Monday, August 22, 2016

Bustin' Makes Ya Feel Good

(All movie photos in this entry are from the official Ghostbusters Website)
I like the new Ghostbusters movie.  I mean, I really like it.  I laughed.  I jumped.  I squeezed Abby’s arm.  I even got a little misty at the end.  After the exciting opening, Abby leaned over to me and said, "I didn't eat a single junior mint during that whole scene!" She captured my sentiments exactly. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it after the movie was over, on the car ride home, while making dinner, and as I brushed my teeth last night.

Having heard about the controversy surrounding the movie (some people were really upset about this movie before it even got released, and its trailer had over one million dislikes on YouTube), I decided to do a little research on it, thinking there might be some interesting material in the reviews and discussions for my AP Language and Composition class.  I ended up going down a rabbit hole of opinions that varied from love it to hate it.  That’s not unusual for any movie, but there was definitely something ugly going on with this one.  The backlash before it even debuted seemed unprecedented.  Before the release, arguments against the the movie included, but were not limited to:

  • A reboot of the classic Ghostbusters is ridiculous.  The first movie was iconic, and any “redo” is disrespectful.
  • Women can’t be ghostbusters.
  • The CGI in the trailer looks terrible.  In fact, the whole trailer stinks.

Since the release, critics have added the following responses:

  • The movie is sexist and racist.
  • The movie is misogynistic.
  • Despite an awesome cast, the script is terrible.
  • Zach Woods and Chris Hemsworth were the only funny people in this movie.
  • The CGI is terrible and there is too much of it.
  • The movie doesn’t acknowledge the original Ghostbusters enough.
  • The movie spends too much time acknowledging the original Ghostbusters.

On the flip side, there have been some positive reviews, mostly including variations on the following:
  • The film is funny; get over it.

How could these four people be anything but hilarious?

The new Ghostbusters currently has a 73% rating from movie critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 57% “liked it” rating from the general audience.  Over at, the critics average is 60 out of 100, while the users (average movie goers who log in to this site?) give it a 2.7 out of 10.  This disparity feels fishy to me.  A quick look at the scores for previous big movies (the new Star Trek, the new Star Wars, the new Jurassic Park (that is, Jurassic World), reveal much closer scores between critics and regular viewers, with the critics tending to be slightly lower than the rest of us movie-goers.

So what on earth has the general public got against the new Ghostbusters?

I’m tired of trying to figure it out.

Instead, I’ll repeat what I said at the start of this post: I like the new Ghostbusters movie.  I mean, I really like it.

To prepare ourselves, we watched the original Ghostbusters last week, showing it to Abby for the first time.  (I usually stick pretty close to Common Sense Media’s recommendations for ages when deciding what Abby can and can’t see, but I was Abby’s age when Ghostbusters came out, and I don’t think it damaged me.  She has also demonstrated that she is not prone to freaking out or having nightmares after watching spooky movies).  

Remember these guys?
Rewatching this classic revealed a number of things:

  • The plot is pretty darn thin.
  • Bill Murry’s character, Peter Venkman, is a jerk.
  • Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dana Barrett, is ridiculous, especially because she falls for Venkman.
  • The special effects are gosh darn funny by today’s standards.
  • The theme song is still fabulous.
  • What’s not to love about Annie Potts’s character, Janine Melnitz?
  • The movie is still fun to watch and I’m glad it was part of my childhood.
  • Abby loved it.  (Probably because we told her that we loved it.  I don’t think she understood half of it.)

So going into the new Ghostbusters, I was cautiously optimistic, but kind of expecting it to be only mediocre.

In fact, one review that really stuck with me from my trip down the rabbit hole said the following:
All this misplaced misogynistic hostility that has been sliming the reputation of director’s Paul Feig’s gender-reassignment redo (co-written with Katie Dippold, his partner on “The Heat”) has stirred the girl-power advocate inside of me. But, the reality is, there is perhaps one, maybe two moments that come anywhere close to being as memorable as that 32-year-old not-quite-family-friendly joke [from the original]. And that reality leaves me in the unhappy position of having to admit that this feminized attempt could have used a makeover itself.
The critic, Susan Wioszczyna, goes on to write,
What really galled me was the attitude that these supposedly brilliant and successful women are forced to assume. While nerdy wise guys Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd never questioned their belief in afterlife inhabitants or wavered in their confidence to control them despite a raft of skeptics, she-geeks Wiig and McCarthy are cowed into playing misfits who were shunned by others because of their spooky interests when they were young girls, and are now emotionally damaged goods trying to prove themselves right. All I know is I don’t want my funny gals muted. I want them full blast.
I was afraid I was going to feel the same way.

Instead, I like the new Ghostbusters movie.  I mean, I really like it. (Is there an echo in here?)

Ghostbuster Erin Gilbert!
Admittedly, at one point during the movie, I found myself wishing that Kristen Wiig’s character (Erin Gilbert) had more confidence and didn’t make stupid decisions.  “Come on, Erin!  You are woman!  You are powerful!  Why are you so afraid of that big jerk who holds your university tenure in front of you like a carrot on a stick?”  And when Leslie Jones showed up as Patty Tolan, the subway worker, I spared a moment to think, “Why couldn’t there be three African American scientists and a white subway worker?”

Ghostbuster Patty Tolan!
But I checked both of those thoughts.  You know why?  Because I realized that it was supremely ridiculous to think that a movie starring four amazing women should have to DO ALL THE THINGS.  One movie can’t fight all the fights.  And this new Ghostbusters does indeed fight some of the fights while still being fun and engaging.  I mean, this movie passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors.  Woo! When does that happen?

When you look at what the women in this year’s Olympics accomplished (if the US women were their own country, they would have tied Great Britain for number of gold medals) but also observed the flack Gabby Douglas got for not putting her hand on her heart during the National Anthem, you’ll clearly see that women are held to absurd standards.  That’s just crazytown. Women, of all people, need to watch out for that sort of foolishness and put a stop to it.

Look! They put their hair up to fight ghosts!  That was a nice change from other action hero ladies in movies.

When we came out of the theater yesterday, and Abby and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “That was awesome!” the movie won on a million levels in my book.  We discussed which Ghostbuster we would want to be (I’m torn between Patty and Jillian; Abby preferred Abby and Jillian).  We swapped memorable lines (“Get out of my friend, Ghost!”), and effused over the effectiveness of the opening scene (door knobs turning when they shouldn’t be turning ALWAYS makes my heart pound).  There was debate over best moment in the movie.    My favorite scene is when Jillian Holtzmann whips out a couple of fancy ghost-busting-guns during the epic battle at the end and whoops some serious ghost butt.  She is super badass. And funny.  WIN!

My whole family appreciated the cameos by actors from the original film, loved the nods to the 1984 version, and appreciated the variations.  It felt like a good song cover to me: it’s reminiscent enough of the original to pay respect, but definitely provides a new take.

So yeah, I like the new Ghostbusters movie.  I mean, I really like it.  

Which is way more fun than trashing it.

Bonus!  Chris Hemsworth’s character is named Kevin.  So now I have two goofy, golden-haired Kevins to adore.  What is not to love about that?

No comments:

Post a Comment