Ghostbusters (2016): It’s Not Bad For The Reasons You Think It’s Bad

For this review, I’m going to steal the IO9 format for reviews, a Q&A Style.

So you saw Ghostbusters

Yep.

First off, have you seen the original? Because that one is the best.

I watched it right before I saw the new one. And… well, to be honest, I didn’t love it.

*gasp*

I’m sorry. I know, blasphemy. I thought it was fine. Billy Murray was great. It was creative, and should be appreciated for being one of the first of its kind. But I wasn’t in love. The film uses tropes, silly effects, some lame jokes, and the world-building and setting up of the story is rushed or nonexistent. Maybe I can’t appreciate it as much because I don’t have the nostalgia factor, but it just didn’t grab my attention.

ghostbusters

Fine, it’s your opinion. I heard there was some craziness surrounding this movie before it was even released. My feed blew up with angry tweets, and didn’t Leslie Jones just make the news for something twitter-related?

You’re right, it was crazy. The minute Sony announced they were going to reboot the beloved franchise with an all-new female team, the internet went beserk. Suddenly, these well-liked actresses where the four horseman of the apocalypse, about to wipe every man off the face of the earth with their feminazi ideas and girl power. Suddenly the original was a modern Citizen Kane, and must be protected at all costs. This movie is a specific attack on everything America stands for! Women? They can’t be funny or keep our interest! They don’t need to be represented. They’re only 50 percent of the population and movie-going audience! Where’s my eighth Batman reboot?

You sound bitter.

I am. Here’s the thing. Women have had to put up with being the sexy secretary or girlfriend in movies for years. Rarely are they the main heroes. So Hollywood decided, hey, let’s see if doing the exact opposite, making only women the heroes and the men the sexy secretaries and boyfriend, will work. So now we’ve gone from 0-100. The ideal situation would be if there were male and female ghostbusters. But I’m not surprised Hollywood can’t do middle ground yet. I think if this movie worked, then it would be a step in the right direction to getting that balance.

So… did the movie work? Are we going to see more female-only franchises?

I don’t think we’ll see any more female-only franchise for a while, because the movie didn’t work and it isn’t making enough money.

So you didn’t like it. Is it preachy? Is it all about girl-power?

Not at all. The problem is that it is a really bland movie. It is not spectacularly funny, or even a good action film. It doesn’t make any real points about women, and while it caters to the female gaze for a change, it doesn’t make men feel uncomfortable. It doesn’t do much of anything.

Then why is everyone overreacting so much? A lot of people seemed threatened by the very existence of this film.

Any man with any amount of skin will be able to get over this movie. There’s maybe one or two jokes aimed at men, but none of them are malicious or preachy. The whole movie is so bad and nonthreatening, that it really does look silly in hindsight that anyone got upset about it. The 1984 original still exists. Go watch that if this one makes you sad.

So does the fact that the movie was bad mean that women really aren’t as funny as-

Stop right there. No.

But-

The truth is, because there are so few female-centric franchises and movies, it means every time one comes out it has to represent the whole female population, which is ridiculous. (And this doesn’t just go for lady-movies, but also any film centered around people of color.) No movie should have to bear that kind of weight. Yes, this movie wasn’t good. But most recent reboots aren’t, and that is where the problem lies, not in its on-screen talent.

Why does the movie suck then?

Before you reboot a franchise, you need to ask yourself (if you consider yourself an artist and not just a money-hungry Hollywood exec), Why am I rebooting this? What am I going to add to this brand? What will I change? What am I trying to achieve? Apparently, Sony and director Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids) did not ask themselves these questions. I think the creative meeting went something like this:

Sony Exec #1- We want to jump on the 80’s reboot train. Let’s remake Ghostbusters.

Paul Feig: Okay. As an artist, I want to know how we’ll make it different.

Sony Exec #2- I heard Frozen and The Hunger Games are doing good. Those star girls.

Paul Feig- Ohh, I like it. I’ve directed several great female-led comedies. This could be a creative, unique choice! Now let’s discuss what else we’ll change-

Sony Exec #1- Eh, we’ll finish this meeting later.

(after Sony announces the reboot, and the internet presses the self-destruction button)

Sony Exec #1- (holding a bottle of wine) So…. that went badly. (chugs)

Paul Feig- We can solve this. We just need to make this a really good movie.

Sony Exec #2- No! We need to make a generic, almost scene-by-scene remake of the original and play it safe.

Paul Feig- But-

Sony Exec #1 and #2- (still drinking) NO!

That’s more or less what happened.

The movie is a scene-by-scene remake?

Basically. All the original plot points are there. The only big difference between the two films, besides the gender-swapping of all the characters, is the absence of a Sigourney Weaver/Dana character and instead the villain is just an angry little man who creates ghosts and possesses people.

So yes, it lacks in plot. The original wasn’t much more than an extended SNL skit to be fair. However, the first at least has some funny moments. The new one has a few jokes that made me grin, but most of the time I groaned. Considering the talent involved- Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth (who really should be cast in more comedic roles) somehow aren’t able to elevate the material… or make better material. The film seems like a lot of the jokes were originally improvised, but were only funny on set and no one checked if they translated to the film well.

Is it true that Leslie Jones’s character was a racist stereotype?

I’m not the leading authority on that. I would suggest checking out other reviews by African-American film critics to really decide. However, I would say that Leslie Jones has branded herself with the “big, sassy, and loud black woman” type of humor. She’s been doing it on SNL for a while now, so it’s not surprising her role is written that way. It is a stereotype, and some people might think that is racist. However, it does not at all excuse the racist hate she was shown on Twitter. For what it’s worth, the group I went to see the movie with all enjoyed her performance, singling her out with Kate McKinnon as their favorite parts of the film. I thought she came off as very likeable, along with the rest of the cast.

Okay, the cast is likeable. Are there any other positives?

As a female viewer, there were little things here and there that really struck me as normal. Completely and utterly normal. There was very little “cool factor” here. These were real women doing real women stuff (in addition to, you know, busting ghosts). The fact that that stood out to me is a commentary itself on movies today. This film is also more family friendly (although it is still rated PG-13, so not for young kids). It doesn’t have all the sexual innuendo of the original. And like I said, there were some good jokes and ideas put forth. It just overall didn’t do anything for the Ghostbusters brand. Nothing was really added. No new developments were made.

Should I see it?

It’s not a must see, and I can’t really recommend it as good entertainment or even a fun movie. However, I think if you have young girls and you want them to see role models in movies, this could be a good choice. Even though the movie isn’t great, I hope I see some little kids dressed as ghostbusters for Halloween. That will make it worth it.

-Madeleine D

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