Ghostbusters (2016) Movie Review
Something Meh in the Neighborhood
A Film Review of Ghostbusters (2016)
If you didn’t realize there was a new Ghostbusters movie coming out this summer, chances are you don’t watch TV, don’t use the internet and more than likely live out in the hearty wilderness. The advertising campaign for this film had the kind of social penetration one would expect from a Star Wars film or a new installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This kind of visibility (paying Kobe Bryant to strap on a Proton Pack) and cross marketing (Papa John’s, Progressive Insurance, Volkswagen) is more than mildly suggestive of severe damage control by Sony Executives in an attempt to curtail this film’s largely negative preconceptions. [Please see this movie! Look at all the cool stuff we’re associated with!] With a production budget of $150 million dollars Sony has justified motivation to make certain this film makes money. However, there comes a point when the message is trying too hard and in their attempt to make female Ghostbusters a “cool idea” for males 18-35, the overcompensation may wind up back firing.
As for the movie itself, it is an unequivocal reboot of the original franchise from the ground up. There is no shared universe; the paranormal events of the 1980s in NYC did not happen. Fans of the original films may be disheartened by this, but can also be pleased or annoyed (toss of the coin) by a steady stream of re-gifted gags and concepts from the originals remixed with contemporary cultural phenomena that may or may not be received as “fresh” and “new.” The plot certainly isn’t, but the visual effects reflect the new (and expected) industry standard in terms of excellent blending with live action. However, be prepared to be inundated with flashy neon lights at all times of paranormal activity. In addition, despite a lack of historic proficiency in the creation of action sequences, the overall action was well performed and captured by both the cast and director Paul Feig. I guarantee that none of our leading ladies worked as hard physically in front of the camera and their efforts culminate in sequences the original films were simply incapable of.
The genre classification on IMDB lists the 1984 Ghostbusters as “Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy.” The classification for the 2016 Ghostbusters is “Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-Fi.” One might not notice a big difference here, but the order of priorities is 100% correct. The new Ghostbusters film is a comedy first and foremost as every single scene has some kind of laugh it is primarily concerned with setting up and paying off in a distinctly Saturday Night Live sketch comedy manner. One can take the SNL vibe or leave it, but the fact remains that there isn’t one iota of seriousness to the journey in this film. Whatever “danger” these ghosts present to the general public, no semblance of gravitas can be formed because all the laughs, gags and awkward humor in the world flanks every possible instance where the main characters could pull back and say “Whoa! This just got real!”
What allows this film to work as a sell-out comedy outside of its questionable plot, effects, history or substance is its cast and the genuine chemistry they all share with each other. This was a lynchpin to the success of the original films and it is no less important here. Melissa McCarthy refrains from sucking all the oxygen out of the room to allow her fellow leads equal opportunity to play off of and match her own comedic competence (unlike what occurred in Bridesmaids). The audience can tell these women had an awesome time making this movie together and that sentiment shines through in such brilliant fashion during its runtime.
I was stunned at the amount of action this film had that wasn’t exclusively wrangling ghosts with neutrino wands. Our leading ladies get into some serious scraps with these pesky poltergeists by manner of fisticuffs, gunplay and explosives. They also get tossed around a lot because they get whipped a couple of times.
Wider shots that tended more towards complete CG had some interesting angles going on, but as dynamic as the action sequences were, one could tell these weren’t another Michael Bay shameless rip from the 80s.
Melissa McCarthy is fairly funny, but also delivers the exact same performance you’ve seen her accomplish in everything she’s been in. Ditto for Kristen Wiig. Kate McKinnon is the goofball, but seemed to be sending out a confusingly homosexual vibe which would have been fine had she not been so determined to come off as an absolute joke whenever she wasn’t talking about tech stuff. Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan was easily the most consistent and charismatic of the Ghostbusters. She brought sobering moments of anger and shock to balance her comedic delivery.
The one point goes to Chris Hemsworth for having the courage to play the dumbest, most mind-numbingly vacant excuse for female eye candy EVER placed in front of a camera. Yes, he’s hysterical, but in the back of my mind, Thor is shaking his head in disapproval. Nobody else in this entire cast that isn’t a Ghostbuster is worth a lick of salt which especially includes Andy Garcia for his “paycheck film” performance and the lamest villain since the bad guy in any Pee Wee Herman film courtesy of Neil Casey.
Oh no. New flashy tracks with big names do not a good soundtrack make. I am so happy they did not put the original Ray Parker Jr. song on repeat throughout, but doing so probably would have been an improvement. None of it sounded spooky at all.
Yes! Great audio effects for all the pseudo science ghost-busting equipment. The ghosts themselves also sounded pretty great, but again, not particularly spooky.
“Moving” = 17/33
All ghostly and supernatural effects throughout looked really neat, at least at first. Unfortunately, the exclusively neon color gradient used for every single ghost got distracting and with even more neon introduced with proton pack lasers, it was like watching My Little Ponies at a rave party shooting rainbows of Skittle candies at each other from their unicorn horns.
Well done practical effects with wire work! Our ladies get beat up pretty well by their ghostly opposition as they are thrown about the screen with seamless proficiency. Also, who doesn’t love slime and goo everywhere?
Yikes. This is a significant downgrade from the jumpsuits in the original films. Seriously, these new ones are burlap sacks with orange duct tape wrapped around them. More effort was needed here.
Hair & Makeup
For a collection of women who aren’t on the short list to be cast as “the babe” in any particular film, the hair and makeup team made every single Ghostbuster look pretty damn cute. Point deduction for Andy Garcia’s team who seemed to go for a slight awkward Crypt Keeper look about his face.
No. No. No. Part of what made the original Ghostbusters film great was that it was also a great NYC movie featuring a bunch of notable landmarks and wide exterior shots that presented the city itself as an honorary character. The exteriors in this film are far too boxed in save for the climax which looked like it was setup on a soundstage.
Interiors are the polar opposite what with a nice range of diversity among businesses, schools, laboratories and hotels filled out with some very neat set dressings (especially in the labs).
“Picture” = 19/33
“Besties” from high school are reunited through convenient circumstance bringing in to question the validity of paranormal science. Videotaped evidence leads to a journey through a sea of naysayers and debunkers to fight real ghosts.
Ghosts are bad on their own, but someone is causing them to be more assertive than your garden variety haunting.
Good guys win. Bad guys lose. And an obvious hook to turn this into a franchise appears post credits.
The women really shine in their casual repartee as the crack wise and figure out what to do next. They falter when they try to use scientific jargon which is meant to at least sound funny, but comes off as laborious. All of Leslie Jones’ lines are pure gold though.
These characters may not have the greatest depth in the world, but that also means their back stories can be wedged in anywhere and shelved instantly to get back to the laughs and action.
Yes, these Ghostbusters are women who live in a fictional universe completely removed from the original film with their own, personal idiosyncrasies. The problem is, those eccentricities directly equate them as feminine iterations of their original counterparts: Kristen Wiig = Peter Venkman, Melissa McCarthy = Ray Stantz, Kate McKinnon = Egon Spengler and Leslie Jones = Winston Zeddmore (not just a race thing, but also a race thing).
Sure, some people may know the bitterness of social media pointing and laughing at whatever you do or say, but the more heartfelt message of these Ghostbusters is that people, no matter how weird, or tough, or silly, want to belong and it takes special people to put differences aside and accept you for who you are.
“Story” = 19/34
Overall MPS Rating: 55/100
The new Ghostbusters film of 2016 is an average blockbuster featuring above average comedy telling a story that isn’t overly concerned with the concept of an interesting plot. Fans of SNL and Bridesmaids will instantly feel the exact tone of those comedies echoed here. I didn’t hate this film, but there was nothing special going on here that I haven’t already seen on SNL,Bridesmaids or the original Ghostbusters. Plugging in Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd (and changing absolutely nothing else) would have yielded the exact same product and the main reason is because a story about people fighting ghosts to save the world without any drama or danger ultimately has no relevance. If there’s something wrong in the neighborhood, I am unfortunately going to have to call He-Man. By the Power of Greyskull: let there be NO MORE REBOOTS!
P.S. – I had to make special note of the Chris Hemsworth dance routine that played during the final credit roll of this film. This sequence is noticeably absent from the film proper as it was clearly setup in scenes that preceded the final confrontation. I can understand if Paul Feig decided to cut this for time purposes, and I can also understand using it for something because it is somewhat funny, but it also seems like a huge waste of resources to have it choreographed, performed and CG’d only to scrap it entirely. That’s all right though. I’m sure the money couldn’t possibly have been used better elsewhere…