Movie Review: "Ghostbusters" (2016) and a Tangled Web of Thoughts

I take my daughter to a decent number of movies. Some are press screenings and some are regular showings, but we see a lot of movies together. She actually has a running list of what she wants to see for the next three (or more) years. The movie she has been most excited for this summer—maybe this year—is “Ghostbusters.”

I don’t know if her enthusiasm has been due to the fact that the new movie offers four female leads or if it’s just the sort of special effects-driven action-horror-comedy thing that’s up her alley. Whatever the case, she’s wanted to see it. Due to conflicts in her schedule, she wasn’t able to attend the press screening (and out of solidarity, I didn’t go either), but we saw it opening weekend and she loved it.

As with just about everyone who has been following the film’s production, I have a more complicated set of feelings surrounding the movie. I want all movies to be good (why would I ever want to sit through a bad film?), but I really wanted “Ghostbusters” to knock it out of the park. “Ghostbusters” I wanted to be good so my daughter could have the same joy watching it in the theater that I had watching the original. I wanted it to be good so that she wouldn’t find herself in a world full of people saying, “See, making this movie with women was a dumb idea. Why did anyone ever think women could lead this film?”

I don’t believe that all the hate surrounding the new movie is about the women leads. I think that no small part of it is a general dissatisfaction in some corners that Hollywood would dare touch something sacred from their childhood. That is a less offensive sentiment, but still silly. Hollywood is going to remake a movie if they think there’s a benefit to dong so. There are remakes of “The Magnificent Seven” and “Ben-Hur” coming out later this year and while many view the 1960 “Magnificent Seven” and 1959 “Ben-Hur” as legendary films which shouldn’t be touched, both those stories had already been told on film.

That background seems necessary before I continue. Below is a brief review of the film, but it’s a review that requires the preface.

The new “Ghostbusters,” in the end, isn’t perfect, but it really is a whole lot of fun. Kate McKinnon absolutely steals the movie as Jillian Holtzmann. Every time she’s on screen, she’s doing or saying something ludicrous and it’s great. The problem with it is that while she’s funny, she’s also playing it differently than every other member of the cast. Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan nearly gets to the comedic pitch of Holtzmann, but Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, respectively, are much more sedate. I don’t mean “not good” by that, just much more sedate. Chris Hemsworth, who plays receptionist Kevin, is utterly hysterical, but still not quite Holtzmann hysterical.

Frankly, the cast is great. There are cameos and bit parts and everyone is good, but the four women are definitely in charge. I would love to see another “Ghostbusters” with them wearing the suits.

I would also hope that it offers a better story. Neil Casey isn’t given very much to do as bad guy, Rowan. He has some plans that he’s thought out but which never seem all that intricate or involved. We may learn what he wants to do, but there’s less on what that will accomplish. The whole thing involves ley lines, but they’re brought in almost after the fact, not gone into in depth, and quickly dismissed.

Put another way, this “Ghostbusters” feels like an origin story; the first tale in larger saga. It spends a lot of time with the forming of the group and them learning how to fight ghosts rather than building up the end game.

Certainly, “Ghostbusters” goes effects heavy in the climactic battle and I could have done with about a minute less at the end of it, but it was still fun. I really think that’s the biggest takeaway from Paul Feig’s film – it’s fun. It may not go down as being as iconic a film the 1984 one, but from start to finish it’s a good time.

I will leave you with this thought – “Ghostbusters” made me cry. At the end of the movie, when the team is celebrating their win, I cried. My daughter was overjoyed with it, perhaps more so than she was with “Captain America: Civil War.” I don’t know if it struck her that in the lead-up to the film so many people spewed such venom towards something that they hadn’t seen, that a percentage of those people thought that the film shouldn’t be made due to the female cast, or if she has really experienced that sort of hate (I hope not).

What I do know is that as these Ghostbusters stood there being celebrated by the city of New York, she saw these four people as heroes. They were women and they were heroes and there was absolutely no sense that being one could possibly diminish their ability to be the other.


photo credit: Sony Pictures

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