The UnPopular Opinion: Ghostbusters (2016)

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


Everyone knows the old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” but movie fans tend to do just that in numerous instances. Whether it be judging a film by trailers or posters or even earlier on in the development process with casting and director announcements, fans are passionate about films projects, especially sequels and remakes. When a movie studio decides to reboot a beloved film or franchise, they expect a certain amount of resistance from the masses but I doubt that Sony was prepared for the onslaught of vitriol that accompanied this summer’s GHOSTBUSTERS. Directed and cast with relatively safe actors, most the negative sentiment surrounding the film came from the fact that the 1985 film, led by an all-male cast, was being recreated with an all-female squad of ghost hunters. Cries of misogynist hate were bandied about while others where labeled as social justice warriors. In a year that saw a massive political split in America, the divide over GHOSTBUSTERS seemed par for the course. But, the problem is, everyone was wrong.

GHOSTBUSTERS is neither better than the original Ivan Reitman film nor is it worse. In many ways, this new movie is equally as good as the classic horror-comedy. Even if Harold Ramis had lived long enough for a third movie to be added to the original franchise, it likely would have turned out a lot like the movie we got, but with more penises. What works in GHOSTBUSTERS is exactly what worked back in 1985: a cast of comedic talents who can both play scenes straight or completely ridiculously while interacting with high quality special effects. The problem GHOSTBUSTERS faced was thirty years of anticipation that left it virtually impossible for any sequel or reboot to live up to the bar set in the minds of fans. Like THE PHANTOM MENACE or DUMB AND DUMBER TO, The wait between one film and the next meant that no matter what, some population of those awaiting a sequel would be disappointed. But, like many films, GHOSTBUSTERS will age well and be regarded much more positively in hindsight.

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I won’t spend time trying to justify the casting of all women in the lead roles here because it doesn’t f*cking matter. This film could have been made with an all-male cast that featured two more African-American actors and fans would have shit a brick. This could have been filmed with Chris Pratt, Channing Tatum, and a couple of Saturday Night Live comedians and people would have cried foul. The problem isn’t that the Americans are hateful or racist, it is that we are afraid of change. There is another old saying that every story has already been told. That means every film made is a variation of a tale created by someone prior to them. The goal of any movie is to then be the best film that it can be. GHOSTBUSTERS does that despite every challenge put in front of it and the deck stacked way against them. Sony could have easily responded to the vocal minority who were up in arms about the film and taken it back to the drawing board but I commend them for sticking with it and releasing what is a very enjoyable film.

By no means perfect, as few films are, GHOSTBUSTERS has several things that work remarkably well. First is the casting of Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.  While Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are the more famous comedic talents here, they play their roles relatively straight with only a few goofy moments seen from their trademark films like BRIDESMAIDS. Instead, the bulk of the work here is handled by the aforementioned trio who make this film better than it could have been. Hemsworth, best known for his dramatic and comic book performances, is a scene-stealer of the highest order and proves that he needs to do more comedy. Playing a ditzy hunk, Hemsworth flips the script of those stereotypical female roles where tits and ass outweigh any character development. Still, Hemsworth manages to give his character enough depth to make him interesting while we can still laugh at his clearly lacking intellect. Kate McKinnon, already a momentous talent on SNL, does her best to take Harold Ramis’ Egon character and up the ante. She plays a slight variation of her sketch characters she has become synonymous with while making Holtzmann a unique screen presence. She may be a bit too broad for some viewers, but she takes the expected quirks we expected from McCarthy and Wiig and runs with them.

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The best aspect of GHOSTBUSTERS though, far and away, is Leslie Jones. Targeted before and after the film’s release, seemingly due to her race and nothing more, Jones suffered far more than anyone associated with this film, and unjustly so. In the original GHOSTBUSTERS films, Ernie Hudson played a character who had virtually no screen time after Eddie Murphy passed on joining the film. Hudson did the best he could, but his character was essentially a token role to fill in the heavyweight squad of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis. In the 2016 version, Leslie Jones is the outsider to the team of scientists but her vast knowledge of New York City history makes her an invaluable member of the team. Plus, Jones is damn funny. She can take the delivery of any line and elevate it from a throwaway piece of dialogue and turn it into a chuckle. I anticipated the scenes featuring her in the trailer both at the rock concert and slapping Melissa McCarthy to be her best moments, but this movie is full of hilarious turns including her interaction with the villainous TOBY? and a possessed mannequin. Jones did not deserve any of the hate she received, no one should have to endure anything like that, but she absolutely does earn praise for the turn she gives in this movie.

There was also criticism that the movie’s special effects looked weak in comparison to the original film or that they were too cartoony. If you go back and re-watch the 1985 film, I ask you to tell me which effects were better than anything seen in the 2016 version. Ivan Reitman has repeatedly talked about the limitations he faced in realizing some of the creatures thirty years ago but we still overlook those weaknesses because we enjoy the film so much. All the original cast members who made cameos in the new film were also trashed for supporting the remake, but none of them aside from Dan Aykroyd had to appear. The notoriously fickle Bill Murray himself would not have appeared had he felt any weakness in the production but even his cameo is fun and works within the context of the film. If GHOSTBUSTERS is weak in any regard, it is that it may be too beholden to the original movie and included too many callbacks to the first film. But, in the grand scheme of things, that is a small quibble.

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I love the original film and even have a soft spot for the pretty weak GHOSTBUSTERS II, but I am not someone who is unable to like a remake because of my bias towards the original. Sure, I will call out a sequel or remake if it sucks, but I will only do so if I have seen the film with an open mind and assessed it thusly. So, if you are someone who refused to watch GHOSTBUSTERS because you were confident it would suck, I implore you to give it a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it. I will not begrudge you if you don’t like it but I will give you a sideways glance if you try to tell me that it is worse than GHOSTBUSTERS II. GHOSTBUSTERS is a fun movie that doesn’t try to deliver beyond being just that. Is it a masterpiece or even the funniest film of the year? No, but it comes in close. There was a lot riding on setting this film up for multiple sequels, but that biased hate seems to have sunk any chances of a follow-up, which is a damn shame. Now that they have gotten past the origin story, the sky is the limit for how cool more adventures featuring these ghostbusters could be.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com



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