Paula Apynys

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The Ghostbusters Redo

Posted in Reviews

Ghostbusters is one of my favorite comedies. It was the perfect vehicle for the talents of Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis. Rick Moranis and Annie Potts also shine comedically while Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver play the straight people with aplomb. It's one of those movies that I can watch periodically and still laugh at even though, by now, the jokes have long since been memorized. (For me the artistry is in the "delivery" of the jokes more than the content of the jokes themselves.)

Having said all that, I was reasonably intrigued at the thought of a remake starring women; even more so when I learned who those women would be. How do I think they did?

All things considered I give the remake a solid "B".

I think all four female leads were strong and the high-spots of their performances helped the movie rise above it's weaknesses. I most enjoyed Kate McKinnon's daffiness; Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones tied for my second favorite. Kristen Wiig was perfectly solid in the somewhat thankless role of straight-woman. She also ended up being the bridge between the humor and the serious (trying to warn the governor; running around screaming at people to flee New York). But I very much enjoyed the sisterhood-ish dynamic they embodied collectively.

I enjoyed the cameos by the original cast members.

Chris Hemsworth by turns amused and annoyed me. I couldn't decide if his "dumb-blonde" routine worked or failed. He, personally, pulled it off beautifully, I just couldn't decide if it made sense in the larger context. Which brings me to what I see as the main weakness of the movie compared to the original.

In the original film the performances, the script, the events, the overall tone, are consistent from beginning to end. The characters seem fully realized within their little universe and the jokes land because they emerge organically from the characters themselves. The Stay Puff Marshmallow man remains cute, even when he's a giant and a threat. There's never really any sense of underlying evil in the movie — the ghosts are more mischievous than malevolent.

In the remake the characters seemed more like collections of stereotypes who have been assembled as delivery-vehicles for jokes and the tone veers unevenly between funny and vaguely serious. The Chris Hemsworth gag sat uncomfortably in the story; why did they even need a receptionist in today's day and age? And if they needed one, why on earth would they put up with one who was completely incompetent? Simply because he was good-looking? What is that supposed to tell us about the main characters? Similarly, the gag about the soup — there was a payoff at the end but the build-up was more annoying than funny. Why do smart women need to be depicted as ineffectual in minor ways?

The movie's bad-guy Rowan (Neil Casey) is a sad character. In the original movie there really is no bad-guy who starts all the trouble — the architect who dabbled in demonics is long dead. I think not having to portray a bad-guy helped the original Ghostbusters maintain it's lightness even when scary things were happening. Rick Moranis pounding desperately on the restaurant's windows, then turning and saying "nice poochie", is funny. Kristen Wiig pounding on the restaurant windows is not.

Also, (pet peeve warning), I don't find "poop" jokes particularly funny and I don't think their use (in the beginning) enhanced the movie. They always strike me as lame and, for what its worth, when I saw the movie those jokes didn't get a laugh.

My husband and I always stay through final credits and, in this case, were rewarded with a brief scene at the very, very end of the credits that appeared to be a set-up for a sequel. I think this cast and writers has the potential to improve and the second movie might well be better than the first. (The original's sequel, sadly, was simply unable to reproduce the magic of the first.) If they make it, I'll go see it. At least once!

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