I’m making an exception for this movie: I did not go see it in the theater (like everyone else) and I had a strongly negative inclination to see it ever under any circumstances, in part because it seemed to me like an artistic failure turned cynical gambit to manipulate the sort of marginally sane women who feel like an all-female version of a juvenile ’80s SFX comedy somehow represents a blow for justice. And that’s crass even for Hollywood. (Actually, it’s exactly as crass as Hollywood.)
Primarily, however, it seemed unfunny. (In fairness, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see Ghostbusters 3, even if they had brought Harold Ramis back from the dead to write it, because there’s usually something sad about seeing old people try to do the same schtick they did when they were younger. George M. Cohan and George Carlin excepted.)
However, it was The Barbarienne’s birthday, and on her birthday, she calls the shots and when she has power, she prefers to use it for revenge. (Revenge for what is never exactly clear, but it has something to do with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.) And, in this case, the form of the destructor was the 2016 reblaunch (reboot + launch, get it?) of Ghostbusters—the extended cut.
Because a practice today is to take subpar movies that perform poorly at the box office (relative to expectations) and stuff them full of the crap that wasn’t even good enough to make it into the subpar movie to begin with—like an extra half-hour into the Batman vs. Superman fiasco, or the 18 minutes added here.
For what it’s worth the mediocrity of those extra minutes blend seamlessly in with the mediocrity of the rest of the film. At least I can’t tell which ones were added in, given the forgettable mash of stuff-that-happens.
I like the original, though not as much as everyone else. As when I saw Spy (interesting connection), I had the sense watching the original that, even when it made me laugh, it was less something clever and more shock value. Oh, not a lot, unlike the aforementioned Spy, but Murray traded a whole lot on being insufferable in a world full of straight men, and he hadn’t hit peak boredom yet but he wasn’t far off. (He agreed to do the original, I believe, so that he could star in The Razor’s Edge, quite disastrously.)
But even talking about the flaws of the original is better than talking about this film. There is a kind of cultural vandalism going on here, and I honestly don’t quite understand it. I have a hard time believing Paul Feig set out to make a bad movie. Or any of the ladies. I like Wiig and McCarthy. I don’t know Kate McKinnon or Leslie Jones, but I imagine they’re talented. I mean, they’re not awful here. Overly broad (ha!) by contrast to the original, in which everyone played a straight man to Murray.
But completely unmemorable. I mean, I remember the stars were in this. But I can’t remember now which characters they were doing. Like, I think Wiig was doing her more victim-y basket case than twitchy sociopath. The latter might have mapped more closely to Aykroyd’s borderline autistic scientist. Or Ramis’ for that matter. But I can’t remember if McCarthy was doing her sweet flower bit or her vulgar fat-girl schtick. Leslie Jones is a way broader black caricature than Ernie Hudson was in the original. (In fact, in the original Hudson was sort of the audience voice. Somewhat reticent but along for the ride.) I remember someone saying that McKinnon was doing a lesbian thing. I couldn’t tell if that was exactly true or she was just being creepy, as she sort of fills in for both Aykroyd and Ramis.
The Wiig-McKinnon dynamic is the sort of thing that, if you were parodying female versions of films, you would do. They were friends in high school, but not with the cool girls, and…I swear, I can’t remember, but I think their eventual estrangement (which occurs before the film starts) becomes more than just a weepy, emotional plot point. Maybe not. Contrast with the original Ray, Egon and Venkman: The sum total of their history we know of is that they’re scamming a university. And Ray worked in the private sector once. And Venkman is the only real scammer but Ray and Egon need him because he’s as close as they’re going to come to having a “people person” on their team.
Ramis and Aykroyd embodied the nerdy engineer/scientist persona in a way that these women do not. Again, sort of funny, because they’re all capable of it, I think. Wiig easily could (and has, if only in voice form in Despicable Me 2) and I feel like it’s not a huge reach for the others (who may also have done it at some point).
None of it works. It’s fascinating to consider why, because even a bunch of random jokes thrown at the screen (which this very nearly is) would have a better hit rate than this does. I chuckled once. The Barbarienne proclaimed that she liked it, but I only heard her laugh twice, toward the end. (As I’ve commented before, she’s never seen a movie she didn’t love, or at least like very strongly, and I’m going to enjoy that, even when I don’t enjoy whatever it is she’s enjoying.)
But it really comes off like a bunch of girls playing dress up. I mean, it comes off bad. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s not as if Ramis (were he alive), Aykroyd and Murray could’ve come up with a phenom like the original. (They tried, and failed, with Ghostbusters 2, which I liked but which was in no way comparable to the original, culturally.) But it came off worse than it should have.
And I think the feminism angle (while it may have been part of the plan from the get-go) was only worked hard when they realized what a disaster they had on their hands. This is, essentially, exploiting the neuroses of troubled people. Which is sad.