Ghostbusters: Answer the Call

I was thinking…

…remaking a movie or rebooting a franchise for the sake of ‘a new generation,’ is the worst reason to do so. If a film is done right the first time, every generation should be able to enjoy it, regardless of when it was first made.

The Ivan Reitman-directed, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis-written Ghostbusters of 1984 is a perfect example of a movie that never needed a reboot.

Were all the special effects paragons of cinematic illusion? No. Heck, even the director was never happy with several of them.

But one would be hard-pressed to find any other flaws. And the effects, for the most part, were still well above par, especially for the early 1980’s. Even George Lucas’ incessant tinkering with his own Star Wars films remained more or less isolated to the effects. He never felt the need to reboot or remake the films themselves.

J.J. Abrams, on the other hand…

As for Ghostbusters–which Sony quickly subtitled Answer the Call, probably to backpedal on their attempt to replace the originalwas not only an unnecessary attempt at making the spook-hunters, it was a poorly written one. Viz.

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristin WiigZoolander 2) is trying to get tenure at Columbia University when the dean discovers she was the co-author of a book on the paranormal. Embarrassed by the book and desperate to put it under wraps, she plans to visit the lab of her childhood friend and co-author, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthyThe Boss). Before she can do so, however, she is approached by the owner of an old manor in New York who claims the mansion is haunted and wants her to investigate.

While Gilbert visits her old friend, Yates, and Yates’ new partner, Dr. Holtzmann (Kate McKinnonSisters), find out about the haunted mansion and rush over to see if the claims are true.

Discovering an actual ghost, the trio soon finds their experience is placing them in the wrong spotlights and they are all laid off from their jobs.

Deciding to go into business for themselves, they hire a worse than useless receptionist (Chris Hemsworth–Thor: Dark World) and are soon approached by a subway worker, Patty (Leslie JonesTrainwreck) who claims to have seen a ghost at her work.

As the women continue to investigate, they somehow determine someone is luring the ghosts into the temporal plane for reasons unknown.

It turns out the reasons are pretty lame.

The men behind the original–the real Ghostbusters (to borrow the parlance from the 1980’s cartoon series)–saw the paranormal warriors as being like firemen: numerous squads spread throughout the city, covering different areas.

Even in the opening moments of this year’s Ghostbusters, we are teased by the words ‘Ghost Corps,’ as if implying the ladies in the film were simply starting a franchise. Had this been the premise from the start, there probably would not have been the historic blowback.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Director Paul Feig brought a lot of that blowback on himself. By baiting and insulting the core group of fanboys who would make up the majority of his repeat business, he permanently alienated those who could turn his lame duck into a potential blockbuster.

As it turns out, no amount of Sony’s tinkering, Feig’s un-professionalism or even the talents of the comedic leads can splint the duck’s leg and get it waddling again.

A comedy is meant to be funny and 1984’s Ghostbusters was filled with intelligent quips, subtle jokes and crafty hilarity. The film has actually been referred to as one perfectly told joke.

As for the new Ghostbusters…I’m still waiting for the punch line.

Intelligent humor has been replaced with scatological humor, with no fewer than four instances within the first quarter of the movie. Instead of deans telling the protagonists they are the worst kind of scientists, the dean flips them the bird, as if channeling the director’s lack of professionalism.

The film is the worst attempt at gender equality. Instead of establishing the women as the equivalent of their male colleagues or refusing to even deign to address the fact that they are, in fact women, the film comes off as a two hour inferiority complex. Portraying every man as an idiot, a misogynist, a coward or, at best, a skeptic, the story tries to elevate the woman by putting down all men.

The worst of the aforementioned idiots is the receptionist who is so extremely stupid, he ceases to be funny after about ten seconds. While watching this film, one is reminded, not of the original Ghostbusters, but of the film Idiocracy (2006), as in that is where this country is headed if this is the direction in which film is going.

Backwards might also be the direction. Whereas the character Winston Zeddemore, played by the horribly underrated Ernie Hudson, was simply a man who happened to be black, his female counterpart, Patty, plays a black stereotype reminiscent of the chauffeur, Birmingham, in the 1940’s Charlie Chan films. Caring more that the new Ecto-1 is a Cadillac, not that it happens to be a hearse, she is bug-eyed, loud-mouthed and every bit the stereotype people have been trying to forget for decades.

The ironic thing is, when Patty is not setting back the clock on racial advancement, she is the funniest person in the film. During her alone moments, she says the very same things I would say were I witnessing them. It is a shame there were so few of them.

It is also a shame four talented and usually extremely funny women were given such a lackluster story that all but quashed their abilities. Kate McKinnon, who has easily been the only funny thing on Saturday Night Live for years, has a few moments, but nowhere near as many as she deserves. Melissa McCarthy, for once not relying on her usual shtick, falls flat as a character and I had to keep looking at the tag on her jumpsuit to even remember her character’s name.

Kristin Wiig’s character undoes all the movie’s strong, assertive feminine grandstanding with how she falls over herself whenever the hunky receptionist is around. The fact the women hire the useless eye-candy in the first place makes them no better than sexist guys who hire women based solely on their looks.

While the special effects are decent, the ghosts are more sparkly and glowy than frightening; instead, the director and editors rely on sudden shocks to make the audience jump.

Over 30 years ago, I made my own ghost trap out of a shoe box and built my own PKE meter. To be a ghostbuster would have been a dream come true. For all the poor kids who have this film as their introduction to the franchise, it’s more of a nightmare. I feel especially badly for the little girls who should have four great role models to look up to. Instead, it has been one small step for women. One giant faceplant for women-kind.

Ammo Dump rating: 4 out of 10 puddles of slime

I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on WJBC.com. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ALphaEXray.

Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
Rated PG-13
Run time: 116 minutes (1 hours 56 minutes)

 

 

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