Saturday, July 16, 2016

Movie Review: Ghostbusters

A lot of people call the original Ghostbusters a perfect movie. It deftly blends humor with genre, it contains numerous brilliant lines, and it has one of cinema's all-time best comic characters. More than that, it performs an act of hero building that's rarely been matched. The characters of Ghostbusters didn't exist before the movie came out, and by the time the end credits rolled, they were legendary.

But, for all that, the original Ghostbusters is not perfect. There are some slow bits, Rick Moranis's character is way too over-the-top, the dream scene is idiotic, Ray and Egon undergo little to no development, Winston is cut down to the point he feels almost unnecessary...

I think most people would admit most of these flaws exist; they just don't impact their enjoyment of the film. They love the movie so completely, the flaws fade to features. They wouldn't even want them changed. Because, intentionally or not, the movie is calibrated to work for them. It feels perfect, even if it isn't.

The absolutely astonishing thing about Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is that it does that, too. But it doesn't do it for the same people.

Let me back up. All that stuff I just said about the original, that's mainly for male viewers. That's not to say that women can't be die-hard fans and love the movie as much, but I think it's safe to assume most of the 1984 movie's most fervent followers are men. I also think it's safe to say they see something in one or more of the main characters (probably Venkmann) that they associated with themselves. It helps that the team is made up of underdogs and geeks: these are characters who remind us of ourselves.

Again, if we're men.

Watching the new Ghostbusters was a bit of an odd experience for me, at least for the first two-thirds. I liked it well enough during the build-up, but I certainly didn't love it. But the predominantly female audience in the packed theater loved it. They laughed, cheered, and applauded as if it was, well, Ghostbusters.

Part of it was the fact the main characters were women. Not super-models or athletes - flawed, funny women. Underdogs and geeks who reminded them of themselves. I'm not entirely sure how or when the movie duplicated the formula from 1984 - it was an entirely new plot - but must have. It achieved the same end result: building these characters into bona fide heroes.

That, more than anything, is why this movie earns the right to be Ghostbusters.

Okay. I guess I should tell you what I thought of the movie. The first two-thirds were fine, though a little weak. I found the humor mixed - there were some phenomenal jokes I loved, but plenty others just fell flat. The characters were likewise 50/50. I thought McCarthy and Wiig were a bit wasted in their roles, to be honest. Fortunately, Jones's Patty was more fun, and Hemsworth might have just gotten the role he was born to play.

Meanwhile, McKinnon was... McKinnon was...

Jesus Christ, I'm just going to come out and say it: Jillian McKinnon's Holtzmann is the greatest character in the franchise's history.

Go ahead. Let that sink in for a minute.

I also thought the movie overused comic relief, both for the leads (exempting McKinnon and Hemsworth) and for the minor characters. The tone for the first two-thirds was inconsistent, as well.

Then the movie reached its last act. This still wasn't precisely what I wanted, but damn, was it close. The fight sequence where the Ghostbusters take on the villain's minions is great until Holtzmann gets her turn in the spotlight. Then it transcends greatness.

Look, no one in this movie asks Holtzmann if she's a god, but if anyone ever does, the unambiguous, factual, indisputable answer is YES.

The fight's over faster than I'd like, but that would have been true if it had gone on for six hours.

So, all in all, I thought it was a good summer comedy with an amazing character. So, decent but not great. But to the mostly female audience I saw this with, it was a cultural milestone on par with the original.

Maybe this was just a good crowd. I suppose it could have just been a fluke. But, here's the thing. I've seen hundreds of movies in the theater. I saw Avengers opening day, Star Wars movies, you name it. And I've never seen a movie end and more or less the entire audience sit in their seats through the entire credits.

Until now.

I've seen movies before and walked out of the theater thinking it wasn't made for me (Mamma Mia springs to mind). This was different. I really liked this - it was still made for everyone, but it wasn't calibrated for me. This was calibrated for female audiences the way Fight Club, Conan, and the 1984 Ghostbusters were calibrated for men.

And it's about damn time.

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