Erin: "Why am I operating the untested nuclear laser?"
Holtzmann: "You have the longest arms."
A supernatural comedy movie, released in the summer of 2016 -- and a soft reboot of the original Ghostbusters film from 1984.
Attempts to restart the franchise had been vaporlocked for years, with new scripts coming and going, with original star Bill Murray sometimes supporting the project, sometimes not, with fan interest sometimes rising, but mostly resigned to the series never really making it into theaters, especially after the death of writer and star Harold Ramis in 2014. Murray's reluctance to commit to a new sequel, along with the success of the rebooted "Star Trek" films, likely inspired the move to reboot the franchise with a new cast.
A number of director Paul Feig's films have been comedies with mostly female casts -- "Bridesmaids" was his biggest hit. So it wasn't entirely surprising that he announced that he was going with a gender-flipped, mostly female cast for "Ghostbusters." But at that point, what was a grumbling undercurrent of "Why can't Hollywood stop remaking classic movies?" turned into a howling, blubbering primal scream of "Don't put nasty girl cooties in my lightweight comedy remake!"
Why the freakout? Very briefly, there's been a mostly under-the-radar war going on in the entertainment business concerning women as audiences, characters, and creators. There were plenty of people who feel that female audiences have been slighted over the years, and that making entertainment that appealed to women -- not the stereotypical woman, not romances and pinafores and new vacuum cleaners -- but to the women who accounted for large percentages of the audiences of action and superhero movies -- would show significant dividends at the box office. And there was the other side, which was driven into frothing fits of rage at the very idea of women in action movies or video games.
"Oh, be fair! I'm sure they have many good reasons for, um, hating women!" Well, kids, I don't care. These were the same people tweeting death threats and rape threats at women who had the gall to create their own video games or even just to work at video game companies. They're worthless trolls who reasonlessly hate women and minorities and anyone who isn't a straight white male. And ya know, they didn't help their cause very much anyway -- when one of the most common complaints about the new "Ghostbusters" movie was that it was "ruining my childhood," well, y'all, there's just no reason to take someone like that seriously. Abusive parents ruin your childhood. Movie reboots that come out over 30 years after the original and at least 20 years after you were supposed to be classified as an adult don't actually ruin your childhood at all. Fer cry-eye, no one complains that Michael Bay's pukalicious Transformers and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles movies ruined anyone's childhoods. Why not? Oh, it is a mystery.
Holtzmann: (scarfing down Pringles while watching a ghost materialize) "Just try saying no to these salty parabolas."
Anyway: the new movie was directed by Paul Feig, written by Feig and Katie Dippold, and produced by Ivan Reitman (the director of the 1984 movie) and Amy Pascal. The stars included:
There were also cameo appearances from most of the stars of the original 1984 movie.
The plot focuses on ambitious physics professor Erin Gilbert discovering that her secret shame -- a book about ghosts written with her childhood friend, parapsychologist Abby Woods -- is still on the market, potentially damaging her quest for tenure. She asks Abby to remove the book from Amazon, but gets dragged along with Abby and the gloriously demented engineer Jillian Holtzmann as they go to investigate a ghost at the Aldridge Mansion Museum. Erin's gleeful reaction to seeing (and getting slimed by) a ghost is recorded and put on YouTube, which, sure enough, causes her to get fired from her position at Columbia University. The three decide to go into business together as paranormal investigators and soon meet up with Patty Tolan, an MTA worker and NYC history buff, who has seen a ghost in the subway tunnels. Patty soon joins the group, and they hire a secretary, the extremely handsome and spectacularly stupid Kevin Beckman.
Before long, they enjoy some staggering successes, but also learn the authorities want to keep information about ghosts quiet to prevent a panic. The team also learns that someone (the resentful misanthropic genius Rowan North) is purposely causing ghosts to manifest along ley lines in New York, in an attempt to crack open the barriers between life and death and destroy the world. Can the Ghostbusters keep Rowan from destroying New York?
How much did I love this movie? Well, first, let me tell you that I'm probably genetically predisposed to enjoying Ghostbusters movies. I saw the first one when I was in high school. Then I saw it as many times as I could. I memorized dialogue. I learned to draw the logo freehand. I bought the soundtrack. And the orchestral score. And the novelization. I even watched Ghostbusters II several times and even enjoyed it for a while. I'm a Ghostbusters guy, all the way down to my bones. But I was nervous I wouldn't enjoy it, because I'd heard so many people, apparently worried about angering the GamerGators, who scoffed that they didn't expect to like the movie.
I loved this movie so, so, so hard.
Kevin: "Would it be okay if I bring my cat to work sometimes? He has major anxiety problems."
Abby: "You know what? I would love to let your cat live here with you, but I have a pretty severe cat allergy."
Kevin: "Oh, I don't have a cat. He's a dog. His name's My Cat."
Abby: "Your dog's name is My Cat?"
Kevin: "Mike Hat."
Erin: "Your dog's name is Mike, last name Hat?"
Kevin: "Well, his full name is Michael Hat."
Abby: "I can't say that I'm allergic to dogs... so."
Kevin: "You know, it's all right. He lives with my mum."
It's not a perfect film -- but neither was the original Ghostbusters. The biggest problem with the film is the villain. Rowan is just not a particularly daunting bad guy, either as a dour, living misanthrope or as a drunk-with-power undead Ghostbusters logo come to life. He also has relatively little interaction with the rest of the characters, which probably would've done a lot to make him a better villain.
But aside from that, the film pretty much nailed every Happiness Neuron in my brain. The filmmakers very clearly understood that the best things about the original Ghostbusters were the ghosts and the characterization of the main characters. The ghosts are good, and often great -- Gertrude Aldridge and the electrocuted subway ghost are early standouts, mostly done the old-fashioned way -- there are actors under the glowing blue auras, and that helps make them look cool. Improved effects technology also allows for the beautiful and awe-inspiring parade balloon ghosts, which are goofy, terrifying, and retro-cool all at the same time. And Slimer (or Onionhead -- I always preferred the name used by the crew of the original film) has a substantial role to play, too.
The original Ghostbusters worked so well because its main gimmick was taking a bunch of talented comedians and letting them riff off each other. Wiig and McCarthy get the star billing and enjoy tons and tons of great comic moments, but the film really belongs to McKinnon, Jones, and Hemsworth. All three get some of the very best comedy bits in the film -- McKinnon's lesbian mad scientist with the cartoon Egon hairdo, Jones' towering, hilarious history geek, and Hemsworth's unexpected flair for deadpan comedy should be considered star-making moments, and I hope every studio in Hollywood is offering them great new roles.
One of the coolest things about the movie is the Ghostbusters get to be genuine action heroes without having to be turned into femme fatales. During the big Battle of Times Square scene, all four characters get their own badass action scenes, and they don't get sexualized -- pretty much exactly the way you'd shoot a male action hero. No one strips down to a tank top, no one shows any leg. About the closest you get is when Holtzmann pulls out her new proton pistols and licks one of them before unleashing on the ghosts surrounding her. (Holtzmann's action sequence is just so good here -- she kicks the most ass, she gets the longest scene, and her segment is the only one accompanied by the movie's theme song -- it suggests she may actually be the main character of the movie.)
Anyone whose childhood has been ruined by this movie didn't have a very good childhood to begin with -- and they probably weren't actually fans of the original movie. If you haven't seen it yet, try to make time to watch it. Don't let a bunch of whining manbabies scare you off from it.
Holtzmann: "Safety lights are for dudes!"
Rebecca Gorin: "Safety lights are for dudes."
Rebecca Gorin: "I hate doing that."