Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)
The new Ghostbusters is one of the most controversial films of the year. And I'm going to avoid the controversy as much as possible. This is a film review. If the internet were a physical thing, you'd be able to throw a rock and find someone talking about the controversy. I straight up feel vulgar for bringing it up. However, it's become an elephant in the room that's impossible to ignore, and it's worth mentioning that I'm putting all that past me to review this objectively.
The new Ghostbusters begins with college professor Erin Gilbert teaming with her friends Abby Yates and Jillian Holtzman to battle ghosts - they've gone different paths. Gilbert is a college professor who wants her book buried so she can advance her job as a college professor while Holtzman and Yates are more serious about catching ghosts (but more aloof overall). When both sides lose their cushier jobs, they become Ghostbusters. After hiring a dim bulb (but handsome) secretary, having to locate themselves in a Chinese restaurant and building equipment, they team with subway worker, Patty Tolan to investigate a series of supernatural occurrences. The cause of much of the disturbance is a nebbish janitor who is summoning these ghosts to create world-destructing power.
Despite being a reboot of one of the most famous films/franchises of all times, this new version of Ghostbusters does its job in creating its own identity. The lead characters aren't just the smurfette versions of their male counterparts. They do in fact have distinct personalities. Erin Gilbert is ostensibly the stick-in-the mud who can still be enthusiastic about her work and a good friend to her comrades. Abby Yates is the typical Melissa McCarthy wildwoman with almost a mad scientist flair to her. Jillian Holtzman is a little bit Stantz and a little bit Spengler, playing the eccentric inventor. Patty is kind of a stereotypical black woman, but she was likable and most of her lines are funny. Secretary Kevin as mentioned earlier is dumb as a rock and the women make it clear they only hire him for his looks.
The main leads are all funny, and they play off each other well. If I had one nitpick, I feel that them being together so often results in scenes where they take turn giving lines - sometimes it feels like the movie has four Venkmans. I say that is a nitpick because I really can't complain that every character is funny. And yes, funny is the word to use. While this movie took a few minutes to get going, and a handful of jokes missed the mark, I laughed loud and I laughed often. I saw this in a theater and I laughed so hard at some parts, I felt slightly embarrassed. I realize humor is subjective, so I bring up the audience because they were laughing too. Even some of the jokes that had me cringing in that awful first trailer had me laughing because they made sense in context.
From a storytelling perspective, the new Ghostbusters succeeds in bringing a few new ideas to the table. One welcome addition is that this version shows how the Ghostbusters pieces together their identity. We see how they come up with their logo. The film shows these characters having to carry around large, cumbersome equipment before they develop the familiar proton packs. I never watched the original and complained that these scenes were missing, but these are welcome additions, and it is fun to see how they progress. The characters even develop a few new items which are pretty neat.
Not everything works however. Two complaints I wanted to address are the new theme and the mediocre special effects because people were grousing about them before the movie was released. It irks me to agree with the haters on anything, but a broken clock is correct at least twice a day. A few story beats feel a little too familiar - especially in the beginning and end. Also, Rowan is a pretty lame villain. He's obviously a diabolical dweeb character, and if I can give any faint praise to the character, I am grateful the filmmakers did not make him a full-blown strawman nerd stereotype (even though those cards are plaid once or twice), but those are not really replaced with anything else. Rowan does not have a particularly interesting personality or funny.To be fair, Rowan does become a little more menacing and interesting in the third act when his plan comes into fruition... Okay, two pieces of faint praise. There are some government characters who get in the Ghostbusters' way - they are a little more serviceable in their jobs and have a funny line here and there. Honestly, these flaws are not as obtrusive as they may sound, but they are part of the movie.
This new version does go for scares, but does not play the scare card as often as the original. There are a few scenes that could be perceived as scary - it is hard to gauge the difference between what is scary as a five-year-old to what is scary as an adult. There is more of a lean on action in the third act, which is fine because the action scenes are exciting some creativity is shown in the ghost battles. There is a solid balance between action and comedy. Rather than complaining about not enough scares, the filmmakers deserve praise for doing something well and distinguishing itself.
Overall, the new Ghostbusters is one of the better reboots. It may not be AS good as the original Ghostbusters, but hey, it's better than II. Joking aside, this is seriously up there as one of the best comedies made recently, and if you don't see it because of some prejudice or bias, it's your loss.
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