The New Ghostbusters Is Pretty, but Low on Laughs

Hello, everyone! I know that the entire Interwebs has been writing about the new Ghostbusters movie, so, after seeing the movie (kind of against my will) I’d like to chip in with my entirely unprofessional, unnecessary review. I hope that this is the 5001st review that you read and I sincerely hope that it says nothing new! But if there’s any consolation, I am neither a big part of the media nor an angry dudebro, so you can rest assured that there will be no paid politicizing (hurrah for FEMINISM) nor any misogynistic anger (these womunz ruined mah movie broz).

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Synopsis: After an employee (Zach Woods) at the Aldridge Mansion has an encounter with a malevolent ghost, his boss hunts down Erin (Kristen Wiig), a physics professor at Columbia who once published a book about the existence of the paranormal. Erin is only days away from receiving her tenure, and worried that her book will damage her chances, she hunts down her ex-friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy), who is still working as a paranormal investigator, to remove the book from Amazon. There she meets Abby’s partner-in-crime Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) and reluctantly agrees to investigate the Aldridge Mansion if, in return, they will take down her book.

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It is at the mansion that the women first see a real paranormal entity, and Erin is convinced to join Abby and Holtzman to start a professional team of paranormal investigators, or as they are soon called by the media, Ghostbusters. Patty (Leslie Jones), a subway worker, soon joins them after seeing a suspicious man plant a weird device in the subway and encounters a ghost. With their new assistant Kevin, (Chris Hemsworth), a dumb, but loyal helper, they discover one man’s conspiracy to unleash a world of ghosts into New York City, and must attempt to stop him.

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My take: I’ll start with the positive parts of the film first. One way in which the film shines is its design. It’s a beautiful, vibrant , stylish film, from the Ghosbusters’ new pink-striped jumpsuits, to their ornate Oriental-styled headquarters in the loft of a Chinese restaurant. The ghosts, too, are beautiful. Some glow in incandescent greens and blues, while others looks like vintage balloons from the Macy’s Day Parade, or the physical embodiment of an old painting. Much like the first Ghostbusters, the final enemy that the women must face is a ghost of giant proportions, but instead of a giant marshmallow monster, this one is a giant sock puppet which glows blue through its worn edges. The reboot sticks to the style of its predecessor, but builds on it, and even makes it better.

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Another great part of the film was its soundtrack. Everyone loves the original “Who You Gonna Call?” theme, but the movie did an admirable job at a modern cover of the original. But I love Fall Out Boy, so I might be a tad biased. Besides the new theme song, composer Theodore Shapiro elevates the film with a nice score filled with musical accents and homages to the 1984 film, Here’s the new theme song, if you want to take a listen:

Ghostbusters New Theme

Now for the not-so-good parts. Coming into the film, I had many media-fueled expectations. But the one thing I never expected the film to be was boring. I was never hardly engaged during the film, except for the a few exceptions. Most times, I was stuck between trying to guess which predictable turn the plot would take next, or waiting until it would end. The reason for this is that, despite the media battlegrounds and misogynistic backlash, the new Ghostbusters is a thoroughly mediocre comedy. That’s not so bad, since probably 90 percent of comedies released these days are dumb and boring, but it’s rare that these dumb, boring comedies are held up to such an intense scrutiny. I’ll break down exactly why I found the movie to be so underwhelming:

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  • Bad writing: Paul Feig created and wrote the amazing Freaks and Geeks and Katie Dippold wrote for my beloved Parks and Recreation, but something fell apart when they wrote the script for Ghostbusters. There was far too much reliance on fart jokes, slime jokes, and balls jokes for a movie that was supposedly directed towards a female audience. The casting was good, for it’s hard to disagree that Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones are funny when given the right material, but they were all about as funny as wet rags in this film. Kristen Wiig, the zany oddball I know from her weird baby-hands sketch on SNL  was given the straight man role, when in my opinion, no one needed to be a straight man! The only person allowed to be truly zany was McKinnon, but even she needs some good writing to make her eccentric brand of humor funny.  Jones was probably the funniest out of the four women because she wasn’t reined in by pretend science jargon. She was allowed to be a brash New Yorker, while the other women were stuck having to be “intellectuals.” And oh God, the forced sob-story background origins. I really, really don’t care if Erin was bullied for believing in ghosts. That doesn’t inspire sympathy, that inspires ridicule. Who believed that was worthy of being included in the script?

 

  • The jokes don’t cut it: You know what I find weird? In a movie that stars four famous female comedians, the funniest lines were given to a man who isn’t even a comedian! Chris Hemsworth’s ditzy secretary Kevin had the only jokes that made me laugh out loud. Innocent idiocy is far funnier than pretend intelligence, or else why would we like movies like Napoleon Dynamite? I’m not saying that only idiotic characters are funny, I mean look at Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy, but it’s when characters act idiotic that they are the funniest. Since the movie was trying to emphasize how smart all of these women were, none of them were allowed to act like idiots. If they had, the movie would have been a hell of a lot funnier. Other male characters that happened to be funnier than ALL four of the women: Benny the delivery guy (who had three lines), Zach Woods the tour guide, and that mayor who didn’t want to be compared to the mayor in Jaws. That’s really sad. Because of the media circus, the movie rests on the success of its female comedians who were outshined by men in itty bitty parts. It’s like Feig and Dippold unconsciously shot themselves in the foot.

  • A derivative and boring plot: This is the main element that makes the movie so mediocre. Most comedies these days have boring plots that we’ve all seen a million times. For instance,  take any Adam Sandler movie. Ghostbusters doesn’t even try to be original. I get that it’s a reboot, so it’s supposed to rely on familiarity with the original work, but writing four paper-thin female characters and calling that novelty does not work! Oh no, New York is besieged by ghosts that only the Ghostbusters can get rid of, where have I seen that before?  A weird, loner wants to unleash the ghosts so that people will respect him, and then the Ghosbusters make mass-shooting jokes? That’s derivative of every evil villain ever, and in pretty bad taste— they hit two birds with one stone! One slightly novel element was that the mayor’s office was purposely trying to paint the Ghostbusters as unreliable so that the public wouldn’t be scared into mass hysteria (har har, what a reference), but that didn’t make much sense. Unless that was to show how the media would have less faith in female Ghostbusters then male Ghostbusters….which, honestly, just bores the hell out of me. You don’t get to make that statement, Ghostbusters, not when you gave all your best jokes to the freaking men in your own movie!
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One of the crazier moments from an all-too-serious Wiig

Final Consensus: The new Ghostbusters is a treat to look at and features a great soundtrack, but is vanquished by its script and characterization. The women are too serious to be funny and the men, reduced to likeable idiots, steal the show. It’s a mediocre comedy that  is better than a lower-tier Will Ferrell comedy, but worse than a lower-tier Judd Apatow movie. Unfortunately, it’s also a mediocre comedy that has been made into a political statement, and for that, we all suffer. 2/5 Bad Fart Jokes

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And that’s when Feig and Dippold thought, maybe an Exorcist joke would save their movie…
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