Movies That Settle – Current Edition – Ghostbusters (2016)

Posted: July 18, 2016 in Movies That Settle
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As with my last current edition (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Crap), I am tackling a movie that seems to be polarizing the movie-going public with the new rendition of Ghostbusters. But before I begin, I want to just lay it out here that, although I loved the original, and I never really saw the need for the new one, I went in with a completely open mind. Even better, I actually went in kind of looking forward to it. My first big mistake.

I also want to say before we get rolling that I am not one of those dickhead trolls who doesn’t think that the movie shouldn’t be made because it cast the four leads as female. As remakes go, at least this was an attempt at breaking new ground, and the four females in question are usually pretty funny performers. I actually never understood that whole backlash in the first place. I personally love women, so why not put them front-and-center more often? So, don’t get on me for being anti-feminist or something when I start ripping this thing apart.

First, let’s jump into the Way-Back Machine and punch in March 3rd, 2016, when i first saw a trailer for this new re-imagining of the 80’s classic. Upon seeing the first trailer, I can say unequivocably that I hated it. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about the trailer, but it just screamed “unfunny” to me. I was instantly worried, because I thought my future girlfriend, Kristen Wiig, was capable of more. The subsequent trailers and Papa John’s sponsorship did nothing to quell my fears, and I decided that I would probably skip this one.

Then it came out, and reviews started popping up, and they were good! Rotten Tomatoes had it rated Certified Fresh on opening day. Maybe the trailers were just edited poorly. Maybe it has funny lines not shown in there. Maybe it is just a fun, summertime romp.

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This is a good lesson for the children out there to always trust your instincts. Or, perhaps, more appropriately, I think this old chestnut applies here: “If something looks and smells like shit, that means it’s shit.” I only laughed a couple times during the entire movie, and one of them was when Chris Hemsworth, the Ghostbusters’ dumber-than-dumb secretary relayed a message that there  was”a goat” roaming around in a theater. See, he meant “ghost,” but because he’s so stupid… heh-heh. Never mind.

But I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I disliked this movie because “reasons,” because I have actual reasons. Reason #1 is that I was kind of offended. Not as a man or a fan of the original, but as someone who purports to write screenplays once in awhile. They had a premise ready-made. That’s a good chunk of the hard work done right there: “Let’s put 4 people in these jumpsuits and have them hunt ghosts.” They don’t have to pitch anything. All they have to do is write some witty dialogue, and these four talented women should be able to handle the rest. They almost couldn’t lose, and yet…

My second biggest problem is actually the most glaring one, and this is why I was surprised that so many people actually claimed to have liked it. A lot was made about how this movie was breaking ground by casting four women leads in a big-budget, tent-pole summer movie, as if no woman had ever been in a movie ever.And I was all for that. Unfortunately, instead of breaking new ground, this movie decided to just trudge over the same old ground that has been trudged on by every other big-budget, tent-pole summer movie. Let’s see, the black woman has to play the uneducated Ghostbuster, who yells really loudly all the time, and who lends her knowledge of the New York subway system to the team, while the three white Ghostbusters are all scientists. Was that supposed to be an homage to the original, or are they just that uninspired?

Along those same lines, Melissa McCarthy basically played the exact same role that she plays every time she is on-screen, which is loud, over-weight funny lady. Don’t get me wrong, she does it well, but wouldn’t it have been a refreshing change if she played the shy, quiet one for once in her life? And lest you think I’m being biased, Wiig pretty much played the same mousey girl that she plays in all her movies, too, which was also quite irksome.

This wouldn’t have bothered me so much (Hey, men, women and children play to type in Hollywood movies all the time, and they basically print money, so…), but so much was made about this wonderful new Ghostbusters team that’s all female, maybe someone could have done these women the favor of writing them a decent script. In all the meetings that take place before anyone actually films Act I, Scene A of any movie, did nobody stop and go, “Hey, I know it’s a remake, but isn’t this a little too unoriginal?” I mean, they were under pretty heavy scrutiny as it was. Wouldn’t this be time to try something a little different? Would it have killed them to shake things up a little bit?

I also wondered about the anti-feminist approach to Chris Hemsworth, who is playing eye-hqdefaultcandy for sure, which I suppose could be looked at as a nice, little switcheroo, because the secretaries are always played by hot chicks. I just didn’t understand why Wiig had to get all googly-eyed every time he walked in? She basically played the role of Jennifer Anniston in every movie she was in in the 90’s, basically setting women in movies back about 20 years. And the worst part, they never paid off that storyline! I mean, at least Bill Murray got with Sigourney Weaver at the end of the original, just to send everyone home happy.

But let’s face facts; making the black woman a scientist or Kristen Wiig getting with Chris Hemworth wouldn’t have really made much difference, because I’m pretty sure everyone was just cashing a paycheck on this one. One of my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live sketches took place in 1992, and it involved the late, amazing Phil Hartman as Bill Clinton, about to go into a Democratic Presidential debate with Jerry Browne, played by Dana Carvey. The two candidates are making agreements on which illicit things in their past that they will not bring up in the debate, and Clinton lists the movie Ishtar as one of his dalliances. for those who don’t remember, Ishtar was the 1987 stinker starring Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as lounge singers who are somehow caught up in an international incident with the Emir of Ishtar. I’ve actually never seen it, but it’s universally recognized as being terrible. So, in taking the blame for the movie, Clinton says, “I said ‘Put Beatty and Hoffman out there in the desert, put a serape on ’em, and something funny will happen.'” I feel like that’s basically what was going on here. I feel like director Paul Feig said, “I’ll put these 4 funny women in a Ghostbusters movie and something funny will happen.” But you still have to, y’know, make a movie. The movie itself also looks like it was cut in a meat grinder, as they go from scene to scene with literally no flow whatsoever. One minute, they are meeting with the mayor, who is telling them to stop hunting ghosts, and in the next scene they are in an alley testing out their new ghost-fighting weapons, with seemingly no regard for what just happened. Anyone who has ever seen a movie before could probably predict that  all of these weapons would be used by the end, but it they were pretty much all used in rapid succession during the big climax, so we could have done without the exposition scene where you demonstrated what these things actually do to ghosts. We get it. You have fancy weapons. Don’t cross the streams (which actually never came up.)

In spite of all of these pitfalls, the movie scored a $46 million opening weekend, which is solid, and I’m happy, because I’m all for female leads in big movies.But beyond the box office, there are definitely people, critics and regular-folk alike, who enjoyed it. But I always kind of wonder what the agenda is here. One person responded to my Facebook post by saying that he went in with “the lowest of standards” and loved it. He went on to say that it “held its own,” and that is all you can ask for “in a sequel/reboot.” Now, I know that is one man’s opinion, but am I the only one who sees a problem with that? First of all, why did you see it if you had the “lowest of expectations?” Lowest seems pretty low to me. And since basically every movie is a sequel/reboot or comic franchise these days, what do you reserve the high expectations for? Like I’ve said before, I envy people like this man, who can walk into a movie with low expectations and be happy when it even slightly beats them. But I can’t do that, and to be honest, I don’t think anyone should. If we all had higher standards for movies, reboots, sequels, or whatever, maybe there wouldn’t be five Transfomers movies out there. And three Ghostbusters.

That is why I am so troubled by movies. I won’t say that I have high expectations for every movie I see, but I do actually want them to be good, and find myself constantly disappointed. If I’m spending my money, I want the movie to meet some level of quality, or else why would I waste my time? But through all the slime and the goofy cameos and the jazzy special effects, Ghostbusters could not come close to meeting even my middling standards. I guess it’s true what they say: “you only hurt the ones you love.”

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