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Ghostbusters Mini-Review Round-Up: We All Saw It, And Here’s What We Thought

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So, Ghostbusters came out this past weekend. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my social media feeds have been filled with mixed messages about this film. Is it good? Is it bad? Who’s to say? I’ve heard everything from “it’s amazing” to “it’s mediocre” to “it’s trash,” and so by the time I got to the cinema on Sunday afternoon and sat down to watch it, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I’m not sure whether or nor this post will give you more of an inkling about what to expect when you go to see it, either. But we’re going to do our best!

Almost everyone on The Mary Sue’s staff went to see the movie this past weekend, and so, in addition to the full-length review that our movie aficionado Marcy Cook provided for the site last week, we’ve decided to put together some miniature reviews based on our impressions. Here goes.

***

Carolyn: Ghostbusters is a funny, sweet, smart, scary, and unique celebration of female friendship. The editing was occasionally jarring and I had a few issues with the script, but the standout performances from all of the leads (including Chris Hemsworth as Kevin) and the movie’s commitment to honoring capable women more than made up for any structural weaknesses. Ghostbusters is a reminder that it’s possible for a movie to be edgy, raunchy, and hilarious while also endeavoring not to ‘punch down’ with its jokes, and I’d like to see the Ghostbusters team expand on that in sequels to come.

Sam: Get your shocked faces out, friends, because I have never seen the original 1984 Ghostbusters. I’ve seen the first 5-10 minutes, and I know that Sigourney Weaver gets possessed, but other than that I know functionally nothing about the franchise besides its core conceit: ghosts are terrible, let’s bust ‘em. Since that is exactly what happens in this new Ghostbusters movie, I think we can chalk this up to a good job already. When you stir in a healthy dose of smart, funny commentary on toxic masculinity, hysterical improv, great CGI, and the lesbian grandeur that is Kate McKinnon’s Holtzman (fellow queer ladies: bring a date!), and you end up with a movie that doesn’t require nostalgia goggles to enjoy.

Oh, and stay after the credits. Even I got that reference.

Teresa: I loved Ghostbusters, and it’s been a long time since I’ve left a movie that purely happy! HOLTZMANN IS LIFE and Kate McKinnon is a genius, but I don’t think the other characters should get lost as we’re praising her, either. Kevin was hilarious, and I loved how he and Holtzmann were kinda kindred spirits vibe-wise. Both equally bananas and “Huh?” I always identify with Kristin Wiig’s character in every Paul Feig movie she’s in, and this was no exception. Her performance was touching and heartfelt and relatable to any Smart Girl who’s ever felt under-appreciated. Leslie Jones was a perfect Everywoman and hilarious, and her pride at being a female Ghostbuster of color for other little girls to look up to was palpable and filled her whole performance with joy. And I love that Melissa McCarthy was able to be funny, but also not fall into the caricature traps she tends to get forced into because of her size. She doesn’t always have to be funny THE SAME WAY.

In addition to being fun, and funny (with some wonderful – and surprising – nods to the original film), I also love how the whole film was basically a meta feminist defense of its own existence. Ladies fighting nostalgia (old ghost symbol), not being given credit for their hard work (the mayor’s office), and putting dudebros in their place (Rowan) to be allowed the space to simply exist. Feminist Ghostbusters is my JAM.

Jessica: Make no mistake: this Ghostbusters movie is a comedy, through and through. The original was funny, to be sure, but it feels like it wasn’t as forthcoming about its comedy angle. From the first minute to the last, this Ghostbusters put the pedal to the metal and didn’t let up with the jokes. It didn’t once take itself too seriously, which I think served it really well. That being said, it hit on a lot of really touching insights into female friendships. The way in which each of the Ghostbusters crew cared about and supported each other felt genuinely refreshing. This carried over to their treatment of Kevin, who they also supported despite his difficulties with, well, everything.

Standout highlight for me was Kate McKinnon’s character (surprise, surprise), Jillian Holtzmann, whose excitement about literally everything got me excited about literally everything. There’s a heck of a lot to love here with this entire movie. Equal parts irreverent and respectful, it paid (perhaps a little too much) tribute to the original while establishing itself firmly as a unique world, one that I’d be more than happy to play in for sequels to come.
***

Back to yours truly. First of all, I definitely recommend this movie, provided that you aren’t a kid who is mega-afraid of ghosts (no shame in that, by the way–that’s what prevented me from watching the entirety of the first Ghostbusters when I was a kid; I didn’t watch all of it until I was well into adulthood). I have seen a lot of people saying the comedy is too simplistic and broad for their tastes, but whatever type of comedy is in Ghostbusters, it happens to be the type of comedy that I like, apparently, because I laughed through what felt like 90% of the movie. I can’t promise that you’ll find it funny, but I can promise that the jokes aren’t going to be punching down.

I think the only joke that I didn’t like was the one about the villain being a “virgin,” because why should that be an insult? But aside from that one joke, nothing else is really jumping out in my memory. Oh, and the cameo from Slimer and the female Slimer (sigh) elicited a jaded shrug from me. But, overall? This movie’s got a whole ton of jokes that work really, really well.

I guess now is the part where I admit that I’m not actually a die-hard fan of the original Ghostbusters. I didn’t watch it in its entirety until I was an adult, and so I couldn’t help but see a lot of faults with it that I’m sure I would’ve overlooked as a child. Bill Murray’s character seems like a jerk and a creep to adult-me, plus the movie has a lot of pacing problems, particularly in the second half. Not to mention that most of the original movie revolves around both Bill Murray and Rick Moranis trying to hit on Sigourney Weaver, even though she doesn’t really want to be with either of them … yet somehow she still ends up with our “hero” in the end. Not before getting possessed, though, in a scene that does a great job showcasing Weaver’s excellent acting abilities, but also completely removes what little agency her character has.

So, when we take that original tale and put it side-by-side with the new Ghostbusters? For me, the new one felt more fun by a long shot. I found it to be more consistently funny, I liked the plot better (both movies have plenty of “what the heck?” plot-holes, but when there’s ghosts involved, that seems pardonable), and I thought the chemistry between the core cast of four felt more natural. I also loved that the movie implied that Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon’s characters may or may not be hookin’ up off-screen–even if they couldn’t come out (heh) and say that.

Leslie Jones’ comedic timing and excellence in her role might well distract from the fact that she’s the only non-scientist in the group, although many have noticed that discrepancy. Reminder: Ernie Hudson’s character in the original movie started out as a scientist and then got demoted to more of an “Everyman” type, which disappointed him at the time. Jones, meanwhile, is happy with her role, and of course she kills it–oh, and I haven’t done the exact math, but I’m pretty sure she gets a lot more lines and scenes to hold her own than Hudson did in the original. But it’s also too bad that the movie isn’t more diverse overall. The movie has made strides when it comes to gender representation, but when it comes to racial representation and LGBTQIA representation, Ghostbusters seems to have remained in 1984. I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge that.

The new Ghostbusters isn’t just a gender-swapped version of the original movie, though. It’s a new movie and it does its own thing and has its own aesthetic in terms of comedic style, pacing, and editing. It has a very different plot, a different sort of villain, and different themes. Here’s a not-too-spoilery-I-swear example: in this updated version of the story, Chris Hemsworth’s character still gets possessed (like Weaver’s character in the original), and he still has to be saved by our heroines … but unlike the 1984 version, Hemsworth doesn’t thrash around on a bed and/or attempt to seduce Kristen Wiig’s character while under the ghostly influence. Also, when Wiig’s character flirts with Hemsworth, she’s the butt of the joke, plus McCarthy calls her out for being inappropriate.

No one in this movie is the Lothario type, à la Bill Murray’s Venkman, except for perhaps the heart-stealing Kate McKinnon, who subverts the trope in any number of endearing ways. Overall, the flirting in this movie manages to be funny without going over the line into creepy, because the characters (and the script, and the actors) know when to draw the line. Everybody seems like a genuinely awkward-but-trying nerd rather than a manipulative maybe-predatory asshole, which is a line that the original Ghostbusters unfortunately did not manage to toe, at least in my opinion. On that note? It’s pretty cool to see women nerds who seem like flawed but lovable humans, as opposed to Manic Pixies or Take-Off-the-Glasses-And-She’s-Beautiful or whatever else.

So, yeah. It’s a fun movie. And it serves as an interesting reflection of where we’re at now when it comes to putting together Hollywood blockbusters. It’s also evidence of how much further we have left to go. But as far as benchmarks go, it’s well worth a look.

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Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (relay.fm/isometric), and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (robotknights.com).

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