Thursday, July 21, 2016

Who You Gonna Call...Now?

My daughter was more excited about seeing the new Ghostbusters than I was.   With other things going on at home, and “important” films being released before and after it, I wasn’t pushing for an opening weekend viewing. 

However, the idea of an all-female main cast in the traditionally male dominated realm of supernatural / superhero/ action movies appealed to my daughter enough that she pushed to see a “scary movie” in 3D as soon as it came out. Since the Horror/Comedy is my favorite genre, no nagging beyond the initial request was needed.

I’m hoping the geniuses in Hollywood responsible for no Black Widow Avengers merchandise, and cancelling Young Justice because too many girls were watching it are taking notes here.

The trailers were enticing, but the end result exceeded both of our high expectations for both the funny and scary sides.  It was also one of the few cases where we both agreed the 3D was completely worth it and well used. Between the ghosts, proton beams, and strange equipment, there was a great deal of “poppin’ out.”

This film was far more of a remake in tone than specifics. 

Both sets of Ghostbusters were accomplished comedians with team dynamics, writing and improv backgrounds.  Both had Saturday Night Live connections, but the new gang swaps out Second City for the Groundlings. One could attempt to map the four main characters onto the originals, but it doesn’t really work.

Erin was more skeptical at first, like Venkman, but Bill Murray’s character was the last place to look to add respectability to the organization.  Her character arc went along a completely different path as well. 

It’s similar for all the others.

Patty was the only non-scientist, as well as being the only black member of the team.   Unlike Winston, she brought an intimate knowledge of New York as well as the appropriate attitude of a native to the group that gave her a specific area of expertise, as opposed to just adding another gun to the gang.  Her specialty was key as this is yet another film that only works in New York.  There’s an inherent magic to The City that makes the supernatural more believable.

Holtzman’s weirdness was more expressive and zany than Egon’s. More importantly, she was an engineer instead of a scientist, adding practicality to the bunch.  (We engineers tend to equate massively overpowered weapons with “practicality.”) 

Finally, while she was similarly the emotional center of the team, Abby was far more assertive, commanding and confident from the get go than Ray.

Leaving out any romantic sub-plot also allowed the focus of the journey to remain on the bonds of friendship forming between the four leads.  That’s another area more typically connected to the standard male “buddy cop” formula.  It added to the women being self-sufficient.  That’s fortunate for them, as the men in the movie were mostly used as plot drivers or obstructions.

Wow, objectifying a gender in a genre film…except it’s the other one this time, and the movie was still fantastic. 

Keep taking those notes Hollywood people.  If we get another Elektra or Catwoman after this thrill filled, character driven piece, you’re getting more than a pissy letter.

The scary half of the “horror/ comedy” scale definitely held its own. For what may be the first time in the history of her movie going career my daughter forgot to eat her popcorn.  The fears remained on the roller coaster level, and avoided “wanna go back” territory.  There may have been some jumping and yelping from the seat next to her as well. In other words, they were “good scares.”

The comedy was equally successful.  The antics and gags were frequently, and hysterically, laugh out loud funny. They ranged from non sequiter goofiness, to complex, long term set ups with a good follow through. All four women remained in character enhancing the delivery of the comedy, and the jokes organically grew out of those roles.

Then there was Chris Hemsworth.  It’s going to be extremely difficult to watch the next Thor movie with anything resembling a straight face.  Prince of Asgard or not, the long term effects of seeing him be that much of a ridiculous doofus will not wash away easily.

The cameos from the original cast were all well-orchestrated.   I’ll stick to generics to avoid spoilers. 

Some were appearances in entirely different roles that still suited the actors’ personalities. 

Some were more or less a recreation of their previous role in a new setting.

Harold Ramis got a nice homage.

Slimer was still Slimer.

There was only one that I believe could be called completely gratuitous, and only there as a nod and a wink to fans of the original.

But frankly it was completely awesome, removing any need to be upset about it.

That’s really all I’ve got without giving away far too many gags.  But for the love of all the gods of comedy, stay through all of the credits.

It’s equally funny and scary.  The story was engaging, self-consistent, and character driven.

And the characters all had interconnected arcs that were satisfying and made the individuals as well as the Ghostbusters as a whole more likeable than their initially very likeable starting points.

There’s now a framework to rebuild the franchise, and the four performers carrying it are more than up to the task. 

Well…go see it in the theater so we can get a sequel.

Waiting for the home release NEVER WORKS.


longbow said...

Do you *know* how fast you were going?

Jeff McGinley said...