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Josh Reviews Paul Feig’s Rebooted Ghostbusters!

Let’s cut right to the chase: the original Ghostbusters is one of the all time great movies, definitely in my top ten.  Paul Feig’s rebooted Ghostbusters can’t hold a candle to the original.  But this new film is still a ton of fun, very funny and very enjoyable from start to finish.  Mr. Feig is one of the great comedy directors working today, and mixed with this tremendous cast he ‘s created a great movie that is funny and exciting.  Ignore the haters who were all bent out of shape at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters: this is a solid movie that is definitely worth seeing.

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The idea of rebooting/remaking one of the all-time great movies is a foolhardy one.  I have been saying that for years, ever since rumors of a new Ghostbusters began floating around.  Remake BAD movies that you can improve upon!  Why hobble yourself by forcing audiences to compare your new movie, at every turn, to one of the greatest movies of all time?  It just seems insane to me.

Equally insane?  The crazy, misogynistic anger that has been out there, across the internet, at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters.  What year is this??  Who cares whether the new Ghostbusters are male or female or whatever??  The questions should be: are they funny?  Does this new cast have a great dynamic together?  Do they create interesting new characters who you care about and root for?  Those are the questions that you should be asking.  And by the way, the answer to all three of those questions is YES, which is why this new Ghostbusters works as well as it does.

But getting back to my original point, I have been saying all along, and I still feel this way now after having seen the new Ghostbusters, that rather than remaking one of the all-time-great films, I’d have preferred had Paul Feig and this cast come together to make an original film.  That would have been more interesting to me, and in my opinion it would have given this project a better chance for greatness (rather than my constantly thinking about, while watching it, the ways in which it falls short of the original Ghostbusters).

However, that being said, this is probably as good a version of a rebooted Ghostbusters as I can imagine seeing.  I have a few quibbles, of course, but overall the movie works very, very well.  The cast is great.  The jokes work.  The visual effects are terrific.  The film successfully walks a fine line between telling the familiar type of story we expect from a rebooted Ghostbusters film while also finding some new twists and new spins to put on what we’ve seen before.

The lead foursome are all fantastic.  Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy are always phenomenal together.  (It’s fascinating how Mr. Feig seems to know exactly how to best utilize Ms. McCarthy — she is always far funnier in his films than in those of any other director.)  Ms. McCarthy plays a gentler version of her usual gruff bulldog persona, and it works.  Kristen Wiig plays the “every-person” on the group, and while her character Erin might seem the most “normal” or at least respectable of the foursome on the surface, we soon learn that she has in fact been chasing ghosts since she was a kid.  Also, thankfully, even while playing the sort-of straight-woman against the other three nutballs, Ms. Wiig is still given plenty of opportunities to be goofy and funny.  Leslie Jones is phenomenal as Patty.  I found it a little tiresome that this Ghostbusters, like the original, has three white “original” Ghostbusters who are later-on joined by a fourth black member of the team.  But I guess the filmmakers felt that was part of the formula, and Ms. Jones is so funny that I can’t really complain.  I love the way her character Patty’s story and life gets intertwined with that of the other three women.  Last but not least is Kate McKinnon as Holtzman.  For the most part, Mr. Feig and his team avoided drawing these four new characters too directly from the mold of the four original Ghostbusters.  McKinnon’s Holtzman is the most like an original Ghostbuster — her hair alone connects her to Egon, and she’s also the main tech-head of the group — but Ms. McKinnon takes Holtzman into much zanier, crazier places.  I love this character.  She is a riot.

As is to be expected from a movie directed by Paul Feig, the lead performers are surrounded by a tremendous cavalcade of scene-stealing co-stars.  Chris Hemsworth is hilarious and brilliant as the dim-witted Kevin, hired to be the team’s secretary.  Andy Garcia is extremely funny in his scenes as the mayor of New York, giving us a fun new spin on the mayor in a Ghostbusters film.  (I loved the mayor in the original Ghostbusters, and I was glad that they included the mayor as a character in this new version.)  Cecily Strong is also great as the mayor’s right-hand-woman, whose main job in the film is to attempt to discredit the new Ghostbusters. Charles Dance (most recently seen as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones) is perfect as Erin’s very proper, very stern and imposing boss at the start of the film.  (I wish we’d gotten one more scene with him, after Erin had become a Ghostbuster.)  Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) and Matt Walsh are fun as a pair of FBI agents who find themselves at cross-purposes with the Ghostbusters, and Michael McDonald is very funny as the manager of a haunted theatre.  Steve Higgins has one very funny scene as Abby (Melissa McCarthy)’s dean early in the film, Nate Corddry pops up as the graffiti artist who designs the Ghostbusters logo, Ed Begley Jr. is great in his small role as the owner of a haunted old house, and Zach Woods (The Office) is very funny as the unfortunate tour guide at that old house who is set upon by a ghost in the film’s opening sequence.

I like the look of the ghosts in the film — they share a certain “feel” with the ghosts in the original film, while not being too slavishly derivative.  (Though I’m not sure what to make of the non-human ghosts — like that huge winged demon-creature who the Ghostbusters fight on their first official call — what are those creatures?  Those seem to be other supernatural entities, rather than the ghost of a dead human.)  When the chaos really breaks loose across New York in the third act, we get to see some truly gorgeous imagery.  I loved all that stuff.

The film is filled with call-backs to the original film, as well as cameos from a ton of the original stars.  The cameos are all fun, though they did all feel a bit extraneous to me.  This is a strong-enough film that it stands on its own and didn’t need all the references back to the original 1984 film.  I think that while I enjoyed the cameos when seeing this new film for the first time, these will grow tiresome upon a rewatch.  (Probably the best cameo, in my opinion, was Dan Aykroyd’s, though Annie Potts’ was also pretty terrific.)

I like the idea that this film had a human villain, in the form of the put-upon-by-life Rowan (Neil Casey).  Mr. Casey is great in the role, and I found Rowan to be an interesting character and a good villain.  I think the character was weakened, though, in that the character appears in three totally different “versions.”  First there is the wimpy guy played by Mr. Casey.  Then, for a good while, the role is played by Chris Hemsworth (when Rowan’s spirit infests Kevin).  Then, finally, the villain inhabits the form of a giant Ghostbusters logo.  All three versions were good, but there was something disjointed by having three totally different versions of the same character menacing our heroes, in my opinion. I would have liked to have seen more of any one version.

I also wish the third act had a few more twists and turns.  I was excited when Rowan, in the body of Kevin, unleashed all the spirits across New York at the end.  But I felt that, once the Ghostbusters were finally on-site to confront him, they were able to dispatch the villain fairly easily.  (And the “twist” of Abby’s being snatched by Rowan and dragged into the ghost realm wound up being very underwhelming since Erin rescues her so easily — and unfortunately so unrealistically in terms of what I felt had been established by the story to that point.)  The finale of the film also missed the fist-pumping excitement that the original Ghostbusters did so well.  Every time I watch that original film, I get thrilled when the Ghostbusters are released from jail, the amazing theme music starts playing, and we see the whole city gathered around in support of the Ghostbusters, cheering for them.  Those sequences are amazing.  (And very exciting, too, because of how outmatched the original Ghostbusters seem to be by the menace of Gozer.)  The new film doesn’t really have any of that thrilling feeling to its climax.  (See what I was saying above about how comparing this new film to the original does this new film a disservice?)

(Also — nerdy complaint — but why do the Ghostbusters’ proton packs seem to DESTROY the ghosts throughout the climax, rather than just holding them (so they can be sucked into a trap)?)

My other complaint about this new film is that it feels a little disjointed to me.  There are some digressions that don’t seem to go anywhere, and some moments where the progression from one scene to the next is unclear.  The biggest example of this, for me, comes in the middle of the film when the Ghostbusters are first told by the mayor that they are going to be discredited in the media, and they are told not to do any more hunting or catching of ghosts.  This should be a major down-moment for our heroes, but in the very next scene they are back in the alley behind their HQ testing new equipment.  The editing totally undermines any impact that first moment should have had.   I suspect there was an earlier, much-longer cut of this film that had to get cut down for the theatrical release, and that some of the jarring edits are a result of the process of getting this film down to a leaner run-time.

By the way, speaking of the HQ, let me say that I LOVE the new Ghostbusters HQ in this film!!  They made a great choice to play with the audience’s expectations by teasing the familiar firehouse but to then go in a completely different direction.

The film had a fun soundtrack though I didn’t love the remix of the classic Ghostbusters theme.  We did hear snippets of the original theme in a few spots, and I wish we’d heard more of that.

The film ends on a surprisingly flat joke (a barely-qualifies-as-a-joke comment by Ernie Hudson), but thankfully there are some better little scenes sprinkled throughout the closing credits.  (Still, I wish this film went out with more of a bang at the end.  Here too, I wonder if we’re feeling the results of a longer first-version getting edited down for the theatrical release.)

But no more complaining.  This new Ghostbusters is a heck of a lot of fun.  Paul Feig didn’t let me down.  He’s crafted a fun, funny film that I enjoyed quite a lot.  This isn’t the original Ghostbusters, not by a long shot, but’s it’s still a great film that is a lot of fun and worth your time.  Enjoy.

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