Finally. After months of arguing, whining and flat out finger-pointing about the new Ghostbusters movie, it's officially being released to the American public today for consumption.
I sat in a 300-seat capacity IMAX theater last night and watched an advance screening with about 50 other people in the theater. No lines to wait to get into the theater, no cramming and it was slow enough that I had to go back to the front counter to get my 3D glasses because there wasn't a ticket attendant at the theater entrance like there usually is. Definitely not your standard summer blockbuster crowd at all.
That was to be expected though, since the Ghostbusters reboot has been the target of some of the most vitriolic and outraged fan backlash I've ever seen for a movie. Its first trailer became the most down-voted and hated trailer in YouTube history, social media ran rampant with loyalist fanboy rage and as early positive reviews for the movie started to release this past week, people started suggesting that critics were being paid by Sony to give good reviews because there was no way that the movie could possibly be good.
Well......it is. I've seen it. I can actually say that because I have seen it now. The Ghostbusters reboot is actually, legitimately good. Not great, but GOOD.
If that last sentence or two didn't scare you off of this review, let's break it down a bit and go over the good and the bad of the movie. First, the good:
A FITTING TRIBUTE
Ghostbusters is a tribute to the original movie, cast and crew. Period. In fact, it might be too reverential to the original classic. This isn't a brand new, completely reborn take on the franchise, it's a modern-day thank you to Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts for their original comedic masterpiece. There's tons of references and easter eggs from the original movie layered in this one, right down to the cameos themselves, which also were not just shoehorned in for the sake of giving the original cast a quick scene or two. No, these cameos were built into the movie's plot and structure and actually felt organic instead of forced. One of them is thrown right at you in one of the trailers and you don't even know it and another one is a pretty critical scene for the movie in general. Incidentally, all of the original major cast members except for Rick Moranis make appearances in the movie. That's right, ALL of them, including the late Harold Ramis. It's pretty awesome.
This Ghostbusters movie has one, to be blunt about it, and even though it takes a few beats from the original, it's not a carbon copy of the same movie. Doctor Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is intent on gaining tenure at Columbia University when she discovers that a book she co-wrote years earlier with Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the paranormal is being sold online and in print again. Fearing that this might discredit her, Erin goes to Abby's school to get her to take the book off the market and finds Abby working with Doctor Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) on the paranormal work that they started in the first place. The man who informed Erin that the book was being sold approached her about a house being haunted, which lead the three women to investigate the situation where they find a real ghost and are determined to turn their work into a business.
It's not long after the first encounter that Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) encounters a ghost herself while working her job at a subway terminal and seeks out the other women to help her investigate it. Together, the four women join forces and establish their business to root out the ghosts that are randomly invading New York and find out what, or who is causing them all to appear. There's no montage scenes of the women doing their business across town, though. In fact, the city largely believes them to be frauds and considers all of their photographic "proof" to be photoshopped, which is pretty much what would happen in today's world. So the worry that it would be two hours of stale SNL jokes and stand-up routines with no clear A to B plot behind it is pretty much not the case here. There is a story and it does move forward for sure.
Wiig, McCarthy, Jones and McKinnon work well together. Each of them offers their own brand of comedy to the table but the women do it harmoniously without any of it seeming forced, which also speaks to the writing of the jokes into the actual story. This is modern comedy with modern jokes and references for sure, aimed at a younger audience of today as opposed to audiences of 32 years ago that loved The Not-So Primetime Players and the like, but none of it feels overwrought or crammed into the narrative of the movie and feels very fluid between the women. They all have great timing and delivery with one another in their special ways and it makes for some solid laughs in the theater.
If you ask me to pick a favorite, it's definitely McKinnon. This really could be a breakout role for her movie-wise.
THE TECH AND VFX
I really like the new tech that Holtzmann designs for the team throughout the movie, including the fact that she evolves and perfects it as the movie goes on. In many ways, McKinnon's character is the expositional one to explain the science behind it all, just like Ramis' Egon Spengler from the originals, only in this movie there's not only explanation of Class 5 vapors and total protonic reversal, there's also explanation of what their gear actually is and somewhat how it works, which is something we never got in depth in the original movie. Also, for all of the VFX complaints from the trailer, everything looked gorgeous in the actual movie and the 3D was excellent. I don't say that lightly either because I'm not into the 3D fad and I think most movies don't even need it, but it is clear that this movie was shot for 3D and the effect was greatly immersive. You might flinch more than few times if you watch it that way in IMAX.
And now for the bad, or not so good:
He's awesome as the God of Thunder in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and he's one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood today, but he sinks like a stone in this movie and it's not his fault. One of the common elements of ensemble comedies is to have at least one character that is a complete idiot, like Joey or Phoebe from Friends. Hemsworth's Kevin, who comes to work for the women as their office assistant, is Joey and Phoebe rolled into one pile of incredible idiocy. I personally don't like that kind of humor, so to me it just wasn't funny and I didn't need it.
I didn't laugh at every joke and a lot of them I just didn't think were funny. You would think that would be the death of any comedic movie being released, reboot or not, but the thing is that while I wasn't laughing, at least half the theater was laughing at most of the humor in it from all four main characters and other supporting cast. So while I consider this a bad thing for me, it really comes down to the fact that I grew up in a different era of comedy with different joke delivery than today and jokes that I'm not going to find funny will be found funny by the current generation of patrons to the theater.
That in itself is one of the biggest things to take away from the Ghostbusters reboot in that it's a movie very much written and designed for a younger generation, one that has no connection to the original movie and hadn't even been born since after Ghostbusters II released in 1989. This is their humor, their jokes, their structure of comedic storytelling and that can't be overstated going into it. This movie is simply not made for longtime fans that want more of the same that they got from the original cast and crew. It's modern-day Ghostbusters for certain.
THE SECONDARY CHARACTERS
Again, in the same vein as the humor not working for me all the time, neither did most of the secondary characters outside of the cameo appearances. Andy Garcia was really just "there" as the Mayor of New York, Cecily Strong was so-so as his assistant and Michael Kenneth Williams and Matt Walsh were sorely underused in their roles. All of them DID feel forced and seemed to be just along for the ride that the main cast was taking us on. The only one that worked was Steve Higgins as the Dean from Abby and Jillian's school in a modern comedy scene that was absolutely hilarious from start to finish, in my opinion.
The bottom line with the Ghostbusters reboot is this: it's not a great movie, but very far from a bad one, it serves mostly as a great tribute to the original movie, much like the recent Star Trek movies or RoboCop has served lately in the successful reboot department, and it is written for the younger audience of today and the humor they see on current SNL, YouTube and other current comedy acts. It's easy to see it as a cash grab for Sony and they wouldn't do it if they weren't trying to make money off of it, but it's no different than any other well done reboot or remake in the last five to ten years. If you are willing to accept all of that, then you should definitely give it a try at the theater. If you consider the original movie a hallowed and sacred ground upon which this "atrocity of a film" utterly desecrates and now consider your childhood ruined, well then you likely aren't still reading this review and if you are, you shouldn't see the movie......or any other reboots......or maybe movies in general since it's clear that these kinds of movies aren't going away, even if this one bucks the positive review trend and doesn't make money. We will soon see.
4 out of 5 stars. I mean it. Oh, and stay for the end of the credits. There's a nice little tease/easter egg that plots perfectly for a sequel if Sony gets to make it.
DISCLAIMER: I have received no money from Sony for this review. They couldn't care less about what I think of their movie, only that I spent $13.50 to see it.