Highlighting the many ways in which the estrogen-fueled remake failed hard.
By: Jimbo X
In a way, I'm the absolute perfect person to review the much, much maligned Ghostbusters remake from earlier this summer (which, with it being the Halloween rush, is naturally the opportune time to drop it on DVD.) Unlike a good 95 percent of the people absolutely disemboweling the movie on the Intrawebs, I don't exactly hold the original 1984 film in great esteem. In fact, I think it's a pretty overrated film, personally, whose only meaningful contribution to the greater workings of pop culture was that great late 1980s cartoon (and maybe a handful of the more obscure licensed video games, but definitely not that cruddy arcade offering that had you fighting the Ku Klux Klan, Smash TV style.) With that in mind, my criticisms of the re-do aren't rooted in some sort of pissy nostalgic reverence, and since I'm not a member of the so-called "Men's Rights Movement," you can't write off my remarks as the maddened musings of some self-righteous misogynist, neither. Instead, I'm just a red-blooded, tax-paying American moviegoer with very prejudicial tastes when it comes to where my disposable income goes, and I can say - without the slightest bit of hesitation - that Ghostbusters 2016, succinctly, sucks a big fat ghost dick in terms of overall quality.
Not unlike Pixels or X-Men: Apocalypse or even Warcraft, this Ghostbusters is yet ANOTHER wannabe Hollywood tentpole franchise hellmouth, desperately, direly attempting to cover up its predictable plot and interchangeable special effects with the illusion of "team chemistry." Unfortunately, the script by Kevin Feig and Katie Dippold is your completely expected overblown, super-bloated grab bag of crappy humor, supposedly "snappy" banter that doesn't come of as funny or witty, and - of course - enough CGI-"enhanced" physical comedy to fill up two or three shitty summer anti-spectacles (and at a needlessly long 2 hours and 14 minutes, I assure you this movie brings all of the lamentable things above BY THE BUCKETS.) The ensemble cast has about as much pathos and nuance as the protagonists in a PS1-era role-playing-game, the supporting cast is incredibly dull, virtually all of the jokes in the film (especially the subtle "pro-feminist" jabs) fall flat as pancakes and the great big ghost apocalypse donnybrook finale - complete with Revolutionary War soldiers and the reanimated corpses of "dead" Macy's Parade balloons - is hardly anything more than a jumble of bright blues and greens, with the action periodically becoming decipherable long enough to showcase the leading ladies coolly making their way through the spectral hordes in slow-motion (amazingly, despite the fact that the gates of hell have literally swung open, none of the four protagonists ever exemplify any of the anticipated human responses to such a fantastical event ... you know, things like shock, or terror, or paralyzing fear.)
If you wanted to boil the movie's inherent failure into a nine-syllable nut graph, I'd describe it as "Bridesmaids cosplaying as Ghostbusters." Instead of feeling like a remake that at least tries to pay homage to its franchise forerunner (and no, I don't consider Bill Murray's halfhearted "cameo" to represent a reverential nod to the previous films,) the movie feels like it's a really, really bad MS Paint cut-and-paste job. Hey, let's take the central idea of this one movie from the 1980s, airbrush out the main characters, and drop in the characters from this one movie from 2011 and see how hilarious it would be? That, in and of itself, is a recipe for disaster (just how many modernizations of '80s classics can you think of that have actually been worth a damn?), but what puts the film over the top and into the cinematic dumpster is its brazen refusal to embrace its high concept roots. The original Ghostbusters was a film anchored around an (at the time) truly novel concept for a Hollywood production - the gates of Hell open up in New York, and only a gaggle of joke-cracking supernatural bounty hunters can stop doomsday - with the excellent ensemble cast a secondary thought. If you wanted to pinpoint anything as the direct cause of Busters '16's failure, it's that the producers went into this one with the exact opposite mentality - let's get together a solid comedic ensemble core and THEN build the paranormal hi-jinks around them. This is a film deigetically convinced that watching SNL cast members bicker and bitch at one another is infinitely more "entertaining" than the prospect of viewing multidimensional policemen going toe-to-toe with Satan's armies in the middle of modern day Manhattan. Not only did the miss the forest for the trees, I think they may have missed the goddamn trees altogether.
Although there is a lot to dislike about the film, I suppose the crux of the movie's inherent suckiness can be dissected into five fundamental flaws. Gather 'round, children, menchildren, Tumblr feminists, alt right trolls and especially aspiring screenwriters - these are five crimes against cinema no film should EVER repeat.
|No, believe it or not, that isn't the mom from Home Improvement.|
There is NO ensemble cast chemistry whatsoever.
Let me start off by saying that, because I have good taste and it's not the year 1992 anymore, I don't watch Saturday Night Live, so I have no clue what a "Kate McKinnon" or "Leslie Jones" is. Indeed, of the four primary protagonists, they only one who I have any extensive knowledge of is Melissa McCarthy, and needless to say, her performances in films like Tammy haven't exactly enthralled me to any great degree. While there are quite a few things I didn't like about the original Ghostbusters, one thing I couldn't slight it for was it's sense of team chemistry. Despite having divergent personalities, the cast really gelled well together, with Dan Aykryod and Ernie Hudson playing off each other tremendously and Harold Ramis serving as the perfect "straight man" to Bill Murray's sardonic smartass. The big core problem with Ghostbusters '16 is that the women all feel as if they belong in different movies, with each porting about a personality and delivery style that is vinegar to the other three actresses' water. Kristen Wiig's character is more or less posited as the central character of the film - a dorky, insecure college professor who passively-aggressively criticizes everybody, all the way up to the point she loses her tenure because the university dean saw her in a YouTube video proclaiming she believed in ghosts (a scene that requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief, seeing as how American universities today pretty much let faculty do or say whatever the hell they want without any recourse, be it claiming Sandy Hook was an inside job or stating white people shouldn't be allowed to live.) Whereas in the original film the Ghostbusters were united by some sort of genuine belief in the paranormal, the characters in this film more or less fuse into the spectre chasers by default. You see, back in the day, Wiig wrote a book about ghost hunting with Melissa McCarthy, who then started working at some community college with lab lackey Kate McKinnon, and the whole reason they even cross paths again is because Wiig wants that damned book yanked from Amazon. So from the get-go, there is some sort of long rooted "alpha woman" animosity between our two leads, a plot mechanic that completely kills any sense of camaraderie between them - imagine, if you will, the original film being anchored around Dan Aykryod and Bill Murray fighting ghosts as an afterthought to the primary plot mechanism of the duo mending their broken working relationship. Sounds pretty dumb, right? Well, that's effectively the backbone of Ghostbusters '16, and it's every bit as irritating as you'd imagine it to be. Oh, and if you think the dialogue exchanges between Wiig and McCarthy seem forced, iffy and heavy-handed, just wait until you see Kate McKinnon's strangely aggressive, morbidly-humored, paranormal weapons obsessed character enter the fray alongside Leslie Jone's almost cartoonish depiction of a working class black woman. Considering just how incompatible the acting deliveries of each character is, the long forgotten late 1990s cartoon Extreme Ghostbusters - on the surface, the most clusterfuck-ish, multiculturalism-uber-alles pandering grab bag you thought the franchise was capable of mustering - is comparatively a masterwork of ensemble cast excellence.
|And here's one of the higher brow moments from the movie.|
There isn't a SINGLE funny moment in the entire film.
No joke, I actually laughed more during 12 Years a Slave than I did this movie. That's not because I'm a racist who thinks lynchings are funny, it's because I understand that humor is linked to character pathos. Remember the part in 12 Years a Slave where Solomon Northup left John Tibeats gobsmacked because his raft worked and his didn't? Well, that sequence was laugh-inducing because a.) it gave a negative character a sense of comeuppance, b.) it allowed us to celebrate a small psychological victory for the protagonist, c.) Paul Dano's facial expressions were just spectacular and d.) it demonstrated the exact opposite of the prejudicial worldview Tibeats promoted, and Northup's engineering triumph forced him to accept a reality about the world he did not want admit (which, as Richard Pryor's career firmly demonstrates, is the absolute heart and soul of what comedy is all about.) Needless to say, you don't get any of that in Ghostbusters, whose idea of "raucous" humor entails the characters listening to the spectral sounds of people farting on a tape recorder, people barfing green slime all over one another and a high-larious recurring joke about a mentally retarded hired hand who keeps forgetting he doesn't like coffee and suggests cartoons of hot dogs should be the group's official logo. Hey, speaking off the supporting cast in this shitball of a movie...
|Not since Busta Rhymes in Halloween: Resurrection has a thespian put on such a great performance spouting out gloriously demeaning pseudo-ebonics penned by clueless, mayonnaise white screenwriters.|
Not only are the identity politics heavy handed, they actually make the movie MORE misogynistic.
The fact that the Ghostbusters reboot employs an "all-female" cast is used as something of a deus ex machina for both the movie's critics and celebrants. Of course, the beta males and alt-right are going to hate the film on pure principle while the feminists and SJWs out there are going to praise it for the same "anti-patriarchy" vibe. To call this movie a great feminist work, however, is giving the producers far too much credit. While the identity politics are nonetheless strong in this one, the fact of the matter is they are wedged into the film so awkwardly that really, it actually starts to become an anti-feminist film. For starters, none of the titular Ghostbusters come off as competent at anything they do. Kristen Wiig spends the entire movie churning through cringey, wannabe "adorkable" dialogue, almost always playing the "well, let's make lemonade out of lemons" card when she's fired from her job or told to pay an exorbitant rent or given a Swiss Army knife because the rest of the Busters don't trust her with their equipment. McCarthy and McKinnon are displayed as engineering geniuses with encyclopedic knowledge of particle physics, but half the time they can't even get their own contraptions to work properly (and when it comes to employing soft skills - like negotiating tactics with the FBI - they display the communicative capabilities of developmentally stunted 12 year olds.) But holy shit, it's Leslie Jones' character that had me shaking my head more than anything. If you thought the stereotypical "black talk" scripted by the all-white writers of Straight Out of Compton were bad, hoo boy, you are going to loathe the dialogue in this one. Honestly, I am shocked the social media hordes didn't harp on the brazen racism of this flick - not only is the only major non-white character a working class schlub whose only contribution to the team is stealing her uncle's hearse, the other Busters constantly remind her that she's the only one of them that isn't a scientist. Fuck, if you thought Ernie Hudson was portrayed as a needless fourth wheel, he's the ensemble adhesive compared to how utterly functionless the (all white) scripters of Busters '16 designed Leslie Jones' role. Indeed, the only real reason why the all vagina Busters even remotely appear credible is because virtually every male character in the movie - I mean every single one - is posited as a complete and total moron. The great usher of the demonic CGI menace that threatens to engulf New York is your stereotypical beta-male, a nerdy bellhop whose mannerisms seem to eerily mimic those of Elliot Rodger. The head of the community college where the Ghostbusters developed their R&D is a cartoonishly aggressive chauvinist, who at one point even cribs the old DX "I've got two words for 'ya" routine.The mayor of New York is an absolute idiot who can't even hold his own lies together for one sentence, and he has to rely on his (female) publicist for everything. The Department of Homeland Security are displayed as a bunch of one-dimensional goofs, too stupid to remember how to unlock their own SUV doors. And then, there's Chris Hemworth's secretary character, who diegetically, is literally retarded. No, I don't mean "retarded" as a crude, reactionary way of saying he is foolish, I mean the dude is literally brain damaged, to the point that he can't understand how to avoid hitting his head on a low-hanging beam every goddamn time he's in the office. For a film so hell-bent on priding itself on breaking sexist norms, the entire existence of Hemworth's character is like some sort of misandrist nightmare made flesh; despite producing incoherent dialogue that might as well be the resultant of Mad Libs scrawlings, the other Busters keep him around - despite his utter incompetency - simply because they think he's "hot." Now, contrast that with the depiction of Jeanine in the first Ghostbusters movie - a totally desexualized, intelligent character who pulled her own weight, did her job effectively and efficiently and really, did more to get the Ghostbusters branding out there than any other character. Shit, that aspect alone make the 1984 film far more feminist than this self-congratulatory muddle of a movie.
|Unfortunately, this is about as inventive as the character design gets.|
The special effects are fucking terrible.
Although none of us should be happy about it, a terrible script and half-assed acting should be expected out of a big-budget, big studio summertime release. What isn't acceptable, however, are incredibly underwhelming visual effects, and by golly, the CGI in Ghostbusters '16 is so bad, it makes fucking Warcraft look like Terminator 2. For starters, for 90 minutes, the film itself is fairly devoid of ghosts. You get the cold opening that introduces us to the spirit of a millionaire heiress who killed a whole bunch of people back in the day, and then? Oh, a good thirty minutes of totally ghost-less non-action follows. Really, it would be one thing if the film skimped out on monsters but the few ghosts actually in the movie were neat-looking, but the general design of the spooks and specters is just lazily run of the mill. Yep, here's another gaunt, nearly skeletal figure shrouded in a light blue or dark green aura - so much creativity on parade! For fuck's sake, go back and look at the original movie, or better yet, the '80s cartoons (or even the video games it inspired.) The supernatural deities represented a pretty diverse range of ghouls, from zombie-faced cab drivers to succubi who jacked people off while they slept. Considering just how much computer generated effects have progressed since 1984, this movie could have been an absolutely awesome monster bash, with werewolves and poltergeists and lumbering behemoths overrunning NYC. But no, we instead get a whole bunch of inexcusably vague clouds with a somewhat human form stumbling to and fro, periodically barfing green goop on people and ... making them do choreographed dances in the middle of Times Square? Oh yes, that actually happens in the movie, which brings me to my last razor sharpened point of criticism...
|But at least you will love all two seconds of Slimer's cameo, though!|
The ending is just utter and complete shit.
Considering the fact Ghostbusters is a meandering two hours and 14 minutes long, you sort of expect the big "apocalypse porn" finale to be, you know, worth the hour and a half of sluggish build-up. Unfortunately, the good 20 minute or so grand finale is totally interchangeable with the light blue CGI amidst pitch darkness exploding ghost laser finales presented at the end of Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman, the last X-Men outing and yeah, pretty much every other fucking tent pole spectacle to hit theaters since 2009. Oh boy, where do we begin here? Should we start with the poor lighting, and the absolute deluge of foggy purple and green CGI clouds swirling around, obfuscating the few visible things in the needlessly darkened Times Square cityscape? Or how about the boring "dead balloon" attack proceeding the great onslaught of Revolutionary War(?) ghosts - or the fact that throughout both sequences, the Ghostbusters themselves don't as much as express a single ounce of palpable worry, fear or concern? Indeed, so sure of themselves they march into the platoons of the undead, swinging around their Men In Black ripoff weaponry in slo-mo with the carelessness of a Super Mario Bros. player with a Game Genie. Despite the fact that Satan himself has opened the bowels of hell and spilled them out on the sidewalks of New York, none of them ever take the spectacular, cataclysmic episode - really, the most remarkable event in human history - even remotely seriously. Add to that the extraordinarily convoluted plot point about Rowan's ghost hopping in and out of various people (if world destruction is his goal, why doesn't he just take over the mind of the dude with the nuclear launch codes?) and his incredibly short-sighted approach to battling the Busters (seriously, why doesn't he just possess one of them and blast the whole crew into smithereens with a proton beam?) - not to mention the extremely disappointing "final boss form" - and you have all the makings of one of the lamest big budget omnicidal megalomaniacs in Hollywood history. Following the all too predictable "we have to merge streams, even though it may turn our guts inside out giggle, giggle" villain-slaying denouement, the movie wraps up with the exact opposite ending of the original, with the government actually stepping in to FUND them as an auxiliary wing of Department of Homeland Security. So the Busters go down totally beloved by the citizens of New York (which, really, is a major plot hole, seeing as how the city should have no recollections of the event since the official mayoral line was that the city's water supply had been poisoned and all of the spectral mayhem were mass hallucinations), and they'll never have to worry about surviving as a public sector enterprise ever again (forget the titular characters having vaginas - indeed, that brazenly pro-statism, anti-business message is where the film most critically diverges from the original.) And don't even get me started on the post-credits vignettes ... although judging from the film's almost-too-perfect to be real lackluster box office gross, odds are that "Zool" phone call sequel hook will never (hopefully) produce a full fledged follow-up.
|Which was precisely my reaction when I heard that atrocious Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliott cover song.|
Oh, and there are plenty of "small" things that make the film suck as well, ranging from the atrocious "rock concert" scene featuring a horrible Ozzy Osbourne cameo, the absolute worst facsimile of a "heavy metal" band in the history of mainstream film and perhaps the most grating of Jones' "victimization" humor (played, of course, with race card firmly in hand) to the downright dreadful "joke" appearances by Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykryod to the all-too-brief sequence involving Slimer (who, of course, also has an inexplicable female companion) to the totally out of place soundtrack selections (good to see DMX gets a royalty check, no doubt destined to roll right into his crack pipe as soon as he receives it.) But the frank reality is that, as bad as Ghostbusters, Tampon-edition is, it's really no worse than the gauntlet of standard sequel-itis dreck shoved down our gullets this summer. It's every bit as self-absorbed and aesthetically obsessed and painfully predictable as Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad and the last X-Men movie, and practically every technical quibble I have with Ghostbusters, presented by Tampax, I can likewise say the same of them. While the lite-SJW dressings may give Ghostbusters the appearance of being something somewhat different, it's the same damn thing we've already seen in halfhearted cash grabs like Men In Black 3, 22 Jump Street and Pixels - it's just another wannabe "ensemble comedy" that doesn't work as either an ensemble film or a comedy. While there are plenty of movies released this year clearly designed to move merchandise - Civil War and the last TMNT movie immediately spring to mind - at least those movies managed to be fun and wallow in extravagant action set pieces when the filmmakers themselves knew the story-driven pathos just wasn't there. How goddamn weird it is that, this year, seemingly the only decent character-driven comedies have come in the form of animated offerings? Zootopia, Angry Birds and Sausage Party are all top-notch, character-interaction based comedies that excel at providing both legitimate guffaws and well-fleshed out characters, and naturally, each one of those movies also manages to port about a much more complex, nuanced take on hot button social issues than the oh-so patronizing Busters reboot. In that, even as a lackluster Hollywood, box office receipts uber alles comedy cum big budget summertime special effects extravaganza, Ghostbusters '16 doesn't even manage to suck in a particularly noteworthy way. It's just another instantly dated, already forgettable multi-million dollar misfire, hardly recognizable from the litany of similar celluloid turds shat out by the L.A. studio empires as of late. That makes Ghostbusters De-Penised the absolute worst kind of bad movie - the bad movie so uncreative and devoid of personality that its overall badness is simply siphoned off into the greater collective mediocrity of the moviemaking business as a whole. It's clear the producers of the film set out to make some sort of pro-feminist message, but at the end of the day? The only clear takeaway from this train wreck is that - if given equal funding and equal time as their male cohorts - why yes, egotistical females can make films every bit as underwhelming as their egotistical male colleagues.