‘Ghostbusters’ is a silly little comedy that became a cultural lightning rod
Think back to 2014 when the Sony hack was in full swing and North Korea was threatening to attack U.S. movie theaters for playing The Interview. Americans demanded to be allowed to see the movie as some sort of patriotic act of defiance. Somehow, a silly little comedy became the symbol of free speech. The all-female Ghostbusters remake is a lot like that—a movie that would have been marginally successful and then quickly passed out of the cultural conversation, but somehow became a representation of feminism’s fight against the misogyny plaguing the internet. Before this silly little comedy even hit theaters, it had divided the nation into either get-back-in-the-kitchen men who hated everything female, or burn-your-bra women who were ruining childhoods with their SJW agenda. What the movie represents is so far removed from what we actually see on the screen that it’s almost laughable. This isn’t a culture war. It’s just a silly little comedy, and that’s how we should look at it.
Directed by Bridesmaids‘ Paul Feig and starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon, this lady-led remake tells the story of a ragtag group of unexpected heroes who come together to fight ghosts in New York City. Pretty much standard stuff, and much the same as the original 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. With a few exceptions, it’s very much your run of the mill comedy: a simple premise, some gross-out jokes, a few snappy one-liners, and conclusion in which our downtrodden heroes defeat the bad guy and gain the respect of society. Because the plot itself doesn’t’ require a ton of explanation, I’ll just give you a breakdown of what I liked and didn’t like about the movie.
Let’s start with the cast. McKinnon steals every scene. She is truly funny, never corny, and her weird take on her character is always fun to watch. It’s hard to stand out as the funny one in that crowd of comedy queens, but she is the most memorable part of the film by a mile. Also impressive is Jones. Initially, I was worried they’d just have her yelling every line and playing a caricature of her SNL performances, but she actually has some good moments and her delivery is solid. Even McCarthy, who has fallen into the physical comedy trap in more than a few films, brings something slightly different here and doesn’t solely rely on physical gags. Wiig is kind of a disappointment, as much as it kills me to say it, because I believe she’s capable of so much more than being a one-dimensional straight-man for everyone to play off of. And speaking of things it pains me to admit, Chris Hemsworth is funny for a few minutes, but his overly stupid character becomes so gratingly dumb that by the time we get to a post-credits dance sequence, you’ll want to hop over chairs to get out of the theater faster. Even the cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast are cool at first—because who doesn’t love a nostalgia nod—but become kind of tiresome by the end. It starts to feel more like a permission slip from the original cast saying it’s okay to remake this than a fun little moment for fans to enjoy.
In fact, the nods to the original film all follow that pattern: cool at first, but then just kind of obligatory by the snoozeworthy third act. Yep, that’s the original firehouse. Gotcha. Yep, there’s Slimer, the little green dude we all remember from the original movie and the animated series. Cool…I guess. Oh, hey, there’s Mr. Stay Puft, because that’s required too. By the time we get to the theme song remade by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot, it feels like the movie is half-heartedly rushing through a nostalgia checklist—like sponsored content instead of anything purposeful or meaningful.
So here we are, with a C+ movie that’s accidentally become a cultural lightning rod. If you don’t like the movie because it stars women and you somehow feel that a female version of an old ’80s movie ruins your childhood, you’re wrong. If you only like the movie because it stars women and serves back a little objectification in the form of Hemsworth’s brainless beefcake receptionist, you’re wrong. If we judge the movie for what it is, it’s funny but not hilarious, entertaining, but not groundbreaking, and probably something you’d kind of enjoy if you caught it on HBO in a few months. Just like The Interview became a bigger deal because of the people fighting against it, so too is Ghostbusters becoming way more important than it probably should be because if the outcry from the opposition.