Friday, July 15, 2016

Who You Gonna Let Go to Voicemail?

Writer/director Paul Feig's lazy adaptation of the much-beloved 1984 comedy Ghostbusters isn't the complete trainwreck I half-expected. The movie does have its share of laughs, and the CGI ghosts (with a couple of notable exceptions) are impressive. It's too bad the script is not. While the film offers glimmers of what could have been, we are instead left only with regrets about what is.

Offering us an all-female team-up of three white scientists and one regular Joe who happens to be black, the 2016 lacks the chemistry of the original movie which it attempts to make up for with a variety of cheap body humor jokes and a series of running gags like how hopeless their man-servant (Chris Hemsworth) is. Desperately missing an unscrupulous Bill Murray character on the team to stir the pot, instead we get a stick-in-the-mud (Kristen Wiig), a loud-mouth (Melissa McCarthy), the crazy one (Kate McKinnon), and of course their new sassy black friend (Leslie Jones). I'm almost positive these characters are given names at some point, but they are so paper thin the movie offered me no reason to learn, let alone remember, them.

One of the big differences between the original Ghostbusters and this film is how director Ivan Reitman allowed his characters to be flawed human beings, and not in only cute ways. The original Ghostbusters are terrific on-screen, but they would be horrible in person. Feig, rightly understanding that his characters are blander than toast, puts all his energy into making all four of the women as likable as possible. The whole movie is like a whining puppy that needs your love. Ghostbusters don't need to be likable; Ghostbusters need to be cool. It's telling that film's best scene, it's opening, features none of its major characters and has an edge to it that the rest of the movie sorely lacks.

While the original had a strong supporting cast in Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, the remake chooses to combine both roles, and that of Annie Potts, all into Hemsworth's character. The result is utterly forgettable. For a villain we're given Neil Casey as a hapless loser intent on bringing ghosts into the world to... well, I'm not sure what his end goal is as killing everyone he hates would just turn them into immortal ghosts who he wants to rule the world.

Oh, and don't get me started on the movie's schizophrenic take on ghosts. Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold seem unable to nail down just what a ghost is. While introducing the idea of a human bringing them into the world is one of the few interesting additions to the story, how the Ghostbusters deal with the undead is an unintentional brain teaser. Starting out trapping the ghosts as in the original film, our new heroines jump seamlessly into blowing the ghosts up (which makes as little sense as it sounds). Seriously, one could argue Michael Bay knows more about robots than Feig and Dippold understand about ghosts (and Bay had a robot take a piss on-screen and gave another one giant testicles).

In the film's big climax the Ghostbusters use a variety of weapons all created by the the greatest on-screen engineer since Doc Brown (in fact I think if you gave McKinnon's character plutonium and a DeLorean she could probably create a time-traveling ghost bomb in about 8 minutes of screen time). Of course the fact that almost every one of these inventions create more logic issues than they solve is a problem. (How exactly to do you kill a ghost with a bomb?) Nor is there effectiveness on screen at all consistent as sometimes the new inventions kill ghosts, sometimes they slow them down, and sometimes ghosts just seem to get as bored with the script as I was and wander off-screen.

It's hard to get too worked up about this film which the Internet has been going postal over since it was announced. There are plenty of people who are going to support the film whether or not it is actually any good and just as many who will refuse to see it for a variety of reasons that have equally little to do with the quality of filmmaking on display. The other reason it's so hard to get worked up about the remake is it's not awful. It's not good (it's not even as good as Ghostbusters 2). It's just meh. And who really cares to work up the energy to argue about the Mehbusters?

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