Total Protonic Reversal
Never Read the Comments
a kindly review of Ghostbusters (2016)
by David Clemmer
Introductory paragraph! Acknowledgement of the intense negative backlash! Mention of the source material! Years! Directors! Writers! Stars, former and current!
Look, you know all this. You know that some of the world’s biggest assholes have been stretching open their existential orifices and pouring their existential waste all over this movie. I don’t need to go into it. Either you’re reading this and you are a decent human and are like, ‘Just talk about the movie’s merits and pitfalls; fuck,’ or you’re an idiot trash person and are like, ‘Brog! Ooga! Ook! Movie bad! [experimental raspberry] [suddenly fascinated raspberry] [giggle while touching own tongue] [more experimental raspberries] [angry, functional masturbation] It trilby! Not fedora! Ug! Og!’
[As if an echo from the past…] ‘Just talk about the movie’s merits and pitfalls; fuck.’
Sorry. Let’s talk about this legitimately funny but forgettable, functionally hampered movie, and make reasonable comparisons and stuff.
Let’s kick this off with comparisons. There are going to be comparisons, yes. You’ve already made them, in your head. It’s impossible to view this movie as its own thing because, as a remake, it’s not its own thing. Here we go.
Remakes and reboots (soft and hard) have been a thing for the majority of cinema’s history. 1960 saw a western remake of a Japanese samurai movie, 1982 saw a terrifying body-horror remake of a highly-evolved-plant-alien 1951 monster flick. Those two examples are a little unfair when talking about the new Ghostbusters; the Seven-based remake hopped genres, time periods, and locations, and the Thing-based remake took the base-level horror and amped the gain to eleven-thousand. With Ghostbusters, the new territory is not so jarring. Three scientists and a more down-to-earth fourth member form a band of blue-collar spectral exterminators based in New York City. But it’s not just the genders of the main characters that’s new about this: it’s the style of humor.
1984’s Ghostbusters, hereafter referred to as GB84, was in line with the era’s focus on deadpan humor. Even slapstick, absurdist comedy had a deadpan bent to it. Airplane!, case in point. 2016’s Ghostbusters, hereafter referred to as what you would expect, is in line with a more histrionic kind of humor. Take anything with Seth Rogen and/or Jonah Hill in it. Even The Hangover, which had one of the best deadpan comedians of the modern age in its principal cast, focused more on people freaking out at shit. Fuck, even Judd Apatow movies feature a comedic centerpiece of someone screaming because of something.
Neither of these two styles is better than the other, so that’s not where contrast is. You can’t say that Airplane! is funnier than Annie Hall, or vice versa. So where’s the contrast? Unfortunately for GB16, the contrast is in the overall quality of the movie. The direction, the script, the editing, and, in smaller parts, the music and special effects.
Latter complaint first: special effects. Even modern ghost movies that try to be scary have gone for the tendrily, glowy, special effecty look. So when you put it into an uproarious comedy, of course you get weird, cartoony, dazzly ghost shit. This is a complaint from Grandpa Crustheart over here, but I want charm, damn it. Don’t even think about GB84; think about other things from the bygone era that terrified you. 7-year-old David Clemmer was terrified of the troll from fucking Ernest Scared Stupid. That thing was more believable than this. Warwick Davis in Leprechaun: In the Hood had more synthesis than the ghosts in GB16.
Now, the rest of the movie. I want to straighten this out: it’s not horrendous. It’s moderately functional. Like one of your first cars. Sometimes you have to pull over and let the radiator cool off, throw some water in there. Gas mileage isn’t good. Small oil leak. Air conditioner works only on the solstice. But it’ll get you to work and back every day.
Which is to say that it’s nothing special. Assembly-line, you might say. Scenes occur, some of them longer than they should, others not long enough, and you find yourself seeing more scenes. Sometimes you wonder how you got here from the previous scene, but Leslie Jones is being funny, so you stop caring. Maybe you never cared. Maybe life is a series of scenes that make less and less sense as a comprehensive narrative as you go on, losing motivation, forcing yourself to get to the end because it’s what adults do. Maybe we are spinning through the blackness, cold and alone.
The thing that made GB84 so enjoyable was how so damn efficient it was. Bam, establish ghosts are real; bam, establish Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler in such a way that you know their demeanor, goals, and station in life; bam, the catalyst that sends them on their adventure; bam; bam; bam.
GB16 is simply not efficient. The first act is about six hours long, the existence of the second act has not yet been confirmed, and the third act is like the bookish nerd trope rushing to class because they were knocked down by jocks, and all their papers are disheveled in their arms. And they’re wheezing.
The film is also top-heavy in the setup department, with little, if any, payoff. The only thing that really had any setup and payoff was the somewhat thorny history between Wiig and McCarthy, but the pacing on that was poorly executed. It went from being the main source of tension, to being virtually nonexistent, to having a faint glimmer, back to nonexistent, and then it was very suddenly injected into the film’s climax like, Oh, right. I guess these characters had a subplot. And here it is. Sliming me in the face and body.
You don’t really know who these characters are. You don’t really know what they want. The decision to become ghostbusters after getting fired, etc., is completely glanced over.
There’s a problem with that. Not just on a remake/sequel/whatever level. There would be a problem with that if this were a brand new franchise. Again, on the film level, this isn’t the worst thing ever. It’s like a solid C; 75%. You can do better. It’s not, like, Scary Movie 4 or whatever. But there are some real problems with it that keep it from reaching the same shelf as the other comedies of its ilk from the past five years.
But it is funny. I laughed. Throughout, I’ll say. It’s not my preferred brand of comedy, where the jokes are a means of telling a story, but there’s a place for surface-level funny. There aren’t really any jokes in this movie. Mainly it’s just some skilled improvisers churning out the funny, launching gloppy bucketload after gloppy bucketload of viscous raw humor at the wall to see what sticks. Since they’re talented at being funny, they succeed at being funny. Jones and McKinnon are the biggest proponents of this. Hemsworth too, unrealistically dumb though he character may be.
In a world where we aren’t lucky enough to have a blue-collar spectral exterminator movie that happens to also be a great film, this is the movie I would expect a blue-collar spectral exterminator movie to be. Funny things happening for reasons.
Not to mention I’m formulating a fan theory about this movie that I think you—
Bye! Come back soon!
39/53 Kate McKinnon crazy-faces
10/14 Papa Johns and Pringles product placements
1/1 Bill Murray not giving a single shit