Ghostbusters (2016) — a review

Let those misogynistic bastards have it!

Let those misogynistic bastards have it!

I have to admit to never being a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters film. I didn’t hate it; when I saw it for the first time in theaters I actually had a nice time with it. The movie was a fun ride. But then I forgot about it. Unlike movies that I truly loved, like Blade Runner, or the Star Wars movies, I never had any real urge to own a copy of GB, and other than seeing it a second time with friends during a double feature with Fright Night a year later in 1985, I never saw Ghostbusters again until very recently on home video (it was only the third time I saw it in over thirty years, and the first time I watched it with closed captions; it was nice to finally pick up some missed lines).

So when they announced a new version of GB, with an all-female cast, I wasn’t one of those cry-babies who whined, because the original Ghostbusters was just another movie for me, nothing more (and even when they did remake stuff I loved, like Star Trek, I still didn’t whine anyway–because, at the end of the day, it’s still just a TV show, you know?). Seeing the new Ghostbusters, starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, I had a really fun time. The movie was enjoyable, but in a superficial way.

The original GB got by on the charms of its superb cast, but it also had a solid script that grounded the story in everyday gritty reality. The humor in the first film came out of the situations, which were played deadpan straight. The remake eschews the realistic tone of the original and is just a flat out comedy, not bothering with characterization, such as with the villain, who is given the short end of the stick since he’s nothing but a cardboard cutout bad guy who is very one-note. The problem this creates is there no real menace, no real threat, for the Ghostbusters to fight. And without any threat, there’s no suspense, and the big ghost parade at the end, while pretty to look at, doesn’t really engage the viewer as it should.

Another problem is that despite being played by three great actresses, the Ghostbusters played by McCarthy, Wiig and Jones barely register, lacking any screen presence whatsoever–save for one, and this was strictly because of her performance. Kate McKinnon made her name on Saturday Night Live, where she shines very brightly as a character actress who is so good she disappears into whatever role she’s playing (her impression of Ellen DeGeneres is really very good). Here, she plays the wonderfully whacked-out Jillian Holtzmann, the “Scotty” of the GB crew, who keeps inventing and refining the wild tech that’s needed to fight the ghosts.

Jillian Holtzmann, scientific genius and all around goddess.

Jillian Holtzmann, scientific genius and all around goddess.

McKinnon has created a marvelously unique character in Holtzmann, who is so endearingly weird and offbeat that you can’t take your eyes off of her. McKinnon steals the movie from her co-stars, and rightly so. She’s the sole reason I’d like to get this film on video, because I figure everybody needs a little Jillian Holtzmann in their lives. As far as the overall film, I enjoyed it for its eye candy qualities (along with the presence of the mighty Miss H, long may she reign). I’m glad to hear there’s a sequel coming, and hope they do a better job with the screenplay next time. Perhaps armed with a better script, these female Ghostbusters will truly kick ghostly butt as they were meant to. –SF

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