Fish and Cherries Productions

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Reel Snippet – Ghostbusters (2016)


Synopsis: College professor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) gets a blast from the past when someone approaches her with an old shame: a book about paranormal activity that she cowrote with her old friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Abby has continued studying the paranormal with an eccentric engineer named Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and when Erin confronts them for publishing the book behind her back, the three of them get drawn into an investigation that brings them face to face with a live (well, maybe not live) ghost. This is no coincidence as a skulking miscreant named Rowan (Neil Casey) is setting up devices that amplify the power of ghosts around New York City. Once a metro worker named Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) gets roped into the whole affair by something strange in her neighborhood, the four-woman band starts putting some equipment together to try and stop this supernatural plot. One question is on everyone’s mind… who ya gonna call?

Review: Ghostbusters (2016) is a movie that requires me to talk about everything leading up to it before I get to the movie itself. The first trailer kicked the hornet’s nest hard when it was nearly universally panned for showcasing a lot of lowbrow humor, making it one of the most disliked trailers on YouTube. Writer and director Paul Feig then blasted critics and “haters” on the Internet, which looks tacky from the outside no matter which way you look at it. Conflicting reports from cast, crew, and the trailer as to whether the original film was canon to the film or this film was a totally clean slate reboot didn’t help. This is to say nothing about the people who were opposed to very notion of an all-female cast, one Ghost from True Capitalist Radio calling them a bunch of “fat uglies.” Then, it got the blessing of Harold Ramis’ daughter just as it got released, making it one of the craziest ugly duckling stories of the age. While I don’t think it’s good enough to qualify as a radiant swan, it’s at least good enough to be a prom night duck.

The word of the day is “creative,” which this movie is in spades. Everything from the ghosts to the weaponry are “out of the box” in their concept and implementation and make for quite the spectacle. There are a lot of great designs of specters and spooks that just seem to leap off of the screen. While we’ve got some classic ghost staples like the demon or the executed prisoner, you also find the ghost with twisted proportions, cryptic parade balloons with a vengeance, and so much more. True, they’re all CGI and not practical effects like the original, but I still found some charm in the effects they used and I’ve learned to accept the inevitability of updates like this.

Speaking of updates, the music: there are quite a few remixes and covers of the original prevalent in this film. The original actually opens the film and I can’t lie, I got chills when I heard it on the big screen. The same cannot be said for the cover by Fallout Boy and Missy Elliot. Back in my review of The Peanuts Movie, I compared the Meghan Trainor song to an earthworm in a sandwich and later recanted. This time I will not be so nice: this cover was ear rape, pure and simple, and it made the sequence that it was playing over agonizing to sit through. But the soundtrack is saved by a cover by Walk The Moon (who did the song “Shut Up And Dance,” which I adore) during the credits, as well as a soundtrack-only cover by acapella group Pentatonix.

Alright, enough about all that. Let’s talk about the actual film. This time around, there’s a bigger focus on comedy and for the most part, it works pretty well. They’re not all bullseyes and some don’t even get a laugh. I can’t think of more than two that I absolutely hated. Some of the jokes caught me completely off guard, like the first joke where the tour guide of an old mansion said that one of the amenities was an anti-Irish security fence. That was so surprising and out of left field, it took me a moment to realize that was a joke. I get the impression that the script was a lot looser to allow for more improv because it seemed like the ladies were told to play off each other and let everything come naturally. All of them do bring their own charm and styles and it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but what’s important is that they are their own characters before anything. They’re not just carbon copies of the original Ghostbusters, only having some bare similarities to connect them. However, the biggest laughs came from their dim-witted secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). I know he technically fits the dim-witted male paired with competent females stereotype, but I’m just blown away by the fact that three Saturday Night Live regulars and one breakout movie star got shown up in the comedy department by freaking Thor.

However, I can’t extend any of my goodwill toward the villain, who is neither funny, interesting, nor the least bit original. Ooooooh, someone who was bullied growing up who thinks the world is rotten and needs to be cleansed! How risque! Those two jokes that I disliked were also downers for me. I don’t know who it was that thought the Ghostbusters franchise needed a fart joke and crotch shot to its name, but I think their continued employment is an oversight that should be rectified. There’s also been a bit of grumbling that Patti is a bit of an ethnic stereotype, being the only black main character and also the only Ghostbuster without a college education while also being sassy and aggressive. I… can’t say I don’t see it, but even though it didn’t bother me, I’m a pasty white guy and therefore ill-equipped to judge this and tell people whether or not to be offended.

So is this worth your time? I’m leaning towards yes, but I think some people could have some grievances they won’t be able to get past. People may take umbrage with the more modern, less timeless humor and script, the departure from the original, or the cameos from the original cast that can get a little too cheeky (but are still better than Ozzy Osbourne’s pointless and cringeworthy cameo). But we still get a talented cast, a lot of creativity, and a script that can at worst be described as “harmless.” This does not murder the spirit of the original nor does it destroy anyone’s childhood. It works fine on its own and if you don’t like it, you can pop in your copy of the original anytime. Me personally, I liked this movie, I think the new cast will rightfully inspire a generation, and I ain’t afraid of no ghosts or haters.

Fun Tidbit: So here’s an interesting running theme that just keeps going. When Erin is talking about an unfortunate hair dye, she mentions that the dye was called Garfield (“the president, not that cat”). That may seem like a throwaway line, but the Ghostbusters franchise actually has a long history with Garfield. Bill Murray, one of the original Ghostbusters, went on to play Garfield in the two live action movies and in the 80s cartoon The Real Ghostbusters, Lorenzo Music, who was the TV voice of Garfield for many years, was the voice of Peter Venkman, who was played by Bill Murray in both films and the 2009 video game. What a tangled web we weave.

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