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Ghostbusters ••

Ghostbusters_2016_film_posterStarring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Action/Comedy/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release Date: July 15, 2016


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Well, Scott, they’ve rebooted Ghostbusters, what’d you think?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

These days it’s hard to find a movie that isn’t a reboot of something. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) who are estranged friends over a book on the paranormal they wrote together. Yates is studying paranormal events with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) at a community college. The three decide to go into business together when a local museum has a haunting and Gilbert is “slimed.”

A fourth ghostbuster, Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), joins the group after she witnesses a ghostly entity in the New York subway. The group hires a receptionist, pretty boy Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth) who is quite dim-witted. Bad guy Rowan North (Neil Casey), an occultist with a chip on his shoulder, develops a device that summons all the ghostly spirits to wreak havoc upon New York.

This is the 2016 reboot of the 1984 classic. While many have compared the two films, I prefer to review this incarnation of the film on its own merits. And frankly, I was disappointed. There isn’t much of a story here. The characterizations are thin in favor of a large number of grandiose special effects. Like so many of the summer blockbusters this year, this is all about the experience and not about either story nor characters.

I pretty much agree, Greg. In many ways this movie reminds me of Independence Day: Resurgence, which also took a pretty good movie from yesteryear and made little effort to improve upon it. I will give this edition of Ghostbusters credit for casting women in the lead roles, which is a nice sign of progress for a movie industry that so desperately needs to broaden its inclusivity. It was also nice to see the bimbo secretary for the ghostbusters be a male rather than a female airhead.

The movie also portrays Erin Gilbert’s College Dean, who denies her tenure, to be a stuffy old male who obviously misjudges her. He’s a fool, as is the male head of the next college that denies our heroes space to do their work. In our review of Melissa McCarthy’s last movie, The Boss, we mentioned that all of McCarthy’s movies tend to turn gender roles on their heads. The only thing this version of Ghostbusters could have done to further the cause was to cast the main villain as a female. It didn’t, but the film still issues a strong statement about the emergence of women as heroes in the movies.

Frankly, I thought the all-female cast was more of a gimmick than anything else. We reviewed 2013’s The Heat (also a Melissa McCarthy film with Sandra Bullock). It was kind of Lethal Weapon with women. And like The Heat there is little in this film that was improved by the all-female cast. Certainly, nothing in the movie made issue of the fact that the Ghostbusters were women. While that may be a step forward for womankind, it does stretch believability as surely there would be some misogyny encountered were it the real world – but it was absent in the film.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot to talk about with this film. There are some nice cameos by members of the original cast. I thought Kate McKinnon’s performance as the bizarre super-nerd Holtzmann was over-the-top goofy. At the end of the film she makes a side comment about finally belonging somewhere, now that she’s a member of the Ghostbusters. But we were never given an inkling that alienation was a concern for Holtzmann. So, it’s a throwaway line for a character that was paper thin to begin with. And so it is for all the characters in this film. There was no room for character growth when the spectacle of CGI was the real star.

Character growth was never a goal when they set out to make this movie. The goal was to make money by showing people getting slimed by ghosts. So you’re right, Greg, that this movie provides some mild fun and entertainment but gives us little to sink our teeth into. You know a movie is in trouble when the highlight of the film is the series of cameos by the original cast from 30 years ago.

In terms of mentorship, we learn that Sigourney Weaver mentored Kate McKinnon’s character, although we never see the mentorship in action. In an ironic twist, our two ghostbusting authors, Abby Yates and Erin Gilbert, wrote a book that served as inspiration for bad guy Rowan North. We could call this an accidental or inadvertent mentorship, which is rarely seen in the movies.

Ghostbusters is a run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster where CGI is the star and story and character take a backseat. There were few jokes and way too many nods to the original, despite the great pains to make this new incarnation original. I’m OK with a film being strictly a no-brainer when all you want is to get out of the summer heat. But Ghostbusters offers little more than a visual feast. I can only summon 2 out of 5 Reels.

The heroes walk through the movie with little if any conflict to be resolved. There is a nice bit about the mayor of the town confidentially supporting our heroes, only to disavow them to the public. Not because he’s evil, but because he needs to distance himself from paranormal types or seem unmayorly. It was an interesting twist on the usual villain character, but it made for lackluster conflict. And, without conflict, there is little transformation. I only have 2 Heroes for our gruesome foursome.

As you point out, Scott, there is little mentoring. There is a cute cameo at the end where Sigourney Weaver pops in as an older version of Holtzman giving praise. So we have an implied mentor, but nothing concrete. Which sums up the whole of Ghostbusters. Lots of slimey attempts at humor, action, and relationships, but nothing concrete. I give the mentors in this movie just 1 Mentor out of 5.

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Greg, for me the CGI wasn’t good enough to be the star of Ghostbusters. “Run of the mill” about sums up the quality and contributions of this movie. I’d only recommend it for fans of Kristen Wiig, fans of Melissa McCarthy, and absolute fanatics of the original 1980s version. There is no new comedic ground broken here, just some mild fun and a few pleasant cameos from the original cast. I do like the all-woman heroic ensemble, but this grouping is not enough to salvage the movie. Greg, your rating of 2 Reels out of 5 seems just about right to me.

This hero ensemble does go on a journey that resembles the classic hero’s quest in myth and literature. But this journey is only a loose skeleton designed to hold the mediocre jokes together. There isn’t much character transformation, unless you count people becoming convinced of the reality of ghosts as a transformation. Our heroes accomplish their mission but there’s nothing to distinguish this mission. Again, a rating of 2 out of 5 Heroes seems appropriate.

I’ve already pointed out Sigourney Weaver’s mentoring role, which is merely mentioned in passing but never shown. And our villain was mentored, albeit inadvertently, by two of our four ghostbusters. Overall it’s pretty clear that this movie isn’t really about mentoring, only slime, and so I can only award 2 Mentors out of 5.

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