As a self-admitted passive aggressive geek who prefers to avoid conflict like dental appointments, I dreaded the thought of writing a review about the recent Ghostbusters reboot, let alone watching it. That may explain why it took me the better part of two months to finally share my thoughts on the hotly debated remake, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. Nevertheless, I figured with the remake’s release on Blu-Ray taking place today, it was now or never if I wanted to post a somewhat timely review of the flick. Sadly, the more I think about it, the more I should have gone with the ‘never’ option.
Based on the current entertainment news cycle, 12 weeks might seem like an Asgardian eternity for a film review. On that same token however, seeing a supposed summer blockbuster go from red carpet to the blue carpet of the Walmart home video sales aisle in a little over 80 days should tell you all you need to know about the film without even reading the rest of this post. Even with the swift timeline of theater to home video transition these days, the above feat is impressively shocking, especially considering the Ghostbusters logo is one of the most recognized brands in the world.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the film itself, it’s important to point out I didn’t go into this film with an ‘open mind’. That confession has everything to do with the original Ghostbusters being my favorite widely released theatrical film of all time; which is not new news if you’ve followed the Geek Outlaw blog for more than 15 minutes. Therefore, the moment I heard Sony Pictures was rebooting the revered classic in 2014, I was immediately beside myself with intense (albeit inconsequential) anger. I’m not going to go into a diatribe of the details for this outrage seeing as I’ve already marked that task off my to-do list on this very blog here and here. For those just joining however, the CliffsNotes version sums up the fact I felt an iconic film like Ghostbusters should have never been rebooted regardless of the genital makeup and equipment of the main protagonists. (At least not during the lifetimes of those who grew up with the popular flick.)
Therefore, when I took in a free viewing of the film from the comfort of my own home (during the second weekend of its theater run), I did so with the self-proclaimed bias of feeling this reboot should never have been formed within the annals of human existence. A little harsh? Probably, but it’s only fair to warn the Outlaw reader who is already a glutton for punishment in choosing to read this blog in the first place.
With that massive warning out of the way, slap on your 1984 tinted glasses and prepare to see Ghostbusters: Answer the Call get called out for the abomination it is, in a way almost no paid reviewer or social justice warrior had the cashews to do from the get go. Those with an aversion to critical feedback of something that actually deserves it, the exit is located at the little “x” button in the upper right corner of the screen. Since I genuinely have nothing positive to say about the film in general, I will break down where this reboot falls flat on its face (spoiler alert: everywhere), via categories by which most entertainment media is rated. With that positive introduction, let the mass hysteria ensue…
Considered by many (present company included) to be the most significant ingredient of any story, be it visually or in text, having likeable protagonists can often lift an average piece of entertainment to greatness. So don’t be surprised if I type a few more words on this subject. As for the actors themselves are concerned, going into this reboot I was only familiar with some of Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig’s work. As popular as Bridesmaids seems to be with a majority of the population, I’m one of the few in the minority who feels it was just ok. It contained a couple hearty laughs here and there, but the gross-out potty-mouth style of humor has not been as appealing to me in my later years as it used to be. Outside of that, I’ve found McCarthy to be nothing but annoying in the handful of other films I’ve seen her in and still fail to see the appeal of Mike & Molly. Wiig on the other hand, while not irritating, usually tends to have a more deadpan sense of humor. Her dry sarcasm, especially in Bridesmaids, is the yin to McCarthy’s physical comedy yang. Paul Feig goes this route again with the two actors for Ghostbusters, and not surprisingly it results in a “been there, done that” feeling.
Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are two actresses I’d never even heard of before the film was released, so my expectations were nil on those two fronts. Regardless, the first word that comes to mind with any of their performances is “caricature”. McCarthy plays the obnoxious leader, Wiig is the timid tag-along, McKinnon is the eccentric Egon like brainiac, and Jones just yells and complains as if it were more of a biological function than breathing. It’s as if there are four distinctly intolerable personalities who would never interact with each other in real life unless they were forced to by the government. It makes for a woeful lack of chemistry between all involved. Sadly, I’ve seen more chemistry in an infomercial about denture cream.
Besides the four actresses interacting with each other as well as a vat of oil and water, my biggest complaint with their performances is that no one comes across as a real human being, but rather some sort of eccentric cartoon character. Even taking into consideration their minor quirks, the original Ghostbusters cast acted how normal people might respond to inexplicable paranormal events taking place around them. Peter, Ray, Egon and Winston all seemed like individuals one might actually bump into at random or converse with on the streets of New York. Egon (played to perfection by the late Harold Ramis) may be the oddest of the bunch, but at least the players in his world react to the peculiar scientist’s odd personality accordingly.
With the exception of McKinnon, it also looks like everyone is just phoning it in on camera. Sadly, even her goofball antics wear thin all but 30 seconds after they begin. Furthermore, thanks to McKinnon pressing on the goofball petal for what feels like the entire film, her antics make her character bothersome to the point of plugging one’s ears with sharp projectiles. People can drone on forever about the supposed credentials of the four actresses and director all they want, but this film is an epic fail in the character department. Don’t even get me started on side players such as their secretary, the villain, the mayor, and his asinine assistant. If there was anyone on screen that came across likeable, I didn’t find one. Even the original Ghostbusters actors – whom had small cameos sprinkled throughout – were given random roles as people who were either idiots or downright mean. Disgraceful as a descriptor would be giving the remake way too much credit.
The Humor & Dialogue:
Ask anyone who’s ever seen the original Ghostbusters what genre of film it falls under, and dollars to donuts they will ask you what genre means. Seriously though, 99.9% of those familiar with the classic would label it a comedy or some form thereof. It would make sense than, that before sinking money into expensive CGI effects, fancy new weapons, and big set pieces; a Ghostbusters film needed to be funny first. It wasn’t. I’m sorry, but if people think lines like “Put the boo in booya” or “the power of Patty compels you” are humorous, than there is no reason to worry about a hypothetical zombie apocalypse because the human race can be declared brain dead as is. The writing is so bad in fact, I remember at least two separate scenes where the ladies are exiting their headquarters in the Ecto-1, and in both cases McCarthy’s character yells “Let’s go.” Yeah…
If you had to describe the quality of humor between the two flicks, you could say the 1984 version was written by Shakespeare while the new film was written by Dr. Seuss. Sadly, that’s even an insult to the great doctor, as at least his stories are entertaining and they rhyme. In fact, as a fun little test, try listening to each film (or parts of each film) with absolutely no visuals, and you tell me which one sounds funnier. That is, try to listen to as much of the reboot as possible before your ears begin to bleed profusely. Where as almost every line from the original has provided unforgettable quotes to the pop culture lexicon, the new film’s dialogue is nothing but forgettable. Subtlety and subtext have been replaced by forced and in-your-face.
Sadly, the biggest loser of the second grade level writing seemed to be legendary funnyman Bill Murray. With somewhat baited anticipation, I waited at the edge of my couch recliner seat for him to spurt out something funny, something I could crack a smile at. Regrettably, Feig and company turned him into a giant imbecile, and a nasty one at that. As if it wasn’t bad enough he wasn’t portraying Peter Venkman, they turned Mr. Murray into an extremely unfunny old curmudgeon. Oh Bill, if you only would have backed the sequel premise.
The only smile I cracked during the entire remake transpired during one of the scenes with Chris Hemsworth’s over-the-top, flat out dumb secretary character. I’d tell you the exact quote, but I can’t even remember it, nor would it be worth the time and space to type it out of I did. Another hint at the humor – or complete lack thereof – within the film. But hey, if watching and listening to Melissa McCarthy complain about won-tons for the over two hours is your idea of funny, then by all means, you ‘might’ enjoy the Ghostbusters remake. The original I waited, and I waited, and I waited for something funny to laugh at in the reboot when I viewed it over two months ago. I’m still waiting!
I’ve yet to really touch on this topic in a movie review before; however, I feel it’s become an important variable when dealing with reboots, remakes and sequels. The reason for even attempting any of the above listed film types is to tap into a sense of nostalgia that, first and foremost, will bring fans of the original back to the seats. From start to finish, the Ghostbusters: Answer the Call captures absolutely zero of the tone of the original. Whereas the 1984 version immerses the viewer in a real world setting with normal everyday inhabitants, the entire reboot feels more like an insufferable parody of the classic. Part of what made the first Ghostbusters so successful, was how director Ivan Reitman dropped a supernatural phenomenon onto a group of normal everyday people without making it seem completely outlandish. The reboot on the other hand treats the world as some sort of farce where everyone has an exaggerated personality and the events are stuff one might catch on the SyFy channel at midnight. As an example, towards the beginning of the 2016 remake, a hotel manager and his tour guide employee are bantering back and forth about how a ghost made the tour guide soil his pants. I’ve seen preschoolers on a sugar high have a more mature conversation than what transpires on screen, let alone between two supposedly grown men. The whole thing is a mockery I would’ve preferred to seen get taken over by the uninspiring villain whose name I already forgot and don’t plan on wasting any further time looking up. Overall, the remake comes closer to a very long drawn out episode of The Real Ghostbusters animated series, minus the laughs, charm, original characters and connection to the 1984 universe.
Oh, and SPOILER ALERT: The villain ultimately is defeated by *GASP* getting shot in the groin? Really? When did this type of cliche 10-year old level of problem-solving ever occur in a Ghostbusters movie. Not to kick a dead animated series, but The Real Ghostbusters Saturday morning cartoon never even went there as almost every episode required the team to overcome the ghostly villain in a way that required an iota of creative thinking. When a live-action film reboot makes the original cartoon adaption look like MacGyver (I’m referring to the original there too), then it there’s a high rate of probability you’ve jumped the shark about what makes Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters.
Not only does Feig miss the mark tonally, he doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the original’s successful underlying pedigree. The 1984 blockbuster, nor it’s sequel, were action adventure flicks. Yet, Feig infused the finale with more superhero grade acts of athleticism than a Marvel Studios film. As my mind stared in bewilderment at the comic-book like antics unfolding on the screen, the one thing that became clear to me was this man never saw the original film. I’m fairly certain had Sony not given him the correct spelling of the film’s title, he would have screwed that up as well.
Apparently, the reboot’s budget went dry well before it made it to the editing room. That explains why it plays as though it was first dropped into a meat grinder, only to be reformed via the intense labor of picking scenes out of a hat and pasting them back together at random. If you told me someone edited this film on their smartphone, I wouldn’t believe you as I’ve seen higher quality home videos uploaded to YouTube which were edited by five-year-olds using first generation iPhones. Granted, although the original Ghostbusters moved along at a quick clip, the events still seemed to flow and transition naturally to represent a lengthy period of time over the course of an even shorter run-time.
The way in which the scenes were spliced together for the reboot gave me this odd sense everything was happening within the course of 2 hours. Maybe it was just me (and it might have been because I wanted this film to be over faster than a prostate exam), nevertheless I couldn’t shake the feeling there was zero sense of lapsed time. (And get this, the remake is actually 11 minutes longer!) Supposedly, the extended cut released on Blu-Ray and streaming video smooths things out in this department. It’s with a relieved heart, I can’t comment on how all the extra footage effected the flow because I couldn’t stomach the first 10 minutes of the movie for a second time in my attempt to see how the additional scenes integrated into the main feature. For the sake of my own mental health, I was initially going to forgo the deleted scenes assuming they’d be just as unwatchable as the rest of the movie. A fellow Outlaw happened to share a few of those scenes with me and let’s just say I’m still deciding to sue him for mental anguish.
WARNING: I’ve pasted a few of the links below, but once you click play, I’m not liable for any loss of intellectual capacity or seizures you may experience from the footage.
$100 bill if you can convince me how this scene fits the tone of any Ghostbusters movie.
If you can survive 14 seconds of this clip, let alone all 14 minutes, you’re a stronger person than I.
Regardless of whether or not it was going to be a remake or sequel, it’s a safe bet almost everyone and their mom’s hairdresser knew that a new Ghostbusters film in 2016 would make use of the latest and greatest in special effects. Many of the same people – several of whom I also spoke to – expressed worry that there would be an overabundance, and in turn and over-reliance of effects, specifically in regards to the use of computer generated CGI visuals. If only I would have played the odds in Vegas! I would have won double my life savings ($20.00), on both assertions. Not like I need to remind any of you reading this – but I will anyway – what ultimately made Ghostbusters a monster hit wasn’t it’s over indulgence in fancy effects or amazing set pieces. It was the overall concept and humor (see above) of the film which made it such a memorable piece of movie history. The effects were only supplement to the total package, and were not relied upon as a crutch to prop up the other elements of the film. And get this, thanks to the fact modern computer graphics were not available in 1984, all of the ghosts, ghouls, explosions and marshmallow men were practical effects (aka real tangible props.)
As for the remake, not only did Feig and Sony drown the audience in a cesspool of computer generated visuals, the ones they delivered were so abhorrently bad, I concluded they didn’t just run out of money in editing, they ran out of money in post-production all-together. If it was done by choice, I’d love to learn who gave the green light to any of the neon-lit debris that flew across the screen, particularly during the entire back nine of the film. Not to continue making comparisons (however I will since Feig forced the issue by going the reboot route in the first place), but the effects of the original actually blow away the remakes neon rainbow of goo. (Assuming one is attempting for any sense of realism or scares.)
In large part, the reason for this unusual discrepancy lies in the fact CGI effects are more easily discerned by the human eye as being fake, or not belonging in a scene when compared to real palpable objects. How this works on a biological level is outside my pay grade, but here’s an interesting article that explains in further detail. As for the crude CGI effects on display in the remake, many comparisons have been made to the Scooby Doo and Haunted Mansion movies, and for good reason. The good reason being the cartoonish designs and super-saturated neon color palettes are on par with both of those low budget films… released 13 years ago! When the effects of a film 32 years it’s elder are far superior to a film in an era where cars can drive by themselves, then someone – or studio – dropped the ball big time.
Of all my critiques, my opinions on the music within the latest Ghostbusters installment may be the most subjective of them all, at least with regards to the original score. Much like several other film scores produced in the 80’s, composer Elmer Bernstein’s tracks fit the film like a well-tailored suit, and thus acted as a character throughout the movie without distracting from it. The best thing I could say about the reboot’s score is that I don’t remember it (much like most of the dialogue thankfully). To be fair, Ghostbusters does not sit on this perch alone when it comes to big tent pole blockbusters. It pains me to say the audio component of movies these days have become merely an afterthought to the visual side of the equation. (Marvel, I’m pointing my ears directly at you.)
My one not-so-subjective note about the soundtrack in the reboot is the new “reimagined” theme song. Not satisfied with completely demolishing one of their prized franchises on a visual level, they decided it was only good soup to decimate the iconic Ray Parker Jr. song which helped launch Ghostbusters into popularity across the music industry charts as well. They achieved this destruction by teaming up Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot (both of whom I had never heard a musical note of during my lifetime) to reboot the hit song from the 1984 film.
If you haven’t heard the song in question, then consider yourself blessed from the Lord above. If curiosity is truly eating away at your insides, I will try my best to explain the ear damage you’ll suffer by listening to the song. Imagine if you will, sticking your head in a metal trash can with two people who don’t sing, but instead yell at you while someone else is on the outside banging the trash can with an oversized shovel. By all means, should you for some reason feel it’s been too long since your last headache, or you’ve been diagnosed as clinically deaf, I have no doubt you’ll find some website willing to pay people to download random noise.
Of all the things that didn’t work about this film – which includes everything – the element that least bothered me was the story. Being a remake, the new film all but carbon copies the major storyboard points of the original; from the ghost portal that must be closed down to the 100-foot tall puffy white character turned evil which – surprise! – is another beloved brand icon loved by millions. While it’s not an exact duplicate down to each dotted “i” and crossed “t”, the maddening part of the story being so similar has much to do with Feig screaming from the roof tops how unique his version would be with only slight nods to the original. Obviously his definition of a nod is taking the same story and gender-swapping the characters. Again, the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters team isn’t a bad idea in the least. However, within the confines of a remake that literally retreads the original’s storyline, it all but begs fans of the original to compare it to the iconic 1984 classic. It’s a lose-lose situation, and at minimum, making a sequel would have at least kept the comparisons directed mainly towards the not-as-well-regarded second film. (Might I add, a second film I admittedly enjoyed thoroughly in deep contrast to almost every other movie-goer on the planet.)
The Fan Service:
If I was a betting geek, I’d wager whoever is – or possibly was – in charge of determining audience demographics for films at Sony Pictures, obtained their “degree” from a guy in an ally peddling Rolaxx watches and Appelie iPhones. It’s one thing to completely miss the mark on what made the original Ghostbusters so popular (Paul Feig and Amy Pascal win those incompetency awards), but it’s another thing to literally engage in full on social media warfare against the fans who helped make the original the blockbuster success it is today. Mistake number one: Instead of trying to reach out to fans and ask them what they wanted to see in the first new film entry in 30 years of a beloved franchise, they told fans what they were getting. The icing on the cake? Fans who voiced their displeasure with the remake direction were all labeled in a large group of sexist 40-year-old chauvinist oinkers living in their parents’ basements. As shocking as this may sound, it’s not the strategy I or any other studio executive with an half-ounce of common sense would employ to try to get butts into theater seats, but hey, it’s a free country, right?
Being that a large percentage of people not happy about the reboot or the original trailer were women, I’m sure those same ladies loved being lumped into a steaming pile of sexism – conveniently making them self-gender haters, by a group of elitist Hollywood far far-left leaning liberals who love to tell you to keep an open mind about everything unless it doesn’t happen to lineup with their own way of thinking. Ahhh, nothing like the open and tolerant folks of Hollywood. (There are more than a few decent folks in the industry, so I won’t reciprocate by throwing everyone under the liberal limosine. See how open-minded and compassionate I am?) Seriously though, who in their right mind would think insulting millions of 30 and 40 somethings like myself who put the original Ghostbusters in their wheelhouse of all-time classic films, is a good for business?
I know, I know… what in the wide world of Paul Feig’s bow tie collection does any of the above have to do with the actual movie? Well, if you would kindly let me finish my long-winded rambling, you’d see the connection I was about to make. Feig, in his divine wisdom, apparently felt it necessary to reference the trumped-up (pun not necessarily intended) Sony Pictures and media concocted controversy into the film itself by having the actors read-off sexist comments hurled at them on the internet as they attempt to establish their ghostbusting business in the early minutes. As to be expected, the references – which were allegedly attempts at jokes – fell as flat as the rest of the humor. As an added bonus, it only proved to further alienate fans such as myself who, at the very least, might have paid a couple bucks to take in a matinee had everyone involved with the project from the top down not so hell bent on insulting the original fan base.
As for the actual references to the old film, fans who subjected themselves to the train wreck were treated to an uninspired poor-man’s version of Ecto-1, a Stay Puft balloon created with such careless digital effects, looked as though it was pulled from a 20-year-old VHS episode of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and a Slimer that was apparently so outraged to be included in the film, he actually tries to kill the Ghostbusters. Oh come on, what do ya mean that doesn’t sound like comedy gold?!
Alas, Karma is a female canine (albeit not the prehistoric kind), and the film tanked so hard on opening weekend, it failed to best a mediocre animated film about talking animals, one of whom was voiced by the also annoyingly unfunny in everything, Kevin Hart. The ensuing slide out of the top ten after a few weeks all but confirmed everything mentioned above, Sony Pictures mishandled the franchise miserably. Had Sony, Feig, McCarthy and everyone else just stapled their mouths shut and just ignored the negative feedback, I can almost guarantee the film would have at least had a #1 weekend. I guess hindsight and insulting your core demographic is 20/20.
If you couldn’t tell from the breakdown, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call is an epic fail of biblical proportions. Take away the branding, nostalgia and fan service aspects, and this film still remains utterly unfunny and devoid of any real entertainment value. I make no apologies for my disappointment in the classic getting rebooted, however this is just a bad movie. In a parallel universe where the original Ghostbusters didn’t exist, a majority of the same reviewers would trash this film for what it really is, made-for-TV garbage. Hell, even in this universe, had the four main protagonists of this reboot been men, the film would have been chewed up and spit out for being the uninspired and unfunny remake that it is.
Most fans of the original whom I have spoken with on the heated subject matter seem to fall into the Outlaw’s camp (even if some of them steer clear of publicly admitting it due to fear of rocking the boat with Sony and their newly found relationship with the studio’s Ghost Corps division).
As for those fans of the classic 1984 version who claim to have liked, loved or thoroughly enjoyed the reboot, well there is no accounting for taste seeing as taste in general is highly personal and subjective. Admittedly, my own taste in entertainment has come under scrutiny more times than the NSA cares to even keep track of. That said, if you enjoyed the new film, you either really enjoy everything in life including people who dress up as creepy nightmare-inducing clowns who roam the streets for no apparent reason, or you didn’t truly appreciate the first film for the same reasons I and millions of other men and women do.
Simply put, the reboot lacks the charm, tone, chemistry, likeable characters, subtle humor and effects which made the original Ghostbusters one of the most beloved films of the past 40 years.
Furthermore, the argument this is meant be its own film appealing to a new audience in a socially different era is utter nonsense. Creating something new and fresh is one thing, but relying on a proven brand name and not providing the underlying ingredients of what made the franchise so popular to begin with, is creative and financial suicide. The final worldwide box office haul (specifically here in the states) and revelation of reboot toys being on clearance before the film was released, are further proof of my above claim.
For the many who rode in on the social justice horse claiming this gender-swapped reboot was necessary so little girls could see women fighting ghosts while wearing nuclear accelerators strapped to their backs, boy did you back the wrong horse. The sequel, which was mere minutes away from being green-lit, had at least a few women joining the paranormal team, so it was going to happen one way or another. More importantly, anybody who absolutely requires a fictional piece of media in order to instill in their children they can be anything they want to be, is probably in need of a Self-Confidence 101 course. Before this film was even announced, I’d seen several young girls – not to mention grown women – dressing up as Ghostbusters at conventions across the nation. Oddly enough, the lack of prior film footage featuring women wearing proton packs didn’t prevent them from strapping on their own homemade gear for conventions and Halloween.
Like it or not – and I know there are those of you who do not – the Outlaw has officially provided his word regurgitation (aka review) on the Ghostbusters reboot. Although I do contend, vomit begets more vomit. As I predicted oh so many months ago, Paul Feig’s atrocity has tainted the franchise in irrevocable ways no matter how much Sony and its ardent supporters twist themselves into pretzels to label this a successful endeavor. While this saddens me greatly, (though not in any meaningful “I need to be on Prozac the rest of my life” kind of way), I do find it quite the conundrum in knowing my favorite film of all-time is Ghostbusters (1984) and the worst movie I’ve ever seen is Ghostbusters (2016). Dare I say, that must make me a well-balanced individual.
Based on research done by Terminal Reality for the 2009 video game, the Ghostbusters logo is the second most recognized logo in the world behind Coca-Cola. With that kind of built-in global recognition, one would think it impossible to bring the franchise back on the big screen to anything less than massive success. That is, unless you let a couple of yahoos completely wipe the slate clean with an entirely new universe and disregard every possible factor which made the original a pop culture icon. You think I’m over exaggerating, but they even managed to disgrace the beloved logo by the film’s end.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the tag-line “Who ya gonna call?” in a Ghostbusters film review, but if you read the above skewering, you already know the answer to that question. Maybe you can call Sony Pictures and ask for a fully paid-for frontal lobotomy to remove the entire existence of the film from your memories.
To sum this review up (finally!), unless you find Melissa McCarthy’s been-there, seen-that obnoxious behavior entertaining, or playing this film helps keep rodents from infesting your home, save your time and money for something you’ll enjoy more. Two of the more pleasant options that come to mind are an anesthetic-less root canal or colonoscopy. I’m not exaggerating when Is state I’ve seen hundreds of films over the course of my life time; some life-changing, some good, some bad, and some painfully dreadful. However, none have ever made me feel that stabbing my eyeballs with sporks and pouring hydrochloric acid into my ears would have been a more productive venture than sitting through Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. I wouldn’t even recommend this dreck to my worst enemies. No one deserves a fate that gruesome, not even Paul Feig or Amy Pascal. Well, on second thought…