Monday, October 3, 2016

REVIEW: "Ghostbusters" (2016)

Since 1989's release of Ghostbusters II, fans have been hoping for a third outing in the franchise that began with the 1984 original, directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis (both the film's writers), Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray. All have been on board for a possible sequel between 1989 and 2014, except for Murray. Aykroyd was interviewed in the early 2000s and commented,

"Ghostbusters 3" will never happen. Unless Bill Murray agrees. Everyone else would love to do it--Columbia, [Harold Ramis], myself, [Ivan Reitman]. It's a five-way rights situation and Bill is locking up his piece of the rights because he feels that was work he just wants preserved and he doesn't want it diluted. As an artist I can respect that. (IMDb)

(l-r) Dan Achroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis in the 1984 original

Recalling the first two films, Murray once commented,

The first 45 minutes of the original Ghostbusters is some of the funniest stuff ever made. The second one was disappointing because the special effects guys took over. I had something like two scenes -- and they're the only funny ones in the movie. (IMDb)

One of the things that made the original such a hit (as well as a hilarious and scary special-effects comedy, the first of its kind) was the ad-libbing freedom the three main actors, particularly Murray, had in establishing the tone of the film, and not just their characters. There's an interesting video that talks about the outline and structure of the film, and how the initial draft differs heavily from the film many know and love today.

(l-r) Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig and Kate McKinnon in the 2016 version
The latest release from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy) does a reboot, as well as a gender-swap, by casting Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the quartet of paranormal exterminators in modern Manhattan. The filmmakers even went so far as reversing the secretary role, with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, filling in for Annie Potts. Many fans were reportedly outraged when they heard the news, particularly when the first trailer premiered earlier this year. (It was soon ranked as one of the most disliked videos in YouTube history.) The original cast and crew including Murray, on the other hand, gave their endorsement (as seen in this video from Jimmy Kimmel last summer).

Both generations of casts on Jimmy Kimmel
(Front row, l-r: Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig;
Back row, l-r: Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Bill Murray) 
What puzzles me a bit is the contrast between the critical response and the audience response to this film (an opposite effect of what happened with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year). Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 73 percent "fresh" rating with a consensus that reads the film "does an impressive job of standing on its own as a freewheeling, marvelously cast supernatural comedy--even if it can't help but pale somewhat in comparison to the classic original," while IMDb gave it an audience score of 5.4 out of 10. That being said, it sometimes doesn't matter what the general public says about a remake or reboot or what have you, as long as the original creators appreciate what you do and give you their endorsement. In this case, the classic phrase, in a way, never sounded so good. "Who you gonna call? [The original] Ghostbusters!"

While it's not a perfect movie (and it does have its problems for discerning viewers, particularly in its often scary and scientific supernatural elements, as the first movie did), it does stand on its own while showcasing the brilliant comedic skills of its leading ladies, most of them SNL vets like their predecessors (who also make cameo appearances). (Wiig and McCarthy have worked with Feig in Bridesmaids; Jones exceeds expectations of those who considered her character a stereotype in the trailers, and McKinnon steals the show with her quirky deadpan, goggle-eyed expressions and mannerisms.) Even better, the film doesn't reduce them to mere female stereotypes as some might believe, but instead portrays them as hard-working and dedicated individuals. Plus, the film's special effects don't really get in the way of what they are capable of. And some of the effects are incredible to watch, although it would be hard to top the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Slimer from the original.

("I couldn't help [saying that]. It just popped in there.")

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