The most controversial movie of the summer is here … But is the 2016 all-female lead version of Ghostbusters as good, better or worse than the original? The answer lies within
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Matt Walsh, Michael K. Williams, Neil Casey, Ed Begley, Jr., Karan Soni, Zach Woods and Michael McDonald
But once Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley, Jr.) comes calling to Erin to let her know about the presence of a ghost at a nearby museum, Abby and her assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) reluctantly rope her along for the ride to investigate – which turns out to be an experience they will never forget. For not only do they see a ghost, the ghost sees them – which leads to a rather nasty encounter for Erin and her dry cleaning.
Meanwhile, subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) is simply doing her job when chasing an aspiring graffiti artist leads to her discovering a ghastly figure of her own and eventually contacting Abby, Holtzmann and the now-fired Erin. And as a series of similarly otherworldly events unfold, the foursome decide to go into business, eventually settling on the name Ghostbusters (much to Erin’s chagrin) and hiring Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) as their secretary … Even though the only thing he knows how to do well it seems is make Erin’s heart aflutter with his good looks.
But why are all these ghosts starting to suddenly pop up in New York City? No one knows for sure … Except maybe for Rowan (Neil Casey), that is …
SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? Much safer and played broad for laughs than it should be, the new Ghostbusters movie is about as polarizing as Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. And unless you’re 100 percent on board with one of those candidates, you’ll realize that is a choice that might make many people want to abstain from electing it as their choice over the original. First, while the well-documented online backlash about the film’s female leads was in many instances ridiculously misogynistic, one thing that it was somewhat valid was the fact that the move was gimmicky. And not just because of the casting of four female leads. For one, while it’s no secret executive producer Dan Aykroyd had been pushing for years to get a third Ghostbusters movie made, neither is the fact that by casting four female leads the production team knew they were going to have a built-in talking point. Despite the success of women like Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Samantha Bee, Jessica Williams and more recently Nikki Glaser, etc., the debate over whether or not are women funny has long since been settled. Because they are. And Ghostbusters co-writer and director Paul Feig’s 2011 female comedy magnum opus Bridesmaids is a prime reason that has since been settled to all but the usual Internet trolls.
In the case of Ghostbusters, though, once you get past that issue, you have to examine the actual film itself. And in doing so, the flaws start to become more and more detectable by each frame. Whereas Leslie Jones’ character was looked to be made a fool in the trailer – another source of deserved and preventable controversy – she actually makes her character fit into the mix … But for every one person that will see her actions as funny and fitting, there’s the distinct chance others will see her as the loud black female that is usually the loud black male role in a comedy with a predominantly white cast. Feig and Jones’ have defended the character in recent interviews, but depending on what you see (or more accurately, want to see and focus on), it’s going to be hard to tell either side of that argument they are wrong.
It has its fair share of laughs, to be sure, and the acting – even that of Leslie Jones (which was among the many beleaguered elements of the film’s debut trailer) – is not horrible and works for the characters. McKinnon essentially steals the show with her character’s super wackiness (this is her on Saturday Night Live turned up all the way to “10”); then again, her character is so wacky and off the wall that she might be too intense for some people. (Harold Ramis’ character was weird but subdued; McKinnon’s is NOT subdued to put it mildly.) But other than Jones and McKinnon, the biggest laughs are generated from Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of an ultra-dimwit male secretary – a not-subtle-at-all dig on gender roles. Despite their comedy pedigree, Wiig and McCarthy’s characters are so one dimensional they are under utilized. While the chemistry among the four female leads is clear, that chemistry isn’t matched with the material as the jokes – for a film that is attempting to flip its haters on its ear – is often to broad and doesn’t go big enough. Often fed with a “here comes the joke!” setup, the 2016 Ghostbusters always make sure you are two steps ahead of them, which hurts the enjoyment of the film.
While men in the film are often the patsy of the joke, the lead male villain portrayed by the relatively unknown Neil Casey (an actor/contributor to several hit comedy shows in recent years including Kroll Show, The League and Saturday Night Live) is, well, not good – both in terms of as a character and in Casey’s portrayal of it. This is no Gozer or Vigo the Carpathian here, he’s not even a Zuul – he’s just … Corny. Likewise, despite Dan Aykroyd’s self-serving boasts, this version of Ghostbusters, no matter how you slice it, is NOT funnier or scarier than the original. The graphics look better, but that doesn’t make it better. Still, that is not the biggest problem the film has …
No, the biggest problem with this version of Ghostbusters has is the one that was the easiest to prevent: The only thing that is original about it is the casting of the four female leads. For JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE FEELS LIKE THEY TRIED TO MAKE THE FIRST FILM OVER WITH NO NUANCE TO MAKE IT STAND ON ITS OWN. (Sorry for yelling.)
Cast-wise, it’s the same except you’ve got two passive, somewhat simple scientists (the Dan Aykroyd character) instead of one, the wacky scientist (the Harold Ramis character) … And the non-scientist black character (the Ernie Hudson character) – but no Bill Murray character, which was so essential to the first one. Likewise, there’s the delusional I will be the leader of the ghosts character (see the first two films), but no Walter Peck EPA villain that was perfectly snarky to deal with nor any other really intriguing side characters save for some extremely quick cameos from the likes of Matt Walsh and Steve Higgins.
What? Surprised I didn’t mention the cameos from the original cast? That’s because they really aren’t that good – Aykroyd has the best joke of any of them and it’s now in the film’s opening week TV commercials. (It is nice to see Annie Potts in a movie again, though … And the subtle tribute to the deceased Ramis was kinda nice.) There’s also a rehash of Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, but they are little more than meaningless nostalgia meant to appease fans of the original – and the usage of one of them makes even less sense. I mean, the original theme song is used and then presented with a lame modern remix for heavens sake – how much more of an homage are you trying to make?!
Therein lies the failed opportunity of a movie that many will say is fine but many more will likely say never needed to exist: It fails to outdo the original, placate many of its detractors (although one must admit they likely may not have ever been placated) and give its four female leads the vehicle worthy of their talent to overcome the monumental task ahead of them. If the mission was to craft a movie worthy of a girls’ night out – sorry again, Mr. Feig – and/or create a simple cinematic diversion for the mainstream, then mission accomplished.
If the mission was to create a film that could be considered as beloved as the original, well, I’m sorry – the question isn’t who ya gonna call, it should have been why did the call to get this version of Ghostbusters get answered.