Jack's Review: Ghostbusters

ghostbusters-2016 Let’s get this out of the way right off the jump: the new Ghostbusters is not very good. And that may be the most dangerous opinion I’ve ever had about a movie.

At this point, it seems completely impossible to have an intelligent discussion about the film due to the controversy it has generated. Director Paul Feig’s decision to go with an all-female team this time around was polarizing, immediately causing backlash from fans of the original films. It was also a decision ripe for internet trolling. Thanks to a brigade of idiotic, mouth-breathing women haters spewing their misogynistic crap opinions all over Twitter and YouTube, Ghostbusters 2016 has become the focal point for an online political war over the status of women in film, comedy, and society.

Yes, the Ghostbusters.

Since the first trailer for Ghostbusters arrived and almost instantly became the most-disliked video in the history of YouTube, two distinct camps have emerged on the battlefield. First, there are a large group of people who have simply decided to hate this movie, and everyone involved with it, at all costs. Some members of this group feel it’s disrespectful of the original, and want nothing to do with a reboot/remake of this classic memory of their childhoods. Others, however, are flat-out haters of women. It’s either thinly veiled or in your face, but these fine folks are miserable people of the highest order, struggling to maintain the perceived status quo and their male privilege. They are empty and miserable. They are the husks of society. But they are loud, and they are many.

Next, we have a group of people who are tired of seeing women harassed, belittled, or treated as anything less than equals, in film or anywhere else. The trolls did a fine job of pissing these people off. Since many of the comments posted about the film to date are caustic, dismissively misogynistic and, frankly, quite horrible, this camp has picked a wonderful hill to defend from.

The effective result is that it is extremely difficult to have a public opinion about the new Ghostbusters that is anything other than positive. There were valid complaints to be made about the tone of the trailers and the direction the film looked to be heading. But they were drowned out by angry people reasoning that, if you have anything negative to say about the movie, you must hate women.

This is an amazing shield to stand behind. Immediately, all negative criticism is rendered moot. Not only that, but it means many people HAVE to say something publicly positive, as both staying silent or voicing reasonable criticism has the same effect – disgust and dismissal and cries of misogyny.

This is a very tough spot to be in.

And I think that’s been reflected so far in the early reviews. As I write this, the movie premieres nationwide tomorrow. Major critics writing last week were overly positive about it. And I think that has largely to do with how some of the earlier opinionated few were absolutely destroyed for their negative thoughts. The defenders who came out to spew their garbage thoughts at the critical were just as bad if not worse than the original trolls deriding the trailer, delving into some of the worst personal attacks I’ve ever read.

Who wants to be involved with that? To turn that horrible, glowing internet eye upon yourself? It’s both easier and more righteous to defend the movie and the actresses, and an awful lot of people wrote words to that effect last week. There were also rumors going around that Sony bought and paid for many of those reviews, gamergate-style.

I don’t know about that. What I do know was how the studio represented itself at my screening, and I think it’s valid to discuss here.

First of all, there were honest-to-God plants in the audience. Shills, if you will. A troop of Ghostbusters cosplayers were given the entire row behind us. We had seen them milling about earlier, dressed up in jumpsuits with all the bells and whistles: proton packs, PKE meters, traps, goggles, the works. They thought they were here for a presentation of some kind. Maybe they were going to be introduced, they would do a little dance, I don’t know. What actually happened was they were stripped of all their gear at the theater entrance and herded directly into their seats. I overheard some of them talking in the bathroom, and they were clearly confused. “Three hours getting ready for this?” was the exact statement. Sorry guys, but you aren’t here to show off. You were very clearly brought here to be the guaranteed group to laugh and applaud.

Next we got a little speech from a long haired studio guy dressed in all denim, for some reason. We were told we were the lucky few, as they had to turn away 300 people at the door. Now, I have been to many a press screening for many a movie, and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of this happening. These screenings are usually well planned and well executed, with exactly the right amount of tickets given out to fill the space. Did they give out extra so they could pick and choose among those who showed, looking for people who would give the most enthusiastic reaction? I don’t know. But I will say I’ve never had that thought at a screening before.

Next he mentioned the cosplayers, noting loudly that they were split “mostly 50/50” between men and women and thanking them for their “support.” He finished up by stating, “Be sure to let us know what you thought about the move when it’s over!” He paused, looking around disdainfully. “Except for the haters. We don’t want to hear that.” He sat down to riotous applause from the part of the crowd that wasn’t press.

People, you need to understand this is a problem.

Whatever bubble studio-guy is living in, it will not help this movie. The equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and shouting “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” will not help this movie. Screaming your idiot head off about women taking over men’s roles will not help this movie. And ignoring relevant criticism due to pre-conceived decisions about where those critics thoughts are coming from will not help this movie.

All of this puts me in a unique position, I think. I am, for lack of a better word, free. I have never met or spoken to anyone at Sony, much less received a dollar from them. I have no connections to those who worked on or acted in this movie, I don’t have to worry about their feelings when we run into each other at a party or Whole Foods. I also do not have to worry about the all-seeing eye of the internet turning upon me. If I had 300 death threat posts on my twitter tomorrow, I wouldn’t even know. Maybe in a month when I look at it. The same goes for the very website you’re reading this on. I don’t work for Variety or the Washington Post. I won’t cost us readers or upset any industry contacts by voicing my true opinion. We’re popular enough these words will reach people, but compared to an article in the New York Times, writing this is still very close to operating in a void.

I would also add that it’s my belief there is nothing more subjective than one’s enjoyment of a film. However, to actually have an opinion means seeing the actual film. There are many complainers who’ve decided not to see it, and that may be the stupidest thing they could have done. That decision completely invalidates any of their further thoughts on the movie. It’s important that anyone and everyone feel safe and comfortable expressing their opinions, but not seeing it gives a person no valid opinion at all. You’re just making shit up now.

So. That was a lot of exposition to explain why I’m happy to say, truthfully and fearlessly, that Ghostbusters is not very good. It is also not as bad as all the haters want it to be. It exists somewhere in between, like most terrible, big-budget summer movies. If I was an 8-year-old girl, I would think this was the best movie ever. It is loud and stupid and colorful and exists in a world where no one is ever really in danger and there are no consequences. It’s a great film to take your kids to, and I hope it’s admired and loved by every little girl who needs a strong female nerd hero to emulate. On those merits alone, it should do very well at the box office and spawn a sequel.

The end. If that’s what you came here for, please leave with the knowledge that this is a solid garbage summer movie like most garbage summer movies. Go in peace and never think about this again.

BUT. If you’re still reading, it’s either out of morbid curiosity for how big a hole I may dig here, or you would like an honest, non-biased critical opinion of the film from at least ONE person. I hope to deliver.

If you simply view this as a stand-alone comedy with no history preceding it, it doesn’t succeed very well. The script is, well, pretty stupid. It certainly doesn’t do the four talented actresses starring in the main roles any favors. I’m sure the PG-13 rating didn’t help, but the ladies are not very funny in this. Not all the jokes fall flat, but they fail more than they succeed. Kate McKinnon is amusingly crazy and wacky throughout, and Leslie Jones has a few good lines, but that’s basically it. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are serviceable but uninspired and boring. And I don’t think it has anything to do with the actresses whatsoever. While watching the film, I thought about replacing the ladies with the rumored male reboot cast of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, and wondered if it would be any better.

It would not.

I think to myself, is it the director? At points it does seem like he went to the Kevin Smith School Of All Medium Shots All The Time. Or maybe it’s Sony’s fault. They need a franchise to be successful SO VERY BADLY. Their marketing department and those godawful trailers were certainly a misstep. There were also rumors during shooting that they were interfering and meddling with production while simultaneously bullying and angering their stars. Do we lay the blame there?

The dialogue suffers. There are at least several cringe-inducing moments where the stars visibly struggle through their lines. The villain is uninspired and easy to forget with no real motivation other than being the bad guy. All of the CGI looks terrible and is vastly overused. The film comes to a crescendo on the worst green-screen Times Square I’ve ever seen, and ends with, I swear to God, a shot-for-shot remake of the climax of Big Hero 6.

The whole thing is made bearable by the presence of Chris Hemsworth as the ‘busters bumbling, stupid receptionist. He has all the best jokes and, like McKinnon, appears to be having a good time. He’s even the stand-in for the body-jumping ghost villain through the third act, to maximize his time on screen, I would guess. It seems kind of sad that the best part of a movie so entrenched in announcing it’s female-ness would be the lone dude, but there you have it.

If you are a fan of the original movies, this Ghostbusters is going to piss you off. The movie does not stand by itself, in reverence of the films that came before but charting its own path. Instead, Feig and the scriptwriters choose to do everything they can to remind the viewer of the previous movies, down to using the same lines of dialogue. The references are EVERYWHERE, in this bizarre mix of reboot and remake. They even have cameos from all of the major actors from the first movie, who are strangely not playing their characters but instead, random people in the universe.

Yes, these things happen.

Nothing you like about the original movie is on display here. The two films aren’t even similar. If the original is Groucho Marx, the reboot is straight Three Stooges. Bill Murray Vs. Chevy Chase, to put it another way.

The easiest comparison to make here is this: it’s like a very bad Adam Sandler movie, or a long SNL skit gone wrong. It’s full of dumb jokes that, because there are girls, must now be girl jokes. The initial meeting of the new team shows them bonding over a tape of McKinnon queefing, for example. And so on. Not to say all the jokes are terrible, again, there are moments of chuckling throughout. But also many more times where I just felt embarrassed for the participants.

What else to say? The plot is thin, the science nonsensical, the jokes are dumb and the ending is awful. Throw in the horrible CGI and it starts to sound like I’m talking about another summer movie that was equally terrible. However, no one was accused of misogyny for saying they didn’t like Mystique.

That’s what I thought. Go forth now, gentle reader, see the movie and create your own opinion. And don’t let Sony, the misogynists, the defenders, or ANYONE tell you you’re wrong for loving it or hating it.

I’ll end with this.

At one point towards the end of the movie, I heard a single, loud, out-of-context “HA!” barked out behind me. I turned my head to see it was one of the cosplayers, a fixed grin plastered on his face. Clearly he had malfunctioned, as no one else had made any sound at all. I looked at him for a few more moments, but his eyes never met mine. He just continued to stare, straight ahead at the screen, waiting for the next moment he would be told to laugh.

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