Directed by: Paul Feig || Produced by: Ivan Reitman, Amy Pascal
Screenplay by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig || Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Charles Dance, Michael Kenneth Williams, Chris Hemsworth
Music by: Theodore Shapiro || Cinematography: Robert Yeoman || Edited by: Melissa Bretherton, Brent White || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 116 minutes
Let me start this review by admitting I am not a diehard Ghostbusters (1984, 1989) fan. I rewatched the 1984-movie as a young adult and grew to respect it for its comedic talents, unique genre-blending identity, and unforgettable deadpan humor. That being said, I did not grow up worshiping the franchise nor do I have much patience for film comedy in general. Outside of genre-satires like Tremors (1990-2004), Krampus (2015), Starship Troopers (1997), or the works of Edgar Wright, comedy may be my least favorite genre in cinema. As I’ve stated numerous times on this site, most modern American comedies are little more than lightly edited improv, with actors awkwardly talking at each other in close-up over and over and over and over again for 90-120 minutes, occasionally taking breaks for poop, fart, or sex jokes.
Which brings us to Paul Feig. While the man puts more effort into his film comedies (Bridesmaids , The Heat , Spy ) than most, and he is able to write a screenplay worth a damn, his comedies retain the same stale, generic, improv-style of mainstream Hollywood comedies. The only thing that distinguishes his filmmography from the likes of Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, and Todd Phillips is that his films star female comedians.
And that brings us to Sony’s 2016 Ghostbusters-remake. Upon hearing that Sony was rebooting the title with an all-female cast in mid-2015, my first reaction was: “Everyone’s gonna reject it. It’s gonna flop!” So far, based on my calculations, my predictions weren’t far off. Why?
For one, Ghostbusters (2016) is no different than the unnecessary Conan the Barbarian (2011), Total Recall (2012), or Robocop (2014) remakes, all of which either flopped or underperformed at the box office. All four of those originals are popular, classic titles that remain respected and still hold up to this day. While any reboot, hard or soft, has a chance to succeed, studios attempting to rehash lightning-in-a-bottle type properties that were unique to their time-periods are most always doomed to fail. Add to that how Sony flipped the cast’s genders in the most simplistic way (a sales gimmick, in other words), hired a director who was clearly not a good fit for the material (Feig), and responded to fans’ negative reactions to their terrible marketing campaign by labeling any detractors as misogynists, manchildren, basement-dwellers, sexually inept fanboys, and losers (I think that’s everything…), and the studio was asking for trouble way before their film even released.
Regardless of your opinions on Sony, Feig, the new cast, or Ghostbusters in general, attacking your core audience is never a good idea, particularly if you’re banking on misplaced brand-nostalgia to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars and start a new franchise. Contrast Sony’s disastrous public relations and marketing campaign with Paramount’s rebooting of Star Trek (2009), or better yet, Walt Disney’s masterful relaunch of Star Wars in The Force Awakens (2015). Those studios respected the original properties by paying tasteful homage to them and bridging the older casts with the new. If studios need to milk these franchises (which, they do), that’s how you do it. Walt Disney was smart enough not to fuck with the fans.
All of this might be forgivable if Paul Feig had figured out how to make a good movie, but alas, he didn’t. After swallowing my pride, ditching $5.99 (I live in a small-town), and giving the film the benefit of the doubt after a horrific marketing campaign, I did indeed pay to see this film and judge it on its own merits. It doesn’t have many.
Not that this should be a surprise at this point, but 2016 Ghostbusters is nothing like 1984 Ghostbusters. Whereas the original was deadpan, dry humor mixed with semi-creepy paranomal psuedo-science, and based in practical FX, the remake is typical modern improv mixed with poop jokes, queef-jokes, and cartoony digital FX.
What bugs me about 2016 Ghostbusters is how it’s neither entertaining nor a good movie. It’s not a terrible, offensive disaster, but then again neither was Fantastic Four (2015), and look how people shredded that. Aside from most every joke falling flat and being little more than vague, random pop culture references (e.g. “You get a car, and you get a car, and you get a car!“), the film is choppily edited, its plot is hackneyed, and its characters are irritating. Kristen Wiig looks like she could not give a fuck (not that I blame her), Melissa McCarthy won’t stop talking, Kate McKinnon gives the worst performance of her career, and Leslie Jones is shockingly the most grounded, relatable person in the entire cast when she’s not screaming.
Other than Kate McKinnon, who is so insufferable I wanted to close my ears whenever she went into one of her goofy, wacky, crazy scientist-routines, I don’t blame the cast too much for getting dragged into this mess. Most of the blame lies on Sony (namely former CEO and producer, Amy Pascal) for rebooting this property in the first place, and Paul Feig for turning it into a Saturday Night Live-esque parody of the original film. Almost every scene is filled with non-stop, unfunny improv that drags on for five minutes, or McCarthy constantly yammering nonsense about wontons or paranormal jargon she has no idea how to pronounce. Feig’s idea of comedy is continuous, loud dialogue regardless of how juvenile, nonsensical, or out of context it feels. The film’s villain (Neil Casey) is a forgettable throwaway whose only purpose is to justify a CGI FX-heavy finale where the film inexplicably turns into a high-octane action movie.
In short, the new Ghostbusters remake is a shallow, lazy, uninspired parody of the original, containing none of the 1984 classic’s distinctive humor or genre-blend appeal. This film will not appeal to fans of the original or fans of that style of dry, sarcastic humor. If your idea of a great cinematic comedy-experience is Pixels (2015), or you have a five year-old to distract for two hours, this film might suffice. Otherwise, stay far away, don’t waste your money, and don’t feel guilty about not making a political act out of seeing this movie. Sony got desperate, they made a lazy attempt to revive an old property with a filmmaker who did not particularly care for the original, nor has a style suited for a remake of such, and both Sony and Feig played with fire by disrespecting the fans, who have since called their bluff on this forgettable reboot. If you’re reading this, wondering whether 73% (195/267) of critics have given this movie glowing reviews primarily based on the psuedo-political fallout of the film’s marketing campaign, I have an answer for you: That is a very, very good question, and the answer is YES.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Ghostbusters 2016 has the same maturity and comedic wit of an Adam Sandler film, and the shoddy production values and lazy editing befitting such a project. Leslie Jones is the lone actor in this entire film who tries her best, with Kristen Wiig making it painfully obvious she regretted ever getting involved with this movie, Melissa McCarthy acting her usual loud, irritating, unfunny self, and Kate McKinnon portraying a laughable stereotype that would put a Michael Bay-movie to shame. Neil Casey plays a villain so uninspired it makes Marvel movie-antagonists look deep. This film boasts some of the worst improv I have ever seen.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED
? If you’re concerned with marginalized communities and their representation in both the arts and society, need I remind you of a certain election occurring later this year?