Published July 30, 2016 for the film review site I created, Crowd vs. Critic. Each film is reviewed twice, once from the Crowd perspective for its entertainment value (Popcorn Potential) and once from the Critic perspective for its Artistic Taste.
People, it’s time to get over the hype of forced controversy and made-up issues: The new Ghostbusters is funny. Not just haha funny, but legit LOL funny. (Sorry, is my Millennial showing?)
And to clarify, the new Ghostbusters is not a continuation of the old series that left off with Ghostbusters II in 1989—it’s a complete remake.
Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is applying for tenure as a physics professor at Columbia University, but her past comes back to haunt her just before her big review. Ghosts From Our Past: Both Literally and Figuratively: The Study of the Paranormal, a nearly-500-page book she co-wrote years ago and has since tried to bury six feet under, is available to buy online, and the director of a historical mansion wants her to investigate a phantom spooking the home.
Erin, her co-author Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), and eccentric engineer Jillian Holtzmann’s (Kate McKinnon) research is more than successful. They capture the first video of a live (for lack of a better word) ghost, and go into business as the Ghostbusters with expert New Yorker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and their enthusiastic (but mostly incompetent) secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). They begin hunting down angry spirits popping up all over New York City and investigating why they’re appearing in unprecedented numbers.
If you’ve had any doubts in your mind about the legs of this franchise, put them to rest. With more LOLs than their predecessors (and louder ones at that), these Ghostbusters build on the legacy of the past movies without feeling unoriginal. Even though the villain (Rowan North) is just so-so compelling, the opportunities for jokes and conflicts that come with the supernatural are infinite. McKinnon and Jones, whose comedy chops deserve infinite screen time, are more than capable at keeping up with bona fide stars McCarthy and Wiig. The four have a chemistry most movies covet.
Since this is a comedy first and foremost, the action is just satisfactory, but the glossy special effects (100,000x better than they were 32 years ago) add the jolt of intensity it needs. Plus, be on the lookout for nice nods to the 1984 movie, including a few familiar icons and clever cameos from Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver. (And to clarify, they are not reprising their original roles.)
Bottom line: The Ghostbusters redux is a healthy dose of freaky ghost nostalgia with a healthy dose of laughs. Seriously, people—get over the hype and go see it.
POPCORN POTENTIAL: 9/10
As I acknowledged in my 1984 Ghostbusters review, debating whether women are funny is, well, boring. The 2016 Ghostbusters is another example of just how gut-busting they can be. Co-writers Paul Feig and Katie Dippold made the most of their leads’ talents with a script full of sharp one-liners, juxtaposed jump cuts, and all flavors of zany.
Not that they leave all the fun for the ladies. One of the biggest revelations (though not totally out of left field) is that Chris Hemsworth is scene-stealing cut-up. Whether explaining his take on fish tanks or why he doesn’t wear lenses in his glasses, he draws out huge laughs like the best of them. Is it too late to make Thor: Ragnarok a buddy comedy with Jeff Goldblum?
Nope, there’s no doubt this film is an equal opportunity employer of hilarious people, but it wouldn’t have hurt to provide just as many opportunities for depth. The character work is thin through the whole film, barely scratching the surface of character’s motivations and relationships. I’m still wondering if the team had any internal conflict, and was it just me, or scene with an important emotional beat missing just before the last act?
This character underdevelopment is no help to the actors. Kristen Wiig is already a legendary comedienne, but she’s still working on her skills as a dramatic actress. As soon as it’s time to get emotional, it feels like she’s looking off-screen to read cue cards from her SNLdays. (I felt the same way in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Martian.)
Based on my commentary about the ’84 squad’s problematic treatment of women, I’d be remiss not to mention a gender politics issue here. As much as the film proudly shatters glass ceilings, it still doesn’t feel like a balanced perspective when it comes to dimwitted but earnest Kevin.
Nope, there’s no doubt Chris Hemsworth is an attractive human being, and he’s never indicated being one of the “sexiest men alive” bothers him. But the frequent mentioning of Kevin’s appearance—to the point it’s one of his main character traits—is objectifying. Erin asks about his relationship status in his job interview (which Abby reminds her is illegal) and tries to flirt with him in spite of his obliviousness. At one point, a character calls him a “flying beefcake.” In a film self-aware of the conversations about gender equality it created, it seems self-contradictory to treat Hemsworth as mere eye candy.
Bottom line: In a world with unlimited free time, I’d dig into the other themes just waiting to be discussed, like this series’ take on spirituality and why Fall Out Boy should probably never cover a classic theme again. (I recommend queuing up Mark Ronson, Passion Pit, and A$AP Ferg’s “Get Ghost” or G-Eazy and Jeremih’s “Saw It Coming” instead.) For now I’ll say it’s a good thing Ghostbusters isn’t a series we watch for the character work.
ARTISTIC TASTE: 6.5/10
Photo credits: Ghostbusters.com