Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters final poster

Ghostbusters | Paul Feig | July 15, 2016

Ghostbusters is arguably the most controversial film of 2016. Some die-hard fans of the original film and its sequel do not want the material touched, holding the iconic characters as sacred. Some internet denizens from the darker part of nerd culture take issue with the fact that this reboot is female-led, accusing such an interpretation of “ruining their childhood.” But is the movie really an affront to the childhood memories we hold dear?

Absolutely not. Ghostbusters is a reboot which breathes new life into the franchise while remaining respectful of the original film. In this case, the term “reboot” is much more appropriate than “remake,” as these are not female stand-ins for Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore. These women are four brand-new characters; Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a quantum physics professor on the verge of attaining tenure. The only thing standing in the way of this is a book on the paranormal she wrote with her former friend, paranormal researcher Abby (Melissa McCarthy) who has been actively investigating reported sightings of ghosts with the help of her engineer friend, Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon). As the book is not taken seriously by the scientific community at large, Erin attempts to deny her authorship which proves difficult, as Abby has taken to selling copies online. When confronted by Erin, Abby offers a deal; she’ll stop selling the books if Erin helps in the ghost hunt, and the plot is kick-started.

The Ghostbusters line up

The new quartet also includes Patty (Leslie Jones), a subway worker who seeks out the Ghostbusters after her own paranormal encounter. Jones gets an opportunity to shine in this film that she hasn’t necessarily had yet on SNL. She’s a scene-stealer, getting big laughs while working extremely well off of the other three. The personalities of the four women complement each other perfectly, and the chemistry between the actresses truly makes the film. The joyfulness onscreen is refreshing in an era where it’s all too easy for films to delve into cynicism. For the most part, the humor of the film is very clever; playing with horror movie tropes and even delving into meta-humor by subtly referencing the internet backlash against the reboot within the movie itself. The movie is also visually stunning; the ghosts look fantastic, and the climactic battle at the end of the film is one of the best action sequences I’ve seen all year. That said, don’t spend the extra money on 3D for this one; it looks like a pop-up book half the time (likely due to the fact that it was converted in post as opposed to shot in 3D).

All this said, the film is not perfect. There’s a brief inexcusable fart joke near the beginning that made me nervous for the rest of the run time (thankfully, there is no toilet humor after this). The villain Rowan (Neil Casey) is as generic and boring as they come. Obsessed with obtaining power and “taking over the world” (as movie villains are wont to do), he’s more of a paint-by-numbers stock character than a fully-fleshed out human being. He also looks distractingly similar to the villain from Ghostbusters 2, but this was likely unintentional. Also, Fall Out Boy’s update to the theme song very well may be the insult to the original that the internet was worried this film would be. It’s unrecognizable as the Ghostbusters theme, sounding more like a tuneless car wreck over which Patrick Stump repeatedly assures us he is “not afraid” (unlike the audience members listening to the song). Thankfully, its appearance in the film is brief, as the original theme from Ray Parker Jr. is what is primarily used throughout.

The Ghostbusters fire up

It’s impossible to discuss this movie without addressing the controversy surrounding it. This female-led reboot has brought out the worst in nerd culture. There is an ever-present element of sexism and misogyny within the nerd world, and frankly, it needs to stop. We’ve gone from suffering bullying at the hands of the popular kids in high school to becoming the bullies. Women can be Ghostbusters. Women can be nerds. Women can be geeks. Women can be gamers. Women. Are. Funny. Deal with it.

In short, this movie won’t destroy anyone’s childhood. The original Ghostbusters is a very special film; no reboot, good or bad, can ever take away your memories of growing up with it or your unique experience with it. But part of how stories live on and stay relevant through generations is through new interpretations. If there had been sacred cows in storytelling before the internet, William Shakespeare would have been the last person ever to play Romeo. Go into this with an open mind, and you just might enjoy yourself.

Note to parents: the PG-13 rating is well-earned here. Unlike the original two films, there are onscreen deaths in this movie, and some scenes may be too intense and frightening for very small children. Ten and up would probably be best for this one.

Note to all: stay after the credits. You’re welcome.

Rating: 8.0/10