Ghostbusters: A Review

A Review of Ghostbusters 2016
                                        Ghostbusters copyright 1984 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. All rights reserved.

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig

I'm not the first person to write a review of this movie, and I am certainly not the best. However, in order to, hopefully, avoid the accusation of being a misogynist, let me establish that I am a woman. I am also a paranormal investigator. I am also old enough to recall seeing the original Ghostbusters in theaters. I am a big fan of the original movie. When I heard that they were finally going to make another film using female ghostbusters, I was excited. 

I'm not excited anymore; I'm a lot of things, but excited isn't one of them. I went to see the movie last weekend. I had already seen the trailers, and they concerned me. If you can't make a funny trailer for a comedy, you are in trouble before you start, and the trailers were not funny. 

The first few scenes were strong: funny, scary and creative. I loved the bit with the candlestick falling off the table, faked by the wide-eyed, wonderful tour guide played by Zach Woods. The first ghost to show up, a beautiful female apparition, impressed me. I thought, "Ok, this isn't so bad. Actually, it has a good start." Then the gorgeous apparition spews green slime onto Kate McKinnon, actually throws it up on her, and it just keeps coming and coming and coming, as if you could make it funnier by making it last longer. This technique is used throughout the movie. It didn't work the first time, and it doesn't work at all, ever. The thread of plot that the beginning scenes establish is dropped and never picked up again. 

The characters. 
The female ghostbusters are introduced to us one at a time. The first, Kate McKinnon, plays a professor trying to earn tenure at her university. In the first scene she is rehearsing her speech in an empty lecture hall before her interview. She is caught twerking by her mentor. A university physics professor twerking? This could have been funny, but for some reason it was just awkward. The first potential laugh is averted.

When we meet Melissa McCarthy's character she is wearing a large helmet of wires. A remark is made that they have smaller headphones now, but there is no follow-up for this gag. Again, this could have been funny, but the joke is averted. 

Kristen Wiig is a mystery to me. She doesn't have any lines until half way through the movie. Why? When she finally does speak, we learn that she is the inventor of all of the technology. However, when she attempts to explain the equipment and how and why it works, she gets tongue-tied and confused and her big words lose both us and, apparently, the writers.

Leslie Jones is introduced a bit later, when the ghostbusters go to the subway to investigate a reporting of a paranormal disturbance. Leslie is a delight to watch, but, as the movie progresses, her character takes on the role of an uncomfortable cliche; large, loud, dumb, nasty, violent, and in the background. I was very disturbed by the "bitch-slap" she delivers to Melissa McCarthy in order to dispel a demon from her, while yelling, "The power of Patti compels you!"  First, since when do you beat a demon out of someone? There is a very uncomfortable, and, perhaps unintended reference to physical abuse here. Second, really? They went there? A black woman bitch slapping? The racist overtones were there, and they made me squirm in my seat.

Chris Hemsworth plays a dumb blonde receptionist, handsome but vapid, who is sexually harassed by Kate McKinnon's character. She drools, twerks, grabs, stammers inappropriate things, and embarrasses her friends with her behavior. It's, again, not funny, but could have been, if they hadn't felt the need to extend the scene so l-o-n-g. 

To Chris Hemsworth's credit, he actually has some moments which made me smile. The bit with the glasses was amusing. His inability to answer a phone was funny. There was a phone inside the fish tank, which he tries to answer, over and over again, but we are never given an explanation as to why the phone is in the fish tank.

The team catches their first ghost, and what do a bunch of nerdy scientists do? Not what the beloved Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Company do: discuss and argue the event in geeky scientific paranormal-speak. No. Instead, they dance a stupid victory dance, which becomes an uncomfortable sexual harassment scene, which they extend beyond boring, until the actors literally walk away. 

There are so many failures of these characters it's hard to pick the worst. The Kristen Wiig character doesn't start talking until halfway through the movie. When she finally does, they fill her mouth with paranormal terminology that sounds vaguely familiar to me, but hasn't been strung together in the correct order to make any sort of logical sense. It's as if the writers took no time out of their busy schedules to write appropriately researched dialogue. The entire cast, with the exception of Chris Hemsworth, appears to be reading their dialogue, and badly. They stand around waiting for their next line. It's some of the worst comedic acting I have ever seen, from four of the best comedic actors around today. Why?

In order to make the plot hold together, the writers take the original movie's plot and insert it into this reboot, but it doesn't work. We still have a hard time following the story line. It's as if the writers got really lazy and said, "Don't bother to make the story clear and understandable to the audience. It's too much work." They also seemed to believe that the special-effects-heavy action scenes were way more important than the dialogue. In the original movie, the team has to figure out how to make the business work, and have some very funny bits about how to bill the clients. We know that this is a business that has to bring in money. In the new remake we get no explanation as to how the bills for the rent and all this equipment are being payed for, as if we just no longer care about the plot hanging together is any sensical way. 

This movie promised to deliver four intelligent, powerful women working in NYC as paranormal investigators, making us laugh but also impressing us with their insight, wisdom, and science. Instead, they give us four very silly but not funny actors acting badly, seeming to be bored with their own performance, and not delivering one funny gag. Why does the director hold back on the slapstick humor for which Melissa McCarthy is so famous? Why does this movie miss every opportunity to be funny? The horror movie bits from other iconic scenes, like McCarthy's head turning all the way around,  a throwback to The Exorcist, is not funny. The best example I can think of a missed opportunity is when the street crowd of cops and army men is frozen in time in the pose of the Micheal Jackson music video "Thriller". But they don't break into dance. Why? It would have been so funny, and so much fun to watch. 

Ok. On to other aspects of the movie.

The special effects.
It's 2016. Special effects in movies are a given, and they can be spectacular. The science is so advanced that we no longer can be sure of what we are watching. It can be seamless, like in "The Lord of the Rings"; you forget you are watching what isn't really there. This movie certainly had a lot of special effects, but they were overdone. Audiences don't get impressed with this anymore. The apparitions in this movie were throwbacks to old movie monsters. The use of neon green and blue was all pervasive, and became boring and induced headache. The use of the proton packs were overdone. Unlike the original movie, when the proton packs are used to trap ghosts, and "crossing streams" was a science in and of itself, these proton packs are overused in the movie to "kill" ghosts; to shoot them dead. I thought they were already dead.  Paranormal investigators do not kill ghosts. We want to communicate with them. Trapping is not killing. Why are there apparitions in which we can see their skeletons? The demon over the rock band audience was something out of Jurassic Park. 

The sound.
Sound is so important to any movie. Without a good sound track a movie can be very boring. With an overdone sound track a movie can become a headache. The sound in this movie left me angry. It was very, very loud, and it was loud for no good reason. There was the use of a chorus that went over every action scene. It nearly drowned out the other sound effects. Dialogue? Who could hear most of it? The characters shouted their dialogue, but not loud enough to hear over the barrage of choral screeching. The solution seemed to be, when in doubt, turn it up, and up again, and again.

The costuming
The costuming in the original Ghostbusters was so cool, and is now iconic. The jump suits, the proton packs, the great make-up of Sigourney's character, the nerdy outfit on Annie Potts, it all worked so well. So why, oh why, is the costuming in this movie so terrible? The iconic jumpsuits worn by the female characters fit so badly that it has to be a joke. It looks like they went to a second hand yard sale and dug them out of a bin. They don't fit the characters at all. They bag and pinch in all the wrong places. The orange stripes look as if they are made with masking tape. Even the hair in this movie is bad. Melissa McCarthy's hair reminds me of a college dorm chick getting out of bed and throwing her hair into a messy top knot. Like most everything else about this production, there seems to be so little thought and WORK put into it. Why?

Final observations
There is an awkward moment of seriousness when Kate's character shares her personal story about how she grew up bullied by peers, misunderstood by friends and family. I read that the medium Chris Fleming, who I interviewed for an article in, noticed a more than coincidental resemblance to the details of his own personal story growing up as a child who regularly had paranormal experiences, including a reference to being called "ghost boy".  Did they rip off Chris's personal story for this film without his permission, or was it just a coincidence?

Alexandra Holzer, who I also interviewed for UK's Paranormal Magazine, was contacted to consult on the film early on. She wasn't really used, but her famous name, Holzer was sort of used for the character of Jillian "Holzmann". Coincidence? 

The most ironic part of this is that I feel, and this is just my personal opinion, that this movie is actually misogynistic in it's portrayal of women, and racist in its portrayal of a black female investigator. We are seen as silly, dumb, pathetic. She is seen as, well, you get it. We are not portrayed as promised; as intelligent, scientific, powerful investigators on the cutting edge of paranormal science. We are portrayed as idiots. 

It has been said recently that there is sexism in the paranormal community. I strongly disagree. If you separate the actual, real-world paranormal investigative groups around today, from the TV, fictional groups, yes, it's obvious. All the reality show TV groups are led by men and most of the shows don't even have any women at all, but that's Hollywood for you. Yes, there is definitely sexism on TV. But in the real world there is NOT. Every group I worked in had an equal mix of male and female. I worked in one group with a female lead investigator. I was with one group that designated me as lead investigator on a number of investigations. In my personal experience, you do what you are best at. No one cares what gender you are. The only difference I ever felt was a desire on the males to be a bit protective of the females if we went into physical danger. I also looked online at current working paranormal groups and found that membership on teams was mixed equally male to female. There is no sexism in this field. It's misleading and unfair to men in the field to accuse them of something of which they are not guilty.

I'm sorry for all of my female paranormal investigator peers. We deserve so much better than this. If you wanted to convince the skeptics that women can be great paranormal investigators and dispel all of the critics, there was one way you could have done that. To paraphrase the famous movie critic, Roger Ebert, regarding this movie, "If you wanted to dispel the misogynist critics, you should have made a better movie."


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