Ghostbusters (Feig; 2016)

We love it when Hollywood does a remake.  I’m not being facetious.  While a great many of us will wail and scream every time a classic film is redone in Hollywood asking why can’t Hollywood ever do anything original anymore (the answer is that Hollywood has rarely ever done anything original even from its very earliest days), those are the same films that tend to make the most money for their producers.   We go see them out of curiosity, out of nostalgia, out of being dragged to them by a friend or significant other, but we go see them in droves.  But the outcry that accompanied the announcement of, and even more so after the first trailer for, this version of Ghostbusters nearly made it sound as if Birth of a Nation was being remade and the theme of how wonderful the Ku Klux Klan is was being left in.  Was it due to misogyny, had Hollywood messed with one classic too many, or was the trailer really just that bad?

A remake can take on many forms from a thorough reworking for modern audiences to a shot for shot replica of the original.  In this version of Ghostbusters we have the same logo, same uniforms, same car, same technology, and, of course, lots of ghosts, but the characters and plot are entirely original.  Which makes this version of Ghostbusters not so much a remake as an homage.

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Well, homage with some fan service, but mostly homage.

The original Ghostbusters is a classic primarily due to the charismatic portrayal of its misfit characters by a group of comic geniuses (Dan Akyroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray, lest you either forgot or have somehow avoided seeing Ghostbusters and are reading this review entirely by mistake) combined with a script with fantastic dialogue, an original concept, and absolutely perfect pacing.  Obviously, we can’t have the original concept anymore, and this cast, while pretty damn good, doesn’t quite have the genius of the original, and the pacing here is far from perfect.  Kristen Wiig (as Erin Gilbert) does admirably with her part, especially given the fact that the most interesting feature of her character is somehow completely forgotten about roughly 20 minutes into the film’s running time, Leslie Jones is really funny as Patty Tolan, even if her role was a little too stereotypical to make me really feel comfortable with laughing at it, and Kate McKinnon absolutely steals the show out from everybody with her turn as the group’s engineer Jillian Holtzman.  The great disappointment here is from Melissa McCarthy as the group’s ringleader Abby Yates.  She seemed off during the entire movie, flipping back and forth from either being too subdued or too over the top and never hitting the tone she needed to make us laugh, but not be so cartoonish as to make us notice.

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And. Chris Hemsworth shows us he can be funny!  Not all the time, but he can be!

The writing very much matches the acting here.  It’s more good than bad, and the new plot may be the best Ghostbusters plot so far, but the pacing is uneven, subplots start then are forgotten about. and the dialogue can go from fantastic to absolutely cheap.  The humor is all over the place,as well, though this isn’t a complaint so much as an observation as the different types of humor are welcome and also are very much hit or miss.  There are some very cerebral jokes that much of the audience may not even recognize as gags without a frame of reference, and there is the most crass of humor to be found, as well.  Whatever style of humor you enjoy most it will be found here, it just won’t always be top quality, though the majority of it merits at least a chuckle and a smile, and a decent chunk merits an awful lot more than that.

The special effects in the movie are, unfortunately, a little more on the miss side than the hit.  Some of the ghost effects are well done, and the technology the Ghostbusters use is interesting for the most part.  The technology the villain uses, however, and otherworldly effects are just so much visual noise.  It’s just having a bunch of blurred colors vomited up at you en masse hoping you won’t notice that there’s nothing coherent to see.  This seems to be a problem with film more and more of late, as directors rely more on CGI rather than on more old fashioned art direction to set the stage, and it shows that the directors and special effects crews really don’t know what to do with their technology, yet, other than just make blobby colors and miscellaneous filters and hope for the best.

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Aim for that blob over there.  It’s probably something important.

The new Ghostbusters certainly does not merit the hate it’s garnered since it was announced.  It’s actually quite a good film, I laughed more often than I grimaced, even though there is no way it can live up to the original.  So, don’t go in expecting that.  Go in expecting a better than average comedy with a good cast and a plot that’s at least better than Ghostbusters II and you will have a good time.

Rating:  6.2 out of 10

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