Aja Eaker: Hey, 366 Fans!
I have no idea what Alfred is furiously clicking away at for this review. All I can say is that he is scowling, chain-smoking, and guzzling coffee that I think was left over from this morning (although it could be from last night), and we are sitting opposite each other, every MacBook Pro for oneself.
Let’s get straight to it: if you are not old enough to recall the original Ghostbusters when it came out, this movie is going to be hard to talk about in terms that adequately convey the magnitude of what it set out to accomplish. This is one of the movies that defined the 1980s American popular culture scene. When news broke of the remake as a legit happening, the response was one of skepticism.
Everybody showed up for the party, except Harold Ramis, but he died, so we can excuse him on those grounds. And they did throw in a guy that looked just like him—for a silhouetted nod during the end credits—so calm down, those of you over 35: you’ll get all the goods, plus fresh faces of comedic glee.
What I loved about this Ghostbusters was the female cast who successfully completed a daunting therapeutic task for the global psyche. During the Hollywood premiere, a photo was taken of Kristen Wiig greeting a girl of about ten wearing a complete Ghostbusters‘ costume. A 16-year old onlooker saw this potent exchange and wrote an article about that moment and its meaning, which is now circulating social media. The crux of the article is about women’s representation in film and how this one got it right. It is a darn good read.
I’m all for a flick that not only pays homage to the greatness of what came before (thank you for throwing in Slimer, Sigourney, and Stay-Puff), while presenting that today’s women can be equally funny, clever, tough, and most importantly, SMART. As a fellow female physics nerd, it was easy to love the quirks and quarks of this remake. While I traditionally love the humor of Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon totally stole the show. I think it was because I could personally relate to being committed to being a scientific badass that social expectations for what a “normal” woman looks like is lost on us at times. We dig our own weirdness, and that is actually really cool. I found her delivery hilarious throughout.
So take my review with a big grain of Morton Salt, as I unabashedly loved the original and collected all of the GB paraphernalia back in the day, and I loved this version for its effort. I found parts of it lackluster and too long, over-reaching and kitschy, but balanced well enough that I would feel totally safe taking a trove of tweens to see it. No gratuitous flashes of skin, not a single misuse of female sexuality, while still poking fun at the universal ability to get all goofy over an attractive receptionist. The takeaway point for this movie is that girls are heroes too, that we can stand on the shoulders of the giants influencing us and contribute plenty on our own for the next generation’s benefit.
Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig (who co-starred together previously in Feig’s Bridesmaids) head the new ghost busting team, joined by Kate McKinnon and Jones. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts, all from the 1984 film, make cameos (Harold Ramis died in 2014). References to Jaws, The Exorcist, and Scarface are mildly surprising. Less so are nods to the original Reitman film.
Feig, having directed Wiig and McCarthy previously, catalyzes their chemistry, although McKinnon is oddly wasted. The banter between the leads is paint-by-numbers, albeit filtered through strong enough personalities that render the ghosts a comparatively dull lot. The film’s biggest flaw lies not in its predictability, but rather in the woefully unnecessary CGI overkill finale, which borders on being offensive. Instead of a cartoonish marshmallow man (there is, of course, a cameo), we get a lot of Avengers-like headache-inducing laser ghosts filling up the streets and sky. In the middle of that post-production train wreck there is an amusing, if nonsensical bit involving a fire-breathing dragon ghost at a heavy metal concert, attended by Ozzy Osbourne.
The ladies, clearly having fun, certainly don’t shame the original foursome. They even have their own version of a ditsy sexy toy in secretary Chris Hemsworth (Thor), which is only fair play. Hemsworth is allowed his own referential nod to square-jawed beefcake predecessor George Reeves’ by imitating that actor’s portrayal of a Clark Kent who wears glasses without lenses. Murray’s cameo as a debunker amounts to a sly wink. Aykroyd (who also produced) plays off both his original role, as well as his Twilight Zone bit part.
Inevitably, Ghostbusters, like its predecessor, is canned blockbuster moviemaking. It’s sole freshness is supplied by the leads. It’s amusing if you finds juvenilia funny. It will appease its target audience, Ghostbusters fundamentalists excepted.