Something Strange in the Neighborhood


The new Ghostbusters movie was the subject of criticism long before it even came out, with some bottom-feeding Internet denizens being distraught over the idea that the new Ghostbusters were of the female persuasion. Some other complaints focused more on the idea that a beloved classic was being remade at all, but I tend to doubt they avoided all remakes. James Rolfe of Angry Video Game Nerd fame did a video about how he refused to watch it, even though he recently did a review of the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, also a revisit of something he enjoyed as a kid. I tend to think remakes are kind of lazy, but that doesn’t mean I never enjoy them. Still, with some of the hatred directed at this film, I was kind of afraid of what would happen if it really WAS bad, but any criticism of it was dismissed as MRA drivel. Fortunately, such was not the case. The four new Ghostbusters, played by Kristen Wiig (as Erin Gilbert), Melissa McCarthy (Abby Yates), Kate McKinnon (Jillian Holtzmann), and Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan), were all funny, likeable, and well-defined; and had good chemistry with each other. In a way, the back story made a little more sense than that in the original film, as it was kind of weird for a prestigious university to employ three paranormal researchers full-time. In the remake, Abby and Holtzmann start out working for a small, disreputable school (which ends up firing them anyway), and Erin is at Columbia but actively trying to downplay her interest in the paranormal. I’m not the only one who was relieved that they steered away from fat jokes; I haven’t seen any of McCarthy’s other movies, but the commercials for them tend to focus entirely on this sort of humor, and I was never sure whether I should be disappointed in her for taking such roles, the movie industry for not offering her anything else, or both. There were food jokes, but that isn’t quite the same. I do have to wonder if the recurring Chinese food gags were inspired by Gary Coleman’s Simpsons appearance. “Three shrimp are hardly a galaxy!” I do have to wonder if anyone found it problematic that both films made the only black Ghostbuster also the only non-scientist of the group. Along with giving women the hero roles, there was a reversal of normal gender-based stereotypes with the secretary Kevin as an attractive male ditz. It’s kind of interesting to me that they kept him absurdly useless throughout the film, as really stupid characters often get at least one chance to make good either through a hidden talent or sheer dumb luck.

In a way, it would be nice if I could evaluate this film totally on its own merits rather than constantly comparing and contrasting it with the 1984 one, but in fairness it pretty much expected viewers to be familiar with the original, much as the recent Star Trek film series has. Then again, there probably aren’t too many people who haven’t seen the original Ghostbusters, and even the ones who haven’t are likely familiar with Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man due simply to their cultural prevalence.

Most of the main actors from the original film had cameos, even the late Harold Ramis in the form of a bust. I believe there was some talk years ago of the film being a passing-the-torch kind of thing instead of a total remake, but maybe that was deemed impractical without Ramis being in it. I will say that the ghosts looked better twenty years ago, but that could be due more to when I grew up than anything else. Another thing I missed from the original was the sense of mythology. There was a little of it here, but nothing close to the back story about Gozer. Still, it was a lot of fun, and isn’t that the main thing you want from a comedy? Definitely recommended.

Pictures by Becca Whitaker

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This entry was posted in Humor, Prejudice, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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