So it took a week or so after the premiere, but I got out last night to see the new Ghostbusters movie. I cannot understand why anyone would have found any substantial cause to troll this movie and remain at a loss about the cultural kerfuffles surrounding it and the generally poor reviews it’s received. Maybe it’s resistance to the idea of rebooting a beloved film from our childhoods, maybe it’s rebooting a formerly all-male team to an all-female team, maybe it’s expectations being too high.
We’re well past the time that the idea of women as scientists, entrepreneurs, adventurers, heroes, or villains should be particularly odd to anyone. I did have a bit of a problem with the principally female cast, though: despite makeup and costuming trying to make Kristen Wiig seem frumpy and geeky, and Kate McKinnon going over the top with the “weird manic girl” schtick, both remained distractingly attractive. As comedians executing jokes in what is basically a silly movie, they do a fine job working through some clever and some hackneyed jokes.
Ghostbusters doesn’t get bogged down in the usual routine of a Saturday Night Live movie, beating a joke to death long after it stopped being funny (e.g., Wayne’s World). If anything, there are traces of jokes and scenes cut by an activist editor from the final version — which is a good thing, because it mostly keeps the movie flowing forward enjoyably, and the jokes leave the audience wanting more. My only complaint about this tailoring is that the seams show once in a while.
As for the cast, they’re all quite good. Indeed, they are the principal reason the reboot works. Leslie Jones steals the show, and that’s saying something when she’s paired up with charismatic co-stars like these. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig play characters that they’ve played before; Ms. Wiig’s character in particular strikes the same emotional notes as the character she originated in Bridesmaids.
There were fewer standout snappy lines; Ms. Wiig is more of a Jerry Seinfeld at the center of wackiness rather than a punchline-delivering Bill Murray (that job gets split between Ms. Jones and Ms. McCarthy). That’s just fine — the writers and actors here had the confidence to let the characters form their own dynamics with each other and that worked just fine.
In other respects, though, the callbacks to the original movie were distracting and even forced: the script is, or at least could have been, strong enough to carry the film without them. I’m a bit wistful that the recurring cameos of cast members from the 1984 movie couldn’t have been more subtle, as well, because the script and the cast were entirely capable of standing up all on their own.
Computer graphics have come a long way since 1984, and once or twice the ghosts were scary enough to make me jump even though I knew the scare was coming. There were more than enough laugh-out-loud moments to be worth the price of admission. It’s a good but not great movie; while there are some flaws, it achieves everything it sets out to do — first and foremost, Ghostbusters aims to entertain its audience, and it does that very well.
Image by Thoth, God of Knowledge