This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I chose the “Ghostbusters” reboot.
WARNING THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
The Movie: “Ghostbusters” (2016)
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
Director: Paul Feig
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat..
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73 percent
Froemming: OK, for this week’s JOE-DOWN, I picked a movie that I have been writing about for more than a year now on this blog. Yup, I picked the new “Ghostbusters” reboot. A movie I was told was going to ruin my childhood, because Ghostbusters now have lady parts and what-not (I never got this line of logic). Well, I can honestly say after watching this new film that my childhood certainly wasn’t ruined. In fact, despite my strong dislike of director Paul Feig and this film’s dumpster fire of a soundtrack, I actually enjoyed this movie. Quite a bit.
This is not the first time the JOE-DOWN has ventured into the pinkish, slimy waters of the “Ghostbusters” franchise, because we did review “Ghostbusters 2” a while back.
But before we get to this review — and probably endure an onslaught of angry emails from kooky Men’s Rights Activists after this is posted — Brown, did this movie travel back in time and crush all your fond childhood memories of Class 5 Full-Roaming Vapors with a cruel, heartless fist?
Brown: No, it did not. In fact, I’ll go on a bit of a rant to the folks who are upset about this iteration of “Ghostbusters:” Four women being ghostbusters did NOT ruin your childhood or kill the franchise. Cynicism ruined your childhood. I listened to a podcast that comedian Paul Scheer did with pro wrestler Chris Jericho and this “Ghostbusters” was brought up and they made a brilliant point: The only thing this movie has in common with the Aykroyd-Murray-Ramis-Hudson movies is the title and the logo. That’s it. They created their own story instead of mooching off the 80s films.
And to really prove that point to myself, when I saw this movie last weekend, I brought my 12-year-old niece Molly, who wasn’t saddled with sequel baggage. And she loved it, because she’s not a cynic who bashed this movie because it happened to share a name as a classic 80s comedy.
Whether you like this movie or not is another issue entirely, but no one needs to crush this movie for the sake of nostalgia.
As I step off my soap box, I’ll let you take the lead, Froemming.
Froemming: Yeah, one of the things I really enjoyed was that these characters were not simply “female-Venkman, female-Spengler, etc.” These were new characters, with a new story.
So let’s start this off. We are first introduced to Erin Gilbert (Wiig), a professor at Columbia University who is trying to attain that magical sweet spot of the teaching profession: Tenure. Unfortunately, she hits a bump on that path when it is discovered she wrote a book on the paranormal with her old friend Abby Yates (McCarthy). The reason this pops up: The first scene of this movie (like the other two “Ghostbusters” films) features a haunting of some sort. This one, though, with a haunted mansion and Gabe Lewis from “The Office.”
Brown: The book thing felt a little shoehorned to me to try and get the ghosts part of the plot set in motion. But, I did chuckle whenever we’d see the book because the photo of the two authors sitting next to each other with black turtlenecks looked like a bad 80s new-wave album cover.
With her tenure in flux if anyone sees her book about the paranormal, Gilbert goes to meet Yates at the tech college she works at, and Yates is still dabbling in their ghost theories. But now, with a new assistant, and the best character of the movie in my opinion, Jillian Holtzmann.
I’m sure we’ll touch on this a few times, but Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of Holtzmann steals most of the scenes she’s in. She does the Harold Ramis-like quirkiness so well compared to the straight-man performance of Wiig and the loud screaming performance of McCarthy that would have fit in perfectly at the Republican National Convention.
Froemming: McKinnon was hands down the best part of the film for me. Just so weird, yet likable. Especially when she confuses DeBarge with Devo. As a longtime music snob, that made me chuckle.
Now, the three of them team up (after a somewhat disastrous encounter with the guy delivering Chinese food to Yates) because Ed Begley Jr., who runs the mansion now being haunted by a special effect that was wildly popular in the mid-1990s at Disney World’s “Haunted Mansion” ride (I was not impressed with the visuals of this movie, they really were my only big complaint) needs their assistance. He found them through the mystical powers of a Google search, which really puts a hamper on Erin’s wanting Yates to pull the book. To paraphrase the show “Newsradio,” once something is on the internet, it is like pee in a pool, it is not going away.
Brown: To my point about this being its own movie compared to the old ones, I liked that they incorporated the real world and the power of the internet in this film. You see them post Youtube clips where anonymous jackasses criticize and insult them. They show the book being sold on Amazon. It didn’t insult my intelligence and I appreciated that.
And now that they have seen a true-to-life ghost, there’s only one thing to do: Profit from it! So, they go about trying to find a new place to start their business, going so far as visiting the fire house from the originals (this is a Ghostbusters movie, after all). I groaned a little bit when they went to the fire house, but I was relieved to see they couldn’t afford it and end up above a Chinese restaurant instead. And there, we meet the group’s receptionist…
Froemming: Oh my god, Kevin! Chris Hemsworth is the other MVP of this movie after McKinnon. I had no idea he could do comedy, but man, he is funny. I just about lost it when he asks the Ghostbusters what picture makes him look like a doctor, and he holds up two pictures of himself with no shirt playing saxophone. I love out-of-left-field comedy like that.
Brown: It took me a little bit of time to warm up to Kevin because I thought the movie was trying to resort to using a dope to get cheap laughs. But you can tell that Hemsworth is going all-in with this character and he did win me over. The saxophone picture is where I bought in. And now, all I can think of is Kevin going to malls playing “Careless Whisper” like the Sexy Sax Man.
Shortly after this, we also get to meet our villain (or as we come to find out later) in Rowan North, who appears to be a crazy person in the subway talking to Patty, the subway attendant.
Froemming: Rowan is the avatar of every nutjob/angry basement nerd who hated this movie from day one. You know, pasty, unhinged, talks to himself a lot and creeps everyone out. But we see that he is summoning the ghosts with some sort of doo-dad that he invented. Patty calls upon the Ghostbusters after she sees the ghost of a prisoner who died on the electric chair (a nice nod to “Ghostbusters 2”). Also, Patty is a history buff and knows a lot about the history of New York City, which I found odd because New Yorkers, if I am to believe TV and film, usually only know about themselves because they are narcissistic people who yell at one another.
Brown: They don’t catch our criminal ghost, but they do find that Holtzmann’s proton pack can work with a little tinkering. But again, their video of said event is dismissed by one of the biggest voices in the debunking community in Martin Heiss. Played by Bill (REDACTED) Murray.
I’ll break the seal on this for a discussion: What were your thoughts on the cameos and callbacks of this movie. Because at one point or another, most of the original “Ghostbusters” cast show up. Murray as a debunker, Dan Aykroyd as a cabbie, Ernie Hudson as Patty’s uncle and even a bust of Harold Ramis (who is no longer with us) is at Columbia.
Froemming: Honestly, I found them a little distracting. I know why they did it (because of the fierce backlash this film got before anything was even filmed), but I was still distracted. Look people-who-are-angry-at-this-movie, the reason you never got a “Ghostbusters 3” was Bill Murray. He never wanted to do it, and it never happened. The closest was the 2009 video game (I’m still on the hotel level, Brown, someday I will beat it and you can have it back). This movie did happen, we have more “Ghostbusters” and Bill Murray has the biggest cameo of the rest of the old cast, despite the fact he looked bored being in this movie.
Brown: The cameos of the old cast really didn’t bother me. A couple cameos did (namely Ozzy Osbourne. Really?). But Murray-Aykroyd-Hudson, even Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts were fine for one key reason: They weren’t rehashing their old roles. It could have been very easy for them to have Bill Murray walk in as Peter Venkman and be like “Oh, this is how you should bust ghosts.” But, they didn’t. They were different individuals characters that didn’t have much impact at all on the plot and that was great because again, this was its own thing. Seeing Bill Murray’s character on screen didn’t make me think “Man, I wish I was watching the original.” That’s how a cameo should work. It’s a small nod to old fans, and then you go back to the world you’re watching instead of wishing you were in the old familiar place.
Froemming: Exactly. This movie keeps a lot of the beats of the original (haunting at the start, getting the business up, giant monsters at the end, etc.) but at no point was I wanting to just watch the other films, because it is a new story, new characters and I enjoyed the chemistry of these four women. It is what we have wanted for decades: More “Ghostbusters.”
I am still convinced Annie Potts’ Janine from the first two films also exists in this one as the hotel clerk. She was the only cameo I thought, “Yup, that’s a character from the first ‘Ghostbusters.’” I kind of liked that — her snark was too powerful to be retconned by a reboot.
Brown: Getting things back to the plot, Patty joins the group after their subway tunnel experience and this is where the movie picks up for me. Patty actually feels like a part of the group and offers some high energy that goes along great with Holtzmann. Between Holtzmann’s quirkiness and Patty’s enthusiasm, it really had me reinvested compared to Gilbert and Yates, whom I found to be the most boring part of the film (I will admit, I don’t watch many McCarthy movies/shows and the appeal for Wiig isn’t there for me). Yes, Gilbert and Yates have the emotional attachment with their past, but we’re seeing Holtzmann’s and Patty’s story play out in front of us and it’s just a lot more fun.
Froemming: I wasn’t really invested in Gilbert and Yates’ relationship, either. I was actually more invested in Yates and the Chinese food delivery guy’s relationship (come on man, you know one wonton is not acceptable). McCarthy and McKinnon probably got the biggest laugh from me when they are testing out the proton pack, and Yates just flies up into the air and is being whipped around. Holtzmann watches and says, deadpan “she’s doing a fantastic impression of a plastic bag in the wind” or something like that. It was good.
Now, here is when my nerdiness comes in: The proton packs are suppose to lasso the ghosts so it can be sucked in by the trap. In this film, they are also used as weapons and they CROSS THE STREAMS pretty willy-nilly if you ask me. Egon warned about that, and I know these are different films, but the science should at least be the same, right?
Brown: This movie isn’t trying to be in the same universe, so I’ll let that point about crossing the streams slide.
Like you said, this movie follows the beats of the original, so now it’s time to catch a ghost.
During a heavy metal show, the group finds a device that summons ghosts. We’ve seen this device in the haunted mansion and the subway tunnel. And finally, we get some ghost busting as the foursome fight through the concert crowd to corral the dragon ghost (lame ghost, I’ll admit) and gain the favor of the public.
And like the original, the mayor’s office isn’t quite as enthused with the Ghostbusters. And I just realized something: This movie follows the playbook of the new “Star Wars” movie. Stay with the original’s playbook, but the players and places you bring into it makes it a unique experience.
Froemming: Yup, even down to the mocking of a fumbling bureaucratic government body. The original poked fun at the EPA, this film it is Homeland Security. But this time, the government knows about the ghosts, they just won’t publicly admit it (as to why they involved the mayor, I have no idea). But the person who is the Walter Peck of this film is, ironically, Bill Murray’s character. Martin Heiss goes on TV early on to dismiss the Ghostbusters, but once they have caught the dragon ghost, he shows up and demands to see it. And much like when Peck demands to have the containment unit shut down, opening the trap for Martin proves to be a pretty terrible decision.
Brown: Martin is Chubbs Peterson and the dragon ghost is the alligator head from “Happy Gilmore.” Martin flies out of a window and all we need is Lee Trevino below holding out his hands and shaking his head.
After the mayor tells the Ghostbusters to knock it off, they discover Rowan’s plan: He is planting his devices along a ley line that intersects at the Mercado Hotel, where he is the janitor. He’s a salty outcast who hates
women in positions of power in a major motion picture the world and wants New York City to be destroyed. I imagined he also hated “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the manliest movie ever, because Charlize Theron is a bigger hero than Tom Hardy. That’s the kind of bad guy we’re dealing with here, folks.
Froemming: And he has this giant room, which appears to be the boiler room at the hotel he works at, where he has summoned spirits and ghosts and trapped them into HDTVs. He figured out how to do this — wait for it — through Gilbert and Yates’ book. Yeah, I’d prefer he was just some weird mad scientist because just reading their book probably wouldn’t have given him the knowledge to build such a contraption.
Having just murdered Bill Murray and crashed a heavy metal show, they realize they should probably go to the Mercado and find Rowan before he blows the city up with spirits of the otherworld.
Brown: Well, we see Rowan kill himself via electrocution, which was weird at first. Holtzmann shuts off his machine and it seems all as well. But, we find out Rowan’s plan was to become the leader of the ghosts. He starts by possessing Yates, complete with a fight with Holtzmann and Patty. Then, he inhabits our beefcake-without-a-brain, Kevin. And now, Kevin becomes like Thor and works his way back to the hotel where he can restart Rowan’s machine and release armageddon upon New York.
Cue our heroes, who now go from nerdy businesswomen dealing with hauntings to action stars. I personally found that a little off-putting because their personalities never came through that way. It’s a sudden jump to go from Indiana Jones to John Rambo.
Froemming: I was OK with that, we did see them practice with Holtzmann’s new weapons, which I thought were pretty awesome. Not only do they bust ghosts, they kick the asses of ghosts.
Brown: And the ultimate callback from my childhood: After he is removed from Kevin, Rowan pretty much transforms into the Ghostbusters’ logo, just like the intro to “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon. Well, a combination of that and Oogie from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Froemming: He was also reminiscent of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, who has a cameo in this as well as a haunted parade float that crushes the Ghostbusters for a while. Rowan in ghost form was pretty entertaining. He was less grating at that point than when he was the living embodiment of an internet troll earlier in the film.
But with Rowan clobbering through Manhattan like so many King Kongs before him, the Ghostbusters need to figure out how to stop him. Well, it is a good thing these pseudo-scientists were driving around the Big Apple with a nuclear reactor on top of their vehicle (where was Homeland Security on that?), because that is just what they need to create a vortex of some sort to start sucking the phantoms and Rowan back into the ghost world.
Brown: And who’s driving ECTO-1 at the climax? Slimer! Because callbacks! The plan goes off, but not before Ghostbusters logo Rowan grabs Yates into their total protonic reversal vortex. Gilbert ties herself to a winch and goes after Yates in a scene I swear I’ve seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “This Is The End,” and other numerous movies/shows/video games in the past few years. The climax didn’t do much for me. But, everyone’s safe.
Froemming: Well, Kevin did go and grab a sub sandwich while all this was going down (after his fall and being knocked out), and that little quirk made it a little better for me. But, after the dance party credits scene, where we meet Holtzmann’s mentor, Rebecca Gorin (Sigourney Weaver), we do get an end credits scene. The gang, who can now afford the fire station, are working on various things. Patty is listening to tapes of paranormal whatchamahoozy, hears something and asks if anyone has ever heard of Zuul. It sets up nicely for a sequel, but I hope they don’t go to the Zuul angle and do another original story.
Brown: Yeah, this movie caught enough flack because it wasn’t the original. Imagine the (REDACTED) they’d get if they tried retelling the original story… the internet is unbearable enough already.
Well, we got this review in our photon streams. I think it’s time we trap it.
Would You Recommend?
Froemming: I would. I was originally worried this film would be horrible, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Sure, it lags here and there and there are some unneeded winks and nods to the first two films, but I think they did a good job revitalizing the franchise with new characters and a new story. It didn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but I had a good time watching it and am interested in what the future holds with this.
Brown: I will recommend it for this reason alone: The smile I saw on my niece’s face said more than this review really can. Yes, it’s not the Ghostbusters that Froemming and I grew up on, but it’s a new Ghostbusters for a different generation. It can be (and is, for the most part) its own thing, and it stands on its own merit. Is it better than the original? I’d say no. But I’d say it’s better than “Ghostbusters 2.” On its own, this is an enjoyable movie.