Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

** out of ****

It's not good. I'm not going to spout some hyperbole about how horrible it is, because even as a fan of the 1984 original movie who believes there is almost no way to imitate it's distinctive charm, I know that this remake is a watchable run-of-the-mill comedy that should be compatible with the tastes of average moviegoers. It has funny moments sprinkled throughout its two-hours of loose storytelling informed by unscripted riffing captured in that passionless shot/reverse shot cinematography, which has infected American comedy movies today.

I've linked this before, but it applies to this review just as much:

It shouldn't be interpreted that this blogger believes that all comedy movies need to be more like those of Edgar Wright. I know people who don't like Wright's movies at all, but it can still be argued that Wright plays more of a role in his comedy films than most directors do.

Paul Feig, the director of the new Ghostbusters, has a body of filmmaking that shows us that he recognizes talent, especially in women, but his contribution as a filmmaker leaves a lot to be desired.

He must be doing something right, because people of varying tastes and backgrounds go to his movies and laugh through the amusement of very funny people having very funny moments. I don't hate this stuff; I'm just irritated at the obvious potential for it to be better. 

Comedy movies take on a timeless character when they achieve a joke-telling rhythm that compliments the narrative of the film. Sometimes jokes land a lot heavier when they've been built up by the story.

The original Ghostbusters did all of this very well along with the fact that it was very unusual at the time to shoot a comedy in the same style as a big-budget dark fantasy. For the most part, the new one looks like a comedy movie that's telling you when to laugh, whether its overwhelming volume of one-liners and goofy exchanges land or not.

This is as blasphemous as remaking Casablanca –another movie that is admired for being something that no one asked for, didn’t aspire to be any greater than other movies of its kind, but circumstantially came together more beautifully than anyone could have anticipated. If you don’t think that movies of this caliber are touchable, think again. There’s a remake of Ben-Hur due out soon.

Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon deliver varying performances as characters who are blessedly different from Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson's. Wiig does surprisingly little, McCarthy is doing her typical aggressive schtick with just as many unfunny lines as funny ones, Jones offers bigger laughs through her realistic reactions to the supernatural, but I think too much is being made of McKinnon's oddball scientist who mostly makes funny faces for laughs. Chris Hemsworth is rather memorable as the daft male secretary even though his character could be interpreted as a product of reverse-sexism, which is unfair considering that the females in the original Ghostbusters consisted of a tough secretary and a skeptical love interest who both possessed wits.

The movie's callbacks to the original, including references and cameos only cause more deflation to the film's stand-alone sense of purpose. 

The weakest thing about the film is the story, which introduces many interesting ideas - via jokes - as if they will develop into something plot-related, but never do. 

The awkward villain has a plan that could be a leftover device for a Ghostbusters III script, as he seems like a match for the ghost scientists by utilizing their technology for evil purposes. Sadly, his commonalities with the heroines of the story goes unexplored and he never becomes a formidable presence. Even the disappointing Ghostbusters II had an effectively eerie villain. This overweight friendless nerd seems to be designed as a punching bag representing whiney male fans of the original movie. 

It didn't help that Feig's choice of females as the leads turned into a political issue when the inevitable internet misogynists and racists chimed in with hate comments, which gave Sony, Feig and the cast an opportunity to manipulate as the main talking point around criticism of the film's existence. I had an attitude against the film as soon as it went into production, but it really sucked that the gender issue became an unavoidable part of any conversation about it.

I will always despise hate trolls, but their comments would have been better ignored than exploited. I want to respect Feig's determination to give women a better place in entertainment, but it would help if he didn't act like he was doing something revolutionary. I feel like whenever we discuss mainstream cinema with females and/or minorities in the leads as if it's a progressive leap, it does a disservice to some movies that came before, which nonchalantly did the same -and did it better.

A male filmmaker giving actresses the spotlight through the product-placement-laced banality of studio films (especially Sony's) in movies that resemble male dominated sub-genres of yesteryear is pretty far away from anything I'd call a benchmark case for gender equality in cinema.

So I guess this new Ghostbusters exists and if people who will never see the original film like it, then so be it. They still deserve better. 

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