Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Who you gonna call... again?

It's disappointing that the new Ghostbusters movie should be as mediocre as it is.  All that internet hate and defending simply wasn't worth the energy (not that it would have anyway).  It's not the worst remake of all time, but it's not a masterpiece of feminist film making.  It's just an intermittently funny movie, filled with good actors playing well-rounded characters in a CGI-infested fantasy land.  It is not a justified remake (I still see no reason this couldn't have been in the same world as the original) and its story is boilerplate at best, but it does have entertaining moments.  I fall into the exceptionally rare camp of people who like the original Ghostbusters without loving it with all my heart, so keep that in mind while I continue to not hate this movie with every fiber of my being.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts.

In New York City, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is just starting her career as a professor at Columbia University. When a book she'd written years earlier with her friend Abby Yates (Mesila McCarthy) pops up online, Erin seeks her out to get the book taken down before it endangers her career.  The book was about the existence of paranormal activity, which of course, includes ghosts. Abby agrees to take the book out of publication if Erin helps her and her assistant Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) with a paranormal investigation at a small museum. They discover a very real ghost in the museum, and even catch it on video, but people on the internet assume it's been doctored. With new enthusiasm for the paranormal, Erin, Abby, and Jillian start up their own company and offer a service that can capture ghosts and keep them in specialized containers.  So much for unfinished business.  Along the way, they add Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) to their group, who just days before experienced a ghost sighting in the subways, and the beefy Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth), who becomes their secretary despite being too stupid to live.

"Forgot about my new toys. Let's go."

Director Paul Feig has teamed up with Melissa McCarthy on several occasions, and they usually do great work together.  This is unfortunately their weakest collaboration to date, and strangely McCarthy plays the least funny character out of the main group.  More than a few clearly improvised gags go on way too long, but that's on the editors, not the cast.  If you tell a talent like Wiig to improvise, she's going to pull out some amazing lines. But it's up to the editor to pull the best ones and make them work in the story, and editors Brent White and Melissa Bretherton needed to do a bit more chopping.  However, the cast is generally strong, with the clear standout being McKinnon, who injects a manic energy into the film when it really needs it.

"I guess he's going to Queens. He's gonna be the third scariest thing on that train."

The story is incredibly silly, just as it was in the original Ghostbusters, but the third act has some pretty egregious moments.  Each of the new Ghostbusters fighting ghosts in creative ways around New York set to the theme song? Awesome.  Slimer doing some joyriding? Hilarious.  Abby getting pulled down a portal and Erin diving in after her? No.  There are many CG effects that are overdone, and do their best to clash with the tone of the scenes that solely involve the characters. It's not all bad; there are creepy moments as well as a few good jump scares.  And while the comedy is inconsistent, it the good stuff keeps everything just barely afloat. I've just always felt that the fundamental flaw with the Ghostbusters lore in general is that no one acts like they're fighting the souls of dead people.  Is that what's even happening?  Are these just monsters? Manifestations of something?  It's just a bit muddled and doesn't really work for me as a concept.  Also, the less we talk about the film's main antagonist, the better.

"You guys, this is exactly how I pictured my death."

There are some funny cameos here from the original movies, despite the lack of Rick Moranis.  And not having Rick Moranis can only hurt your movie. But in any case, the movie is a good time with some good humor, though it also contains enough tone-clashing action scenes to make it actively bad at points.  The potential was there, and the movie wastes no time justifying its own existence (unlike many other remakes).  But there aren't enough laughs for it to rouse much excitement, and its finale is messy.  Also, that theme song.  As much as I love it, that Ghostbusters theme song has no less than FOUR GOD DAMN covers that play throughout the movie and the ending credits, and none of them are nearly as good as the original.  Overkill is overkill.  Despite all that, the cast holds everything together.  I'd even say that the movie is worth watching just for McKinnon's performance, but that might be pushing it.  This might win my coveted award for "most average movie of the year," though it faces some pretty stiff competition.