We are in a world of nostalgia. We can’t get away from a remake of a famous movie, tv show, or a multitude of sampling in the music we listen to. Have we lost any sense of originality in our culture? When money is involved (and when isn’t it?), the powers that be can’t throw millions at something that doesn’t have a built-in audience. It’s safe to say that the Ghostbusters franchise has some money in it. Among the various Ghostbusters merchandise is a variety of t-shirts and coffee mugs, not to mention the late 80’s cartoon. That could get you some extra cash by the time the remakes come out, but you have to make sure your new film has a little bit of quality. Does the new film do enough different to become a film that could work just as well without the original?
You all know the story. Three scientists come in contact with a ghost and recruit a couple people to their organization along the way. Now imagine if you took the shell of the original Ghostbusters and made almost the exact same movie, but made the comedy fit the modern model of improvisational moments and added a large budget action sequence that distracts away from the comedy established beforehand. If you can’t tell by now, this isn’t the best film. It’s not a good film. It’s a bad film. A bad film with some occasionally funny moments, but it doesn’t lift up the laziness of the writing and filmmaking. There are bits of originality here and interesting attempts at making a breakout character there, but it fails at almost any turn. And this makes me pretty bummed out considering the following.
You’ve heard the controversy. Man-children got upset that a film of their childhood was being remade by women. The movie was released anyway. Great, now we can move on — Wait, apparently we can’t. And it’s one of the biggest problems of this film. Instead of making a film that could stand on its own without giving any attention to the controversy, it directly confronts it several times to the detriment of the film. It should be said that most of the film, if not all of it, was shot by the time the full anger was unleashed, so maybe the movie was just prescient. It’s more likely that they knew they were going to ruffle some feathers, so they had a few jokes in preparation. This goes to the numerous cameos from past cast members with none of them adding anything to the film but recognition that another film existed. It’s a shame because this movie has some good creative moments that could be extended.
I was really rooting for this creative team. Aside from the disappointing Spy, director Paul Feig really slammed it out of the park with Bridesmaids and The Heat. His films are not ashamed of being female-oriented and not worried about leaving certain audience members by the way side. His films have been mostly by women and for women. It’s not as if the writers and the rest of the crew went out of their way to tell the audience to “go to hell” if you didn’t get anything out of it, but they opened audiences to movies about an audience that doesn’t get its due: women. Thankfully, there was enough that everyone could enjoy, eventually making hundreds of millions in dollars at the box office and, in the case of Bridesmaids, a couple Academy Award nominations.
Feig takes that same approach and uses that on this franchise. The problem is that he and co-writer Katie Dippold were either too indebted to the previous Ghostbusters films or they felt they had to do it so fans of the original wouldn’t be left out. The exact formula of the first film is used and the same character types are here as well. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are the Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray of this film. You have Kate McKinnon as the highly wacky version of Harold Ramis and Leslie Jones was the somewhat better used version of Ernie Hudson’s character. They all use their signature sense of humor to differentiate themselves, but it’s never enough. The jokes may be their own but, with the constant references, they’re always in the shadow of the original actors and films.
The icing on the cake is the budget. The original Ghostbusters films never had the biggest of budgets, but still managed to create the epic moments within them with mostly practical effects. But like most modern blockbusters, this film has a TON of CG effects. With certain visuals, like the great looking ghosts, the CG is used to a great extent and only on those ghosts. The creature design is genuinely creepy, but can be fun at the same time. It’s when we get to the climax that you can feel the oversized budget. Feig has never been one to deal with $140 million at his disposal and you can tell that even the big moments feel unfocused. New York City never feels like a real place and when Times Square looks super empty, you wonder how they couldn’t afford the extras to fill it out. Even with a big budget, it feels so small, and not in a good way.
No, Ghostbusters is not the worst thing to come out in a theatre. There are plenty of worse movies to see, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the original films, but I do understand their place in the film pantheon. Essentially cementing the star power of director Ivan Reitman, Murray, and Ackroyd, those films used what they had at their disposal and every part of the crew seemed to give it their all. I don’t feel a lot of love on this side of the screen. By the end of it all, I feel the exhaustion of everyone involved and you can feel it as you watch it. Everyone involved has done better because here, they have nothing to prove. Maybe the lightning already struck for them.
Ghostbusters is produced by Sony Pictures and is in theaters now.
- Has really good occasional laughs
- Fair amount of fun original bits
- Great moments of horror
- None of the new characters are as fun and witty as the movie thinks they are
- This iteration of Ghostbusters is almost the exact same movie as the original in terms of storytelling
- Everyone involved has done much better work