It takes less than 10 minutes in the disappointing new “Ghostbusters” for there to be a joke about some internet buffoon proclaiming that a misogynist term for women ain’t “going to hunt no ghosts.”
Stop for a moment and thoughtfully consider that before seeing the new female reboot of “Ghostbusters.” There was, indeed, a lot of moronic fanboy Internet hoo-ha agreeing with that very sentiment: that it was intrinsically wrong to transform the 1984 box office behemoth into a new one starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.
Which, to anyone with a minimally working brain, is one of stupider notions of the past decade. Any film lover with the creativity that God gave a prune was probably head over heels crazy about the idea of these four deliciously talented comic actresses taking over for Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray.
Add this – it was to be directed by Paul Feig, of “Bridesmaids” fame. Are they kidding? How much of an idiot fanboy moosehead do you have to be not to be a little excited by that prospect?
Which might make the more skeptically minded among us wonder if the whole supposed internet fanboy rebellion were not a very artful publicity plant to get comedy lovers psyched about the film sight unseen. That was especially true when the original’s surviving big shots (Murray and Aykroyd) were revealed to not only have cameos in the new one, but long ago endorsed it to the skies.
Of course they did. These are hugely talented women. Engineering a supposed twerpy misogynist rebellion against them might have been a very clever bit of marketing to promote advance interest – if that’s what happened.
If so, I’d understand because the movie needs it. It’s not very good.
But then neither was the 1984 original. It starred one of the greatest figures in the slob comedy genre just taking hold of American movie megaplexes – Bill Murray of “Saturday Night Live,” “Stripes,” “Caddyshack” and “Meatballs” fame – and put him on camera with colleague Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson. Ramis was a writer and behind-the-scenes comedy fixture whose very prominent presence onscreen was always a kind of wonderful weedhead joke beginning with “Stripes.”
The original was, to many of us, a huge disappointment and we don’t care how many zillions it wound up making. It was loaded with huge, grandiose special effects and remarkably few opportunities for the best members to prove they were as hilarious as they otherwise were.
Think of Murray in his dumb slob trilogy – especially “Stripes” and “Meatballs,” with its immortal speech about Americans being the mutts of Western Civilization – and you’ll understand how much Ivan Reitman’s original money machine neglected everything that could have made the original actually funny and not just a box office monster.
I blame Aykroyd, a very talented man in the right collaborative circumstances but one with a mega-dweep streak a mile wide that always came out at the wrong time in the wrong way and confirmed how dependent he could be on being half of a partnership with Murray or Jane Curtin or John Belushi. To get a feel just how minimally watchable Aykroyd could be on his own, just try watching “Doctor Detroit.”
“Ghostbusters,” from Day One, had Ayrkoyd written all over it. The script was attributed to him and Ramis but all that lore about paranormal hooey had the feel of Ayrkoyd nerdliness at its uncut worst.
The movie made a box office of multiple millions, largely courtesy of special effects and Ray Parker Jr.’s ridiculously infectious theme song. In other words, a huge amount of money was spent making much, much more money and to heck with the abundant comic talents of the principal actors.
That is exactly what happens to the principals this time. They’re wasted in almost the exact same way.
Melissa McCarthy has the oppressive role this time – way too much crummy Aykroydish dialogue, almost none of it funny. Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon are the ones who should have written a lot of this script and, as well, should have been given a lot of closeups to decorate with juicy comic shtick. (McKinnon comes closest in the cast to being independently, joyously, anarchically, funny.)
Leslie Jones is a female comic force to be reckoned with. She never gets too far away from cliche. And those cliches are uncomfortably close to Mantan Morland and Willie Best in frightened comedy roles in the 1930s and ‘40s. They should have used all mouthy six feet of Jones to take over and supply some major league comic brawn here. But no, that might have been creative.
Which “Ghostbusters” never is until the final CGI extravaganza in the last 20 minutes of the movie. When comic CGI actually saves a movie, you know you’re talking about a movie that was in a lot of trouble.
Let us, then, rejoice that this new quartet of “Ghostbusters” from “SNL” and elsewhere is getting the same chance to clean up financially as the original guys did.
The original was a comic disappointment, the sequel was close to a catastrophe and now we’ve get a handy way to launch some worthy female comic talents (and confirm some others) in the big, big, big time.
Maybe if the deserving women make enough money, they’ll leave “Ghostbusters” alone for another 32 years, during which memories of Aykroyd’s mega-dweebiness can be left to sleep unmolested.
And the real, smart, movie-steeped audience can get back to having real fun with classic ghost comedies like Abbott and Costello’s “Hold That Ghost” and, yes, Bob Hope’s 1940 “Ghostbreakers.”
Ancient stuff? You bet.
But also funny and all because of the people involved.
This one? Not so much.
2.5 (Out of four stars)
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth in female reboot of box office-smashing fantasy comedy from 1984. 136 minutes. Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor.