Female Ghostbusters! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! All that and more in this review of the new Ghostbusters movie!

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Ghostbusters

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On my way to the theater ticket counter, I was reminded exactly how important it was for the Ghostbusters reboot to succeed. I passed by an African American mother and her young daughter in front of the entrance doors. The child turned around to look directly at me, point and gleefully exclaim “He has a Ghostbusters shirt on!”

Indeed I did. The classic white ghost logo on the black backdrop. It was the obvious choice of attire that day. My mentality was just as prepared. I was ready to forget the petty hype and naysaying, check my brain at the door and enjoy the fact that a new Ghostbusters movie was minutes away. I glanced back at the young girl to give her a smile and thumbs-up as I entered the building. I then wondered how someone of her age could immediately recognize the franchise logo and be that excited. It’s possible that it’s the same reason I suspect you the reader would have that type of reaction (at least before the reboot was announced): she saw and loved the 1984 classic that is arguably the most quoted comedy film of all time. But the more likely answer is that the marketing for the new Ghostbusters infiltrated her life in enough capacity to get her intrigued. My thoughts then drifted to a now viral image of actress Kristen Wiig at the film’s premiere high-fiving a pair of young girls who were clad in Ghostbusters costumes. They had the same beaming look in their eyes as that girl at the theater entrance. It hit me right then that this movie I was about to see had the potential to leave a lasting impact on children’s lives. Ghostbusters was not created as a property for young viewers, yet the appeal is undeniable. Something about the idea of ordinary men becoming heroes by strapping on proton packs and busting scary looking ghosts settles into childhood imagination development. Here now was a chance to replicate that same iconography but with ordinary women. Lots of noise filled every corner of the Internet in the many months leading up to this reboot’s release. The top battle cry among supporters was that this new Ghostbusters wasn’t made for boys who loved the original film. It’s for girls who finally have their turn to have their heroes. While it certainly isn’t uncommon for females to idolize male pop culture characters and vice versa, humans in general tend to gravitate toward those they identify with in appearance and gender before finding deeper relations later in their lives.

Male-oriented blockbusters can be produced and can fail twenty times times in a row without costing men any standing in their entertainment reach. Females don’t yet have that privilege. Every project for them needs to hit on every cylinder and keep powering through to the next one….or risk going back to the board room empty-handed again. I don’t envy the pressure of success around this film, even without a franchise legacy to live up to.

Although the term “reboot” is unquestionably appropriate here because it’s not set in Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ written universe, I’ll give respect right off the bat to this new offering for not directly copying the classic film scene-by-scene nor repackaging the characters into female skeletal systems. The basic premise is identical: four friends discover a wave of paranormal activity and launch a business devoted to its containment….or destruction….or making peace with it…..or….yeah, the franchise can’t make up its mind about that, but it’s nice to see the means of retelling the story didn’t piggyback on old storyboards. Familiar foes like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man show up in new forms. We have a promising start.

Without further adieu, let’s meet our crew!

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The Ghostbusters:

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Erin (Kristen Wiig): The Peter Venkman of the group. Much like the sarcastic male predecessor, reluctant Erin downplays her own unique insight into the realm of paranormal to distance herself from her colleagues’ more reckless ideas. Kristen Wiig immerses herself into the trademark Venkman deadpan delivery, but ends up swimming out too far. Instead of becoming the next wild card favorite, Wiig wanders into the land of zero charisma and overcompensates into an empty shell of a character.

Jillian (Kate McKinnon): Jillian rocks. Kate McKinnon follows the “thin line between genius and insanity” mantra to a T and wins for it. What made Jillian so fun for me to watch is the persisting wonderment of what’s going on in her head. Rarely is there not a psychotic look in her eyes or a smile being held back. Her behavior is like an alien from another planet who never learned to blend into Earth mannerisms. I sensed that only McKinnon understood her own character, because the writing support was nearly absent. But I applaud nonetheless. Well played, Kate.

Patty (Leslie Jones): As predicted, Leslie Jones banks on her booming voice for laughs, not doing the token black woman archetype any favors. However, it’s not as bad as the trailers led me to expect. Unlike past fourth wheel Winston Zeddemore, Leslie doesn’t take as long to show up and is established as an important asset (thanks to her geographic knowledge of New York City) early on.

Abby (Melissa McCarthy): Abby is….Melissa McCarthy. That’s all I’ve got. When trying to recollect memorable Abby moments for the sake of this review, all I could remember was the film’s biggest running gag: bad Chinese food. Abby either gets too many wontons or too few of them in her soup. The amount of time dedicated to this gag is baffling. Was there ever a table read?

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The Sidekick:

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Rick Moranis in a trumphant big-screen return!

I’m kidding. Sorry.

Kevin (Chris Hemsworth): What would a Ghostbusters staff be without their dependable receptionist? We’ll never know, because Kevin is anything but dependable. Hired purely for his supermodel looks, Kevin can’t even grasp the most basic of desk-related duties such as locating the phone and knowing what to do if one rings. Kevin is really really stupid, and our heroes can’t help but point out how stupid he is. The gimmick works because it’s Chris Hemsworth. He’s Thor for crying out loud. The good sport surrenders all of his masculine points and even gives us an awkward dance number to show for it. It works because you know the rest of Hemsworth’s screen image won’t suffer the least bit for it. It does leave a nasty aftertaste, however. If Kevin was supposed to be a satire of former ‘Busters universe secretary Janine Melnitz, the writers have something to answer for. While Janine took a lot of jabs from her employers, she was also the glue that held the business together. If Ghostbusters ’84 had shown Janine to be completely incompetent at her job while Venkman and company continually spelled out her lack of intelligence, it would have been perceived as an extremely sexist movie.

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The Villain:

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Rowan (Neil Casey): The man behind the curtain. Rowan is lamer than any villain purposefully written to be lame. He’s the one responsible for unleashing all the ghosts in New York. Motivation? A foggy ideology only he can understand. Something about the world needing to be cleansed. Humanity sucks (*glances at the news on TV* Well, at least he’s not totally wrong there.) No one appreciates him.

Seriously…..this guy is so hollow, he might as well be Goldman from “The House of the Dead 2.”

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goldman

“To prot-ect the LIE-EFE cy-cle!”

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Oh my, things are not sounding too good, are they? If it wasn’t evident by now, I’ll state that the writing was simply not strong enough to sustain an experience of this magnitude. All the hoopla surrounding the cast and they were never the problem to begin with. The “know when to hold and when to fold” shot timing of Ivan Reitman is missed. The wit and spirit of Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd’s scripts are lost on an island somewhere.

The visual effects artists deserved the biggest paychecks. The ghosts themselves aren’t anything to write home about, but I absolutely loved the look of them. They are brighter and more vibrant than ever before to compliment Erin’s remark about them being beautiful. Then they flip the dark switch and hell breaks loose. The final Manhattan battle nails the haunted house atmosphere that’s perfect for the popcorn fun a Ghostbusters film is supposed to present. Getting slimed in 3D has never been this delightful.

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Hey, speaking of Dan Aykroyd, he’s in this movie! Along with the rest of the main original cast excluding Rick Moranis and the deceased Harold Ramis. But what we have here is a great idea on paper that ultimately became one the film’s biggest downpours. The less said about these cameos, the better, because none of them add any humor or value to the product. They only exist for “Ha ha! That’s *insert actor here*! That’s funny because this person was in the old Ghostbusters movie and doesn’t belong in this one! Ha Ha!” moments. They slow down the plot and distract from the new characters they’re trying to sell. Not to mention some awkward Bill Murray screen minutes (even for him) where he plays being fearful and out of sorts even though his character is supposed to be a confident bully. I can’t help but speculate that Murray might have regretted his agreement and phoned in his hours that day. The movie even ends on an anti-climatic Ernie Hudson appearance, as if the entire production was a spilled mess taped together.

Unlike most every angry male with a Youtube account, it gives me no pleasure to not recommend this film. My frustration is with the wasted opportunity this project became. I feel bad for all parties. The movie isn’t quality enough to validate feminists and their allies. It’s not poor enough to validate the knee-jerk reactions from misogynists. It wasn’t worth the effort and abuse the artists went through to bring it to life, nor was it worth anyone’s time to worry about their childhood.

Young girl I mentioned at the beginning of this review, if you’re reading this (Hi! How did you find me?), I hope you enjoy this movie a lot more than I did. I hope you find the right heroes to grow up imitating. I hope you grow up to be a role model for someone else someday. I hope the landscape of female empowerment cinema improves before it permanently falls apart. Last and least, I hope somewhere along the way, you’ll spare a few hours to watch 1984’s “Ghostbusters” and 1989’s “Ghostbusters 2.” Socially fair or not, they are much much better than 2016’s “Ghostbusters.”

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Score Board:

Bad servings of wonton soup: 3

Slimers: 2

Haunted parade balloons: 5

Best new Ghostbuster: Jillian Holtzmann

Vomiting ghosts: 3

Original cast cameos: 5

Out-of-nowhere cameo: Ozzy Osbourne (Who would have thought a clip of him calling for Sharon would have been this badly dated so quick?

Rick Moranis: We still miss you, man.

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Overall: 3 (out of 10)

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ghostbusters poster

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