Ghostbusters (2016)

brooke I’m going to be honest right now…
I did not expect to enjoy this movie.
I was wrong.

casey I …didn’t hate it, I guess? It was intermittently funny. Some scenes worked well. But for the most part, I found Ghostbusters frustratingly mediocre.

brooke I’m sure some will feel the same as you, but I think you’re completely wrong. For starters, I love that the new characters are reminiscent of the original Ghostbusters team without copying them, and that all the references and cameos take the time to prove that everyone who put this film together cares about the original. They even managed to flip the genders without coming up with unnecessary gendered issue for one of the main characters to fuss over. So many female parts are only female parts because they have to have cleavage and complain about pregnancy/periods/PMS/etc. and this movie had none of those pitfalls.

casey Let’s cover the basics real quick: Ghostbusters reimagines the 1984 comedy with a new all-female team of Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), a physicist embarrassed by her ghost hunting past; Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), her estranged friend who went on to embrace paranormal studies; the brilliant and extremely strange engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon); and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a transit employee who joins the team after a ghostly subway encounter. The four ultimately join forces to defeat a sinister misanthropic dweeb named Rowan (Neil Casey) bent on unleashing an army of angry ghouls on New York City.

brooke For those keeping score at home, it doesn’t sound like a gender-bent remake of the 1984 Ghostbusters because it isn’t. The premise is the same (ghost hunting nerds in NYC) but the story and execution are completely different. Here are some reasons why I liked it:
1. This is the first female-led ensemble comedy since Mean Girls that I didn’t want to run away from (yeah, that was 12 years ago).
2. Kate McKinnon. My woman crush on McKinnon exploded during this movie. She plays deadpan weirdness so well (i.e. calling Pringles salty parabolas) and she gets an amazing kickass action sequence late in the film that made me feel like I could do anything (if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about).
3. Both Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert felt like real humans, which has been a recurring issue for both McCarthy and Wiig as actors in past roles and has kept me from enjoying some of their work.
4. Patty Tolan is not at all the character she appeared to be the trailers, which was a huge relief.
5. Kevin (the beefcake secretary played by Chris Hemsworth) was funny every time he opened his mouth.

casey For me there are a few core things that just don’t work, beginning with the Yates/Gilbert relationship. Frankly, there’s not much there there, no sense of connection between the two besides some plot contrivances necessary to bring the crew together. I got a kick out of Holtzmann, but she’s more a collection of goofy quirks and reaction shots than an actual character, and Tolan’s presence on the team never quite makes sense (although she’s associated with the best cameo). The flimsy characters wouldn’t have been a problem with better jokes, but the humor was very hit or miss, with too much of the improv-y stuff comedies are embracing these days at the expense of good writing. The result is funny just often enough to not be boring, but that’s about it.

brooke I can kind of see where you’re coming from, and while I agree that the glue holding the characters together is weak, the way they interact is so fun that I’m not bothered by those shortcomings. Yates and Gilbert are a shaky foundation to build on, but every time a new scientific thing happens, they explode in perfectly harmonic nerd joy. Holtzmann initially comes off as a bit of a buffoon with her odd behavior and odder wardrobe, but as the film progresses it becomes clear that she’s the smartest person on the team. And Tolan has a deep knowledge of the history of the city, buildings, events, etc. Her entrance into the team is questionable, but her role is never downplayed. And, really, how can you question this movie’s sense of humor with Hemsworth bumbling around like a perfect embodiment of Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove?

casey Hemsworth is a frickin’ riot. Maybe what the movie lacked is a sense of understatement or cleverness. I honestly don’t remember the original well enough to say if it had those qualities, but this one sure doesn’t. The humor is so broad and slapsticky, with everybody mugging for the camera like an extended SNL skit, which gets exhausting. But the movie is consistently good natured and there was never a moment where I actively disliked it besides a few terrible scenes where the ‘busters interacted with government agents intent on discrediting them. In the end I wanted to like the movie more, but it’s decent at best.

brooke You’re allowed to say so, but frankly, I don’t think it needed understatement. It could have used some better writing and more jokes, but despite the shortcomings (like how Wiig seemed nervous about being onscreen 75% of the time), it was smart, funny, and even took the time to mock its early critics. The antagonist is basically a sweaty, nervous embodiment of entitlement and I applaud cowriters Paul Feig and Katie Dippold for their every moment they took to laugh at anyone who didn’t think the Ghostbusters could be women.
And the government agents were the cherry atop the sundae. I think their function was that of the classic foil, and I mean that in the way that so many women are discredited for their work.
We didn’t even get into the great CGI they used for the ghosts…

casey Or how the movie literally destroyed my childhood.

brooke smh.
Readers, be sure to stick around until after the credits for a bonus scene.
I was prepared to pay my money to see the movie just as a way of showing I want more female-led blockbusters, but I think I’ll see it again a time or two for the fun of it.

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2 comments

  1. Tracy M · July 22, 2016

    Ok so here’s a thing, and it’s a thing I think matters:

    I basically am comfortable with your critique of it as a film- it has weak spots, and it’s imperfect- I was personally kind of dissatisfied with the rushed ending that seemed hacked on. BUT… and this is a big but…

    I just took 4/5 of my kids to see it. 2 XX, 2XY children, and every single one of them loved it. They laughed and guffawed and giggled all the way through. Afterwards, my two daughters were talking non-stop about how much they loved it, and how great McKinnon and McCarthy’s characters were- they got the SIgnorney Weaver joke because of Finding Dory, my teenage son kept talking about how smart Holtzman is, and he was old enough to be marginally aware of the dude-bro backlash about the film. He rolled his eyes hard and scoffed at their idiocy. These kids are going to grow up expecting to have movies were women are not props. This will not be remarkable to them. They drank this in like fun water- and the fact they are the future gives me hope.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Best Of 2016 at the Movies | Brooke and Casey At The Movies

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