Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters (2016)Synopsis: Ghostbusters makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of hilarious new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original franchise took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This summer, they’re here to save the world!

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Ghostbusters (2016) 7.75

eyelights: Lillian. Melissa McCarthy. Kevin’s idiocy. the CGI ghosts.
eyesores: the gimmicky arsenal. Rowan. Kevin’s screentime.

“I will kick the unliving crap out of you, and you …and especially you!”

I’m a die-hard fan of the original ‘Ghostbusters‘. I’ve seen it countless times and it remains one of my all-time favourite comedies. Having said that, I find the sequel lifeless and forgettable – superfluous, even.

I am not indiscriminate.

Seriously, anyone who reads this blog knows that I don’t enjoy things indiscriminately. I really don’t. Give me a sequel or reboot that doesn’t work and I’ll f-ing trounce it like it’s nobody’s business.

But I liked Paul Feig’s ‘Ghostbusters’. I really liked it.

You all know the story by now: A handful of paranormal scientists develop a technology that permits them to capture ghosts. Faced with a growing amount of paranormal activity, they band together to clean up the town.

This time, however, they’re women:

Erin is a Physics professor at Columbia, and once wrote a book about the paranormal with Abby, who is still studying the field with Lillian. The three will unite and be joined by Patty, a street-smart transit employee.

Together, they’re Ghostbusters.

And here’s what you missed if you didn’t go see it:

  • The opening sequence: Echoing the library scene from the original, the picture opens with the tour of a mansion that is said to be haunted. Part of the guide’s shtick is to pretend that there are anomalies in the house, which includes using a remote control trick candle to give the illusion of paranormal activities. This sets a similar tone as the original, which is nice, though it doesn’t take itself seriously enough.
  • The candlestick: Was it really necessary to show us how the remote control and candlestick worked? The guide wouldn’t do that for his own benefit, so it felt contrived, cheesy. I’m sure they could have shown him set the candlestick right without being so obvious about it and we would have gotten the message that it was a set-up.
  • The guide’s escape: At the tail end of that scene, the guide encounters actual paranormal activity and is caught by some ghosts. Cue the credits. Nice set up. But, after the credits, he’s back. What happened to him? And, most importantly, how’d he escape?
  • Introducing Erin: It’s not particularly funny that Erin is trying to prevent her boss from seeing what she’s looking up on her screen but, on top of that, the way she does it is so obvious that it should have alerted him. That it didn’t was extremely annoying: How stupid and/or inattentive is he?
  • Introducing Benny: Erin tracks down Abby to her lab at a local technical college. Enter Benny, who will deliver food for much of the movie. He’s blaséd and sarcastic. His comments about Abby’s “headphones” and her reaction to the soup he brought are quite amusing.
  • Introducing Abby: It’s nothing remarkable, but I appreciated that Melissa McCarthy played it straight from the start. It settled my misgivings right away.
  • Introducing Lillian: When Abby introduces Erin to Lillian, her lab partner, Lillian comes out all smiley and tells Erin “I’ve heard terrible things about you.”. It’s absolutely not a great line, but only Lillian could get away with it – coming from her, it doesn’t sound malicious at all. And that makes it amusing.
  • Reviewing the tapes: Abby and Lillian convince Erin that they’ve recorded proof of paranormal activity. As she becomes intrigued, focused, the tape makes a raspberry sound and the other two laugh at her. It’s a juvenile joke, but no one expects it because of the context and because they’re women. So it gets laughs.
  • Ed’s dead: When Erin hears about the incident at the museum from Ed Mulgrave, its owner, the trio decide to go see him – and are immediately told that he passed away 15 years ago. They immediately think that Erin was visited by a ghost. Then Ed appears and they’re told that he’s actually Ed, jr. It’s not a clever “mix up” but it’s funny because it’s so ridiculous and obvious.
  • First contact: They trio visit the museum, a door opens, and a ghost appears. Erin gets slimed, and the ghost escapes. This echoes the scene in the library in the original. The difference here is that you don’t get the sense of wonder and excitement that Ray exuded after their own encounter. It happens, and then it’s over.
  • Choosing a name: Our paranormal investigators are trying to find a name for themselves and wonder “Who you gonna call?”. In response a hoax paranormal show called “Ghost Jumpers!” plays on TV. What? Really? As perfectly timed as it was, this was a rather lame gag.
  • The technical college: In the hope of getting a greater budget from the college, the trio goes to see the Dean of the twelve-year-old institution. He’s as illegitimate as the place he represents, telling them to “Suck it” and giving them the finger in creative but childish ways. It’s so awkward that it’s funny. But the gags themselves aren’t funny.
  • Leaving the college: Booted from the college, they leave with their equipment – which Abby claims the college will want back. I loved the comment, because it showed a total disregard for the douche that they just met with, but you’d think the college would actually go after them.
  • Introducing Leslie: She’s just working the till at the subway, blaséd with her job. And yet she’s professional enough to look into anything out of the ordinary. Nice. I love professionalism.
  • Introducing Rowan: A total creep, he makes a weird comment to Lillian as he passes by her counter, and then goes right onto the tracks. Seems to me that he’d want to be more discreet if he was going to do something illegal. Is he stupid? Or crazy?
  • Rowan: He’s a disgruntled little nerd completely obsessed with the supernatural. He’s so unlikable that even his bosses call him names (ex: weirdo, freakshow) to his face. He understandably wants them all to go to Hell – and he’s planning on making that happen. The character is credible enough, but he’s anything but enigmatic or magnetic.
  • The fire station: As they’re looking for a headquarters for their new enterprise, they stumble upon the same fire station as in the original. They’re so excited: “Look at the stripper pole!”, Abby exclaims. But then they realize how much it costs and decide to take the only thing they can afford: an office above a Chinese food shop – the one Abby and Lillian always order from. I loved the realism and surprise of them winding up there. Nice touch.
  • Benny’s forever late: Even though he only has to climb a flight of stairs now, he’s still late! Ha!
  • Jillian dances: In an absolutely unnecessary moment, Jillian does a stupid dance to Debarge, setting fire to some equipment with a couple of torches. This is the only time she sucked. But she sucked so hard.
  • Advertising: Abby makes posters for their new venture, “If you see something, say something”. Oops. Those were anti-terrorism slogans by Homeland Security. Way over my head – thank goodness they explained it. Which, let’s be honest, they shouldn’t have to do: If you have to explain a joke, it’s no longer funny.
  • Introducing Kevin: The Ghostbusters are looking for a secretary and a hunk named Kevin applies for the gig. Erin loses it completely, going gaga over him. She clearly needs to get sweaty. Soon.
  • Kevin’s an idiot: Clearly, Kevin has gotten by in life on his good looks alone, ’cause he isn’t very bright. But it makes him funny: Trying to reach the fish through the aquarium glass over and over again, wearing glasses without lenses because it’s more practical, were great touches. Though having a dog called Mike Hat (“My cat”, geddit?). was so bloody terrible it almost killed the rest.
  • Kevin’s logos: Telling Kevin to “Pull it out!” when he offers them new logos didn’t make sense. Yikes, what a forced joke. His logos (Ghost with boobs, 7-11. Hotdog and house) were obviously terrible, but some of them were ironically bad. Some. The others were just bad.
  • Patty visits the Ghostbusters: Patty knows so much about the city that she can even tell the trio the history of their locale. By virtue of this she will later sell them her services (Forget the fact that she probably makes more money with her steady subway gig!).
  • The subway: Patty tells them that the subway was build over the place where criminals were once executed via the electric chair. Brrr…
  • The new logo: Patty catches a vandal spray-painted on the subway wall. Again (It’s not his first time!). It turns out that he’s drawing what would become their logo. Contrived, but nice anyway.
  • The ghost in subway: The Ghostbusters are investigating the subway, filming the event, and… trying the equipment for first the time. What? There were no test trials? Anyway, I love that Erin was chosen to try it first, because “You have the longest arms”. So ridiculous!
  • Lillian’s genius: Having now seen the equipment in action and their interaction with the ghost, Lillian knows right away how to fix it. Brilliant. There’s no mention of the fact that it wasn’t up to snuff – it’s all optimism with her: In her mind she’s not going to fix their equipment – she’s going to improve it. Awesome.
  • Kevin makes coffee: Relegated to traditional secretarial duties, Kevin makes coffee for Erin. When she asks him if he put sugar in the coffee, he can’t remember – so he takes a swig. Ugh. And then immediately proceeds to coughing the coffee back out into her cup. The reaction is funny, the fact that he doesn’t remember what he’s just done is also funny, but what’s funniest is that he hates sugared coffee but takes a swig anyway. What a moron. Um… and then he gives her back her cup!
  • Kevin has to go: Kevin can’t stay for work because he has to go to his Hide and Seek tournament – he’s in the semis, after all. Wow… he really is a noodle brain!
  • Patty comes with benefits: Not only does she know the city like the back of her hand, but Patty also offers to borrow a vehicle from her uncle so that the Ghostbusters can get around.
  • The Ghostbusters car: Guess where Patty’s uncle works? A funeral parlour! Ha! Naturally, Lillian loves the hearse! She’s awesome.
  • Lillian and Abby’s slaps: I love the handslaps that Lillian and Abby do. It pokes fun at this silly guy thing.
  • Testing the new equipment: The team goes into the alley to test Lillian’s latest gadgets. Abby has a misadventure that was to be expected, tossing her about left and right. Yay, slapstick. Thankfully, it’s brief. Sadly, it was featured in the trailer, even though it’s the only bit like it in the whole movie.
  • Erin’s backstory: Erin tells her story about being called ghost girl as a kid and doing loads of therapy because of it. The scene is so contrived and poorly-delivered that what should have been sad was actually really pathetic.
  • Bill Murray’s cameo: The Ghostbusters see Martin Heiss (played by Bill Murray), a noted paranormal debunker, interviewed on TV. It was nice to see Murray, but the role was unsatisfying. Plus which he was dressed idiosyncratically, as though he shopped at the Salvation Army.
  • Kevin’s pictures: Kevin’s trying to sort through self-portraits and asks the girls which picture make him look like a doctor. Naturally, they’re ridiculous choices. The level of his idiocy is always funny.
  • The car gets a paint job: Lillian has the car repainted with the logo on it. Now it looks much like the original one did. Nice. Welcome back, ECTO-1!
  • The Ghostbusters Theme: The new version of the theme isn’t very good (sorry Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott), but it barely plays and there are other iterations of the theme along the way that are quite good, including an interpolation used during the finale’s score that was quite nice.
  • The Ghostbusters are here: On their first real gig, the Ghostbusters arrive in their new car, with their new gear, and wearing their new jumpers. I loved the reveal, though it wasn’t done in an especially innovative way. Even the joke of “Let’s do this!” is perfectly delivered, contextually. It sucked in the trailer, but it works here – if you haven’t seen the trailer (because, otherwise, you anticipate it – with dread, no less).
  • Ghostbustin’ and hard rockin’: For whatever reason, Rowan chose a concert hall to bring back a ghost. It just doesn’t work. I love the setting (what a beautiful venue) but it seemed ill-fitting somehow, especially in daytime and with that shit band playing, whoever/whatever they were. If only there had been rock energy in that hall, then maybe.

But, as is, it was tepid stuff, leaving me nearly-indifferent.

Still, there are some good moments, like Lillian’s Muppet-y moment, Patty’s encounter with the mannequins, the manager freaking out (“This auditorium is art deco, you idiots!”), and Lillian shouting “We put a ghost in a box!” before smashing a guitar. Too much! She’s awesome! It sort of makes up for the lame crowd surfing and Ozzy’s cameo.

  • Rowan is creepy: Rowan mutters to himself, has a disturbing vibe – so much so, in fact, that the waitresses at the local diner he frequents won’t serve the “weirdo”.
  • Lillian’s enthusiasm: Lillian is just bursting with excitement about showing the others the new gear she’s created. Yes, more new gear. This is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it shows just how much of a creative force Lillian is, and it shows much promise. But, on the other, it’s too much of a good thing – I mean, we haven’t even seen the old new gear in action yet!
  • The new gadgets: Seriously, the new gadgets are overkill. A ghost shredder? Really? Ghost guns? Ghost grenades? Seriously? It’s too much. Revamped versions of the original gear would have been enough.
  • Bill Murray’s cameo 2: Martin Heiss shows up at the Ghostbusters’ office. Frankly, it was superfluous: It was too long, there was no real payoff, and then the character dies. Geez, why bother? Did he have the death written in his contract, maybe?
  • Mayor Bradley: The mayor, played by Andy Garcia, has the Ghostbusters picked up. He asks them to stand down and let the government do their work. Erin argues that the cat is already out of the bag – that it makes no sense to pretend now that everyone knows about the situation. But she tries too hard to explain why “the cat is out of the bag”, which I suppose is the joke. But it falls flat.
  • The ley lines: Erin starts to see a pattern in the locations of the ghostly apparitions and realizes that they are all on ley lines and that they all lead to the Mercado Hotel. Ley lines – I dig that.
  • The Mercado hotel: This is where Rowan works. He obviously got the gig to make a sort of headquarters for himself. In the basement he set up a bunch of gear, including windows to other planes with souls in them. It’s very eerie. But it’s also very unlikely: Why didn’t any of the other staff stumble upon his set-up?
  • Abby’s arguments: In trying to prevent Rowan’s plan, Abby tries to convince him that there are so many wonderful things in life. But the best that she can muster in the heat of the moment is: Soup. It’s such a pathetic and uninspired argument that it’s funny – because it’s one of those moments many of us have had (some of us more often!), where we can’t come up with the right line at the right time.
  • Rowan’s death: Patty, in a moment of deep sympathy, reacts to Rowan’s electrocution by saying “It smells like burnt baloney and regrets down here”. Hahaha!
  • The Ghostbusters are discredited: Homeland Security charges in after the incident and the Ghostbusters are escorted out – and publicly discredited.
  • Erin and Abby’s book: They find out that Rowan’s been reading their book. As Erin is revisiting her copy of the book, a bunch of doodles appear in it. They’re made by Roman, who is not actually dead; he’s merely transitioned to the other plane.
  • Abby is possessed: Abby hears a knock at the door, is frightened and locks herself in the bathroom. She gets possessed by Rowan. The others arrive later and she starts smashing gear. She’s now super strong, her head twists around, and she floats. It’s not just a poor scene, but it’s derivative. Yikes.
  • Kevin is possessed: When Patty knocks Rowan out of Abby, he goes straight for Kevin – who was waiting outside, wearing a Ghostbusters suit and backed by a tricked-out motorcycle, hoping to join them. It’s a funny notion but it seemed a bit random.
  • Erin warns the mayor: Erin tracks down the mayor to a lunch at a fancy restaurant and tries to convince him to do something about the situation. Naturally, he has security drag her out. What’s funny about this scene is how Erin doesn’t initially realize that none of the window are doors, and when she’s dragged out, she takes the table with her, pleading “Don’t be like the mayor in ‘Jaws’!”. Ha! Nice!
  • Dan Aykroyd’s cameo: The Ghostbusters are trying to get to the center of all the paranormal activity and hail a cab driven by Dan Aykroyd. It’s brief, but pitch-perfect: “I don’t drive whackos and I ain’t afraid of no ghosts”, he rants at them. Very nice.
  • Slimer steals the car: Really? Slimer steals the Ghostmobile? Le sigh…
  • Guns vs ghosts: Is it just the United States’ gun culture that makes it that we have ghost guns in this picture and that a horde of cops and soldiers are pulling guns on the ghosts? Because, seriously, it just doesn’t make sense contextually…
  • The ghost parade: A parade of large balloon characters (including a Stay Puft balloon, naturellement) is coming down the street, spots the Ghostbusters, and comes after them. They pop a bunch, which I thought was fun, but the Stay Puft tumbles on them, squishing the Ghostbusters against the screen as though against glass. Nice!
  • Kevin, the villain: Kevin is possessed by Rowan, eliciting the question “Who’s the flying beefcake?” from some of the cops. Rowan was already not an engaging villain, but Kevin is no better – Chris Hemsworth looks good, but that’s about it; he’s as bland as white bread. Um… which he is. Plus he makes comments about women being late. Ugh. Watching him float around made me die inside.
  • Ghostbusters in action: I guess it’s a sign of our times that the end had to be a big action piece, with hand-to-hand combat versus ghosts, grenades explosions, the ghost shredder, and ghosts guns. I mean, it’s put together perfectly fine, but it’s not especially notable. And I don’t think that Ghostbusting should have devolved to Ghostdestroying.
  • Lillian brings it: Seriously, she kicks ass! She’s as comfortable taking the fight to the baddies as she is inventing a new gadget. I’m in love.
  • The Ghostbusters hesitate: Um… why do they hesitate to attack the big ghosts that Rowan/Kevin conjures up? What was the point, other than to add another threat to the finale?
  • The creature attacks: The creature gets bigger and bigger, eventually growing out of the Mercado Hotel, breaking it apart. They run. He rampages and destroys the city. Um… why did they hesitate?
  • Slimer drives around: Slimer and his girl (and other ghosts) are off on a joyride with ECTO-1. Well, that thing’s having the time of its life, but it’s too much.
  • Erin saves Abby: Seeing Abby get sucked into the pit in the Mercado Hotel, Erin dives in after her – using only a metal cable to tether herself, and as buildings are sucked back in with the creature. Neither Erin or Abby get hit by anything, they don’t get hurt, and they manage to grab each other. They’re barely holding, and the cable pulls them back out like bungee cord (as if!). And they don’t let go. Um… right.
  • White hair: When Erin and Abby come out, their hair is now white. Nice.
  • The Mercado is fixed: Naturally, all the damage caused to the Mercado by the creature is fixed. But what about all the other buildings it destroyed on its rampage?
  • Lillian’s sexual ambiguity: “I’d talk to you at an AA meeting” Lillian tells Erin, suggesting she may be bi or gay. Or at least really open-minded. I love this woman.
  • The Ghostbusters win: Finally, the mayor decides to give the Ghostbusters credit and finances their operation with an unlimited budget. Naturally, they get the firehouse. Nice!
  • Ernie Hudson’s cameo: Ernie Hudson drives up to the firehouse in a hearse. “Where’s the other car?”, he asks Patty, his niece. Ha!
  • The closing credits: The credits were so entertaining that they were worth staying for – they’re even a “must see”. They have a whole bunch of nods to gags in the film, there’s a bonus cameo, and even a closing bit that’s a nod to the original film. Best closing credits in a while, I’d say!
  • The visuals: The CGI was excellent, especially where it pertained to ghosts. And seeing that in 3D was worth the extra $$$, although the 3D effect was far less efficient for the standard scenes – characters seemed to float out of place.

The main cast was pretty good:

Kirstin Wiig I always like her, but her character, Erin, only came alive around Kevin. The rest of the time, she was a bit bland; she had a sort of subtle Diane Chambers quality about her (complete with the dorky wardrobe) that made her seem a bit aloof – but not as cerebral. Or as irritating.

Melissa McCarthy was a nice surprise. The only times I’ve seen her, she was always shouty – gratingly so. But here she played Abby mostly subdued and it worked perfectly. She basically plays the Dan Aykroyd role but without the naiveté. Nice. It made me reconsider her. Honest.

Kate McKinnon was AWESOME. I would watch more Ghostbusters films just because of her. Her Jillian is the equivalent of Egon, in that she’s the insanely smart and creative one of the bunch – but she’s also eccentric and a bad@$$. She just f-ing rocks it. Man, she’s my kind of woman.

Leslie Jones was okay as Patty, the less cerebral but more street-smart member of the team (Just like Winston, she joins them a bit later). Personally, I felt that she didn’t light up the screen. I think it’s the character, but it’s hard for me to say since I haven’t seen Jones in anything else.

Chris Hemsworth was a hoot as a bit player in the Ghostbusters office, as Kevin, an utter imbecile who gets the job on his looks alone – a reversal of a long-standing cliché. This himbo was hilarious in spurts but he ended up having way too much screen time for my taste.

And, quite frankly, I could have done without him in the finale: He looks good, but he has no charisma, so giving him a central role diffused the tension – he didn’t feel like a threat. He merely went through the motions. Kevin is great in moderation only, much like Janine in 1984.

The villain, however, was another matter altogether:

Neil Casey is perfectly credible as a motion picture comedy villain, being neither too dramatic or goofy. But his character, Rowan North, is for lack of a better word, too realistic: He’s far too plain and schleppy to be engaging. I mean, is your average doofus supposed to be threatening?

Then there are the cameos, which are really or miss:

Bill Murray‘s cameo was the most significant but was a bit flimsy. He plays a scientist who debunks our quartet’s claim of having seen a ghost in the subway during a television interview. It’s amusing just because of Murray’s connection to the original, but his costume is a bit too self-consciously idiosyncratic. Plus which he makes the mistake of returning later on to speak with them in person, in a superfluous scene that is lifeless and unfunny. Less would have been more.

The others were shorter, but more to the point.

Dan Aykroyd‘s was one of the best, playing a cab driver who won’t take Abby, Lillian and Patty for a ride because of his various prejudices and beliefs. He wraps it up with a signature line before taking off, leaving them in his dust. It was brief, but amusing and memorable.

Ernie Hudson was also excellent as Patty’s uncle, wondering where the hell his other hearse had gone to. He plays it straight but it was so pitch perfect that he knocked it out of the park.

Sigourney Weaver was a terrific surprise as Lillian’s mentor. With her big hair, propped up on mega high heels and with a padded jacket, she was larger than life. The two played off of each other nicely.

Annie Potts was a throwaway, but it was still nice to see her play a part that was reminiscent of Janine.

Ozzy Osbourne shows up to deliver just one line for a reaction shot at the tail end of the rock show debacle. One line. And he flubbed it anyway. !@#$. Give the guy one line and he’s still a useless twat? Geezus.

Ultimately, I really liked that they didn’t do too much fan service in this new spin on ‘Ghostbusters’.

Yes, the Stay Puft returns in its own way. Yes, Slimer is back (and probably gets too much screentime). But there were nice touches, like when they visit and old firehouse for an HQ and discover that it’s 21K/month.

I thought that this team made sense: I like their whole origin. I like how they get their name. I like how they get their logo. I like how they get their HQ. I even like how they get their car. It’s as good as the original.

I could have done without the over-the-top arsenal, however. It’s bad enough that we have to believe in the science of the proton packs, without adding even more implausibility to the mix. That was unnecessary.

I think that they should have developed those in the sequels instead. Because now they’d have to try really hard to invent something new! Meanwhile, the proton packs aren’t used in that familiar way that we enjoy so much.

I could have done without the (mercifully short) singalong/dance bits with McKinnon. Yes, I absolutely could have done without Abby being possessed. Yes, the finale was utterly ridiculous and way over-the-top.

And, finally, I could also have done without the product placement (Pringles, 711, Rockfest, Ozzy – yes, he’s a brand!) and I felt that the editing was very poor, with many takes not merging together adequately.

But I still had fun.

Seriously, I had a good time watching “Ghostbusters’. For every not-so-great joke, at least one other -if not two- that made up for it.

It’s a different beast, yes, but it’s a nice reinvention of the original concept. It’s not remaking it, it’s not a reboot, it’s not a sequel, it really is taking the original concept and giving it a new spin.

Is it le film du siècle? No. But it’s a rollicking good time. I’d call on these Ghostbusters anytime. In fact, I really wished that had been enough of a success that we could have had more of them.

I heart ‘Ghostbusters’.

Date of viewing: July 15, 2016

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