Ghostbusters 2016: go see it, but don’t wear mascara. I cried with laughter. Like, I remember the first movie started with kind of a slow build? The first scene is a ghost scaring someone in a library, and then we cut to Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman creeping on an undergrad? :/ The remake opens on a tour of a haunted house. Fifteen seconds in, the docent explains that this was the most elegant house in New York City of its time, with every modern convenience, including a face bidet and an anti-Irish security fence. So began the theme of the next two hours, which was me wishing that we could all laugh more quietly because I’m pretty sure I missed like a third of the jokes because I was still laughing from the previous ones.
It is not a beat-by-beat remake, which thank God, because what even is the point. It retains the basic plot of the most American movie ever, but why would you want to see the same thing done exactly the same way? You’re here to see the movie you loved done bigger and badder - check - and funnier - I know this is sacrilege but honestly, maybe, check? - and sexier - hella check - and cameos by all the original actors, which the whole theatre applauds when check. And delightfully retro special effects. And plenty of ectoplasm.
The casting of the Ghostbusters as women is more than a simple one-to-one switch. E pointed out that the new Ghostbusters are more everything than the originals: more successful, more sincere, more intelligent and committed and amped-up. And that’s part of the bigger and badder remake effect; but there’s another aspect. Venkman can be a fraud and a loser for his whole life and we still believe that he can take a breakthrough and ride it to success. But women don’t fail up like that. Venkman’s counterpart, Erin Gilbert, is an MIT grad physicist at Columbia who begins the movie by realizing with horror that despite all that, her name on a book taking ghosts seriously can scuttle her reputation and her chance at tenure in a snap. The scene where she mourns “I worked so hard! I kissed so many kinds of asses!” - Gilbert has to work more than twice as hard as Venkman to be just as much of a loser, and it feels so real.
God, I don’t want to spoil you, but it’s a movie that is extremely aware of the nerdboy hate it faces and having so much fun with it. That said: it was directed by Paul Feig, written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold, and produced by Ivan Reitman, Amy Pascal, and Dan Ackroyd. What I am trying to say here is, it was not created by the founders of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Chris Hemworth’s receptionist role is much bigger and funnier than anything the 1984 Ghostbusters let Annie Potts do. Like, he seriously walks away with every goddamn scene he’s in. Also, I feel the need to note that before the movie started, we watched four previews in a row:
- A movie about a boy who discovers that he belongs at a school for kids with magic powers, featuring a pretty girl who tells him that he is the one who has the special power to save them all
- A movie about a young man who comes home traumatized from the war in Iraq, featuring a pretty girl who tells him how strong and amazing he is
- A movie about the man who put the airplane down in the Hudson River, featuring a woman who tells him how amazing and brave he was to save all those people
- A movie about the smartest professor in the world, featuring a pretty younger woman who is there to tell him that he is the only one who can solve the puzzle and avert the apocalypse
- A movie about a traumatized boy who discovers the ability to summon a monster, featuring a pretty young woman who tells him he is important and deserves to break things if he wants to break them (no, seriously)
- Also, to be fair, Bridget Jones’ Baby, which looked cute
At no point did Hemsworth’s Kevin, or any other dude, ever tell our female Ghostbusters how special and important they were, so let me be clear that this movie is in no way a straight Hollywood role reversal.
I do want to tell you that somehow, in almost two hours of straight jokes, they managed to avoid making even a single fat joke about Melissa McCarthy. Amazing, but true. Also, prior to seeing the movie, I heard criticism that Leslie Jones, who is black, had to play the non-scientist streetwise character; but I did not realize that in this case “streetwise” meant “New York City history buff, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the actual streets.”
I feel like I’ve just told you all the ways in which the movie doesn’t suck and I haven’t managed to explain how purely joyous Holtzmann is, and how funny McCarthy makes her Abby Yates, and how much I howled when I realized that instead of climbing a tower for the final battle, they had to dive into a basement. Seriously, the theme carries through. And I’m not even going to spoil the best bit for you. Go see the thing.