deadpool/Captain Jack Sparrow type character who doesn’t really fit in with the more grounded characterizations. (Maybe it was just the goggles, but she reminded me of Hopey Glass.) Don’t get me wrong, she’s so inherently funny anything she does gets laughs, but often it’s just cutting to her reacting to something else happening. People are either going to love her or hate her. (Also, the movie doesn’t really run away from the idea that Jillian is gay, which is another welcome break from tradition.)
By the end of the film, horrible supernatural threats are trying to destroy New York, our four heroes have to cross the streams and rescue Kevin, and a very expensive and well-paced action climax ensues, followed by credits that look go great in 3D Imax that I might recommend seeing it in that format just for the credits. It’s very sad when one of the Ghostbusters dies, though.
KIDDING. Just wanted to see if you got this far. Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t a groundbreaking comedy classic, but it *is* a groundbreaking movie, and a lot of people hate it sight unseen because of the twist on the much loved premise. And some people just don’t think women can be funny, despite the history of women in humor from Moms Mabley and Mae West to Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones and Feig have made a fine summer entertainment that satisfied THIS Ghostbusters fan just fine.
That the film is already seen as a risky disappointment that male filmgoers have no interest in is a sad comment on how Hollywood views films about women and about how men view female protagonists. But you know, it’s 2016 people, let’s try to pretend we’ve made a little progress.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.