Ghostbusters Review: All that for this?
This may be the most challenging review I’ve ever written. Everyone and their cat has an opinion on this movie. Some of those people, oddly enough, without having seen it.
So, is Ghostbusters good? Is it because of the new female team? It is bad because it’s another commercialized remake of a classic? It’s difficult to address this film without also unpacking the year-and-a-half-long politics surrounding it.
But first, let’s be fair and actually talk about the film itself.
Modern visual effects do the movie a lot of favours. The props department clearly had a ball coming up with new and fun Proton-weapons. The designs are bold, used well and raise the stakes from the original film. The ghosts have creative designs that play with the history of both New York and the Ghostbusters franchise itself. It makes for creatures that definitely aren’t ho-hum. They manage to look cartoonish, but still scary. The opening scene as well as the finale both have the look and feel of the Ghostbusters mythos we know and love, with some sweet new features added on.We also get treated to some delightful slapstick with the girls. The movie knows when to be funny and when to be scary, and there is never a dull moment.
Casting is where the film takes off. Ghostbusters ought to be everyday, unsexy but funny people. Our leading ladies, all of whom have SNL credits, have the right traits. The girls understand the dry, rapid-fire humour of the original film without having to copy its jokes verbatim. They have the right energy, some quotable lines and they work for their laughs. Best of all, women get to be heroes without being weirdly sexualized. There are girls out there of all ages, whom walked out of this movie with some new role models. Perhaps, hopefully, some guys too.
Although a fun ride, some parts needed more polish. Director Paul Feig, of Bridesmaids fame, likely landed the job because of his success with female ensembles. When Bridesmaids came out, there was a need for it. Sure, toilet humor isn’t for everyone, but he let women tell those kinds of jokes. Women, allowed to have normal bodily functions, without it being ‘prettyfied’! He was unapologetic about it.
But since then, he’s been slacking and recycling his jokes. It shows here, rather painfully. A particularly underwhelming scene is when Kristen Wiig first sees a ghost. Beautiful, until it “slimes” on her. In the original film, Slimer puked on the guys because they provoked him. This time, the ghost pukes on our heroes because Feig can’t go a movie without such a gag.
For a movie about female empowerment, it assumes that women are awfully easy to manipulate. Feig’s opinion, shared by EW and other media outlets, is that there is a moral precedent to see this film. The trouble is, the director is still a rich white guy reaching hard for feminist ally points. Why wasn’t a female director on the table? In some cases, characters are also pretty regressive compared to their counterparts from the original. Where Ernie Hudson was the straight man, Leslie Jones uses a lot of stereotypes on black women. Where Annie Pots was the team’s real brains, Chris Hemsworth is “The Sexy Secretary”. (And no, the trope doesn’t suddenly become funny just because it’s played out by a dude.)
Rather than let the film live on its own merit, it smothers itself in emotional blackmail of women. It wants to have its cake and eat it too by letting girls do all the same cool stuff that guys do in movies, but discourage critique even when it’s needed.
On the whole, this movie is a pleasant surprise. When it’s on, it is on and genuinely feels like a Ghostbusters movie. However, that mostly happens when Feig cleans up his fingerprints and remembers he’s not making Bridesmaids 4.
Don't believe the hype, but don't believe the hate either. Do the old-fashioned thing and form your own opinions when you see it.