Ghostbusters: Answer the Call Movie Review

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Rating: 3/5

I guess it makes sense, like with Point Break 2015 (speaking of which this movie makes some Patrick Swayze references, including Point Break, and honestly I would’ve liked if the movie made an ironic jab at the remake while this is also a sorta cash-grab remake too lol), after talking about remakes in the past, to review the Ghostbusters remake/reboot…or should I say “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call“, as the movie is actually called. No joke, that’s the actual title of the movie, as it was revealed not too long ago that when the new movie was announced being released on home media, it was kinda changed to add the subtitle to make it easier for the studio to do video catalog and to help differentiate between this movie and the 1984 original. Or maybe this was just done to save everyone’s asses who were involved in this to not receive so much hate as before. Or maybe this whole thing was a big stupid mess that’s gotten more and more stupid. I don’t know, you make the call (pun sorta intended). I’m just gonna make it easier on myself and refer it to the title that it actually had rather than just “Ghostbusters 2016”.

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And yeah, before getting into the review, let’s address the “controversy” surrounding this movie. For a long time, a third Ghostbusters movie had been in development hell for YEARS, with Bill Murray constantly being coy about whether or not he’d reprise his role of Peter Venkman, to the death of Harold Ramis that pretty much put a nail to the coffin on the project and caused Sony and others involved to simply go “screw it, let’s reboot, not like those will go out of style, right”? The closest the third movie ever got to being made was the 2009 video game which was a commercial and critical success, written by Aykroyd and Ramis, and starring the original four Ghostbusters in voiceover roles (fyi I haven’t finished the game but I enjoy it and still hear good things about it). So the announcement came the franchise would be rebooted with a new movie co-written and directed by Paul Feig (director of Bridesmaids and creator of Freaks and Geeks), produced by Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd (the director and co-writer of the original films, respectively, and probably tried to maintain some kind of quality in this movie), and star four women in the roles of the Ghostbusters, with no connection to the original films, hence the idea of it being a “reboot”, per se. This, along with the trailers and other marketing that came with it, was met with A LOT of hate on the Internet and other formats (so bascially nothing new there lol), and it was really divisive (putting it lightly there, I think). If you liked it, you’re betraying the original, and if you hate it, you’re a sexist, misogynist, all-around bad person. No middle ground whatsoever. And it’s not like the powers that be were doing anything to make it better, with the studio enjoying all the “buzz” and the director and cast pretty much being coy about it, avoiding the issues and pointing fingers, and the only person that was trying to calm things down and make sense of it was Ivan Reitman, who said that a lot of the hate towards this movie was not due to sexism but rather that no one likes remakes of beloved classic films. So what was the end result of all this when it finally came out? A pretty average movie, not great but not terrible either.

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So what’s good about this movie? Well, the special effects were pretty decent. I’m not trying to downplay the effects of the original movies, they were good for their time, but these days some things have gotta be updated, for better or worse, and it certainly helped with this movie. The ghosts have more of a neon-light type of aesthetic look, which can range from pretty silly to kinda okay but fitting for this movie. The action sequences were a lot more kinetic and had more movement than in the original. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the original Ghostbusters busting ghosts, but when you stop and look at it it’s really just a couple of guys pointing sticks. In this movie, there’s jumps, kicks, punches, and basically just a lot more movement, giving these new Ghostbusters more of an edge. One key difference that I noticed throughout the film is the purpose of the Ghostbusters here, which is to capture and study ghosts, whereas in the original they weren’t so much as studying them as much as just trying to make a quick buck and the day-to-day business side of things. Another plus this movie has over the original is that the equipment is actually tested out before they go fight ghosts. In the original, when they caught their first ghost, Slimer (btw his cameo is pretty great in this movie), they openly said that they’d never tested the equipment and were almost hesitant to use it because they were afraid that it’d blow them up, also no crossing the streams. Here, in the new movie, there are friggin montages of them testing out the equipment, the proton packs and other gadgets they create. This also gives some additional character development as to how they’d act in the field when catching ghosts, which happens later on. Some of the characters in the film are alright, that being Patty Tolan (played by Leslie Jones) and Jillian Holtzmann (played by Kate McKinnon). If the trailers were any indication, they’re clearly the standout characters of this film. While I haven’t seen too much of their work on Saturday Night Live or other stuff they did, I did get a lot of laughs out of their performances and they seemed to be the only characters with any kind of personality, while at the same time it was kinda hammered in.

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And, like with most reboots, let’s talk about the bad stuff. The humor in this movie is pretty off. Sure, I got a lot of laughs, but other times the movie just does that ad-lib thing that most modern comedies do, which does work for them, but in this movie’s case it just doesn’t, especially when it comes to Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Chris Hemsworth. It’s just a mixed bag with them here. They’re good actors, but the characters they play are bland, a bit two-dimensional, or just weird. I like how Kevin (played by Hemsworth) is a neat contrast to Janine Melnitz from the original, in which Kevin is awkward and kinda dumb or weird, whereas Janine is sassy, edgy, and pretty street-smart. Hemsworth is pretty funny where it counts, but other times it’s just off-putting. Erin Gilbert (played by Wiig) and Abby Yates (played by McCarthy) are just as bland and uninteresting as could be expected for a movie of this caliber. Sure, there are some moments in which they get to shine, but they’re really just not that memorable as characters, and sometimes I couldn’t even tell them apart. The villain of the movie, Rowan (played by Neil Casey) is just some one-dimensional creepy douchebag that wants to destroy the world simply because he hates humanity and openly exposits about his intentions and evil deeds. The villains of the original movies didn’t get as much attention in comparison, but they did have a presence and mythology surrounding them that made them forces to be reckoned with and raised the stakes that the stories were presenting. Oftentimes Rowan talked about the Ghostbusters as if he dealt with a group similar to them before, which almost made me think that this movie could in some way be linked with the originals and he did something that made the world forget about them and how these new Ghostbusters appeared, but I could be overthinking that. Also the Ghostbusters remix by Fall Out Boy sucks, nuff said. At least Ray Parker Jr.’s original plays in this movie.

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Now here comes the, for lack of a better word, “weird” stuff. Or maybe just “moments that make you go ‘wtf'” is a better way to describe it, or just “wtf moments” will do. One of the biggest here being the “cameos” in this movie. First, wtf is Ozzy Osbourne doing in this movie? I know the original movies had some celebrity cameos, some came and went and some did have an impact, like Larry King’s cameo which gave an idea of the impact the Ghostbusters were having on the wider world. Ozzy Osbourne’s though is just tacked on and is more of a “blink and you’ll miss” type of deal, he’s just there for like one second and that’s it. Oh sure, they stop ghosts at his concert, but he doesn’t show up near til the end after they catch it and it’s only for like ONE FRIGGIN SECOND. Then there’s the cameos of the original cast. Some are ok, like Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson, but then there’s Bill Murray, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver. Bill Murray plays some asshole who disbelieves that ghosts exist and thinks the Ghostbusters are frauds, so of course one of em releases a ghost to prove em wrong, just cause, and it kills him. The only thing I could find funny about that was it’s probably a nice darkly humorous in-joke about his refusal to do Ghostbusters 3 and that this movie was the result of it. Annie Potts plays some receptionist that the movie holds focus on for no reason other than that she was in the original and the movie is trying to make winky faces about it. Sigourney Weaver plays a weird scientist and that’s about it. There’s also a bronze bust of Egon/Harold Ramis and of course there’s some weird focus on that, but I guess it’s just there to “honor” him? I have no clue. Also, for a movie that’s supposedly set in New York, this sure as Hell doesn’t look or feel like it’s set in it, which gave me some bad flashbacks to how Fan4stic utilized it’s Baton Rouge location filming to make it look like it took place in NYC. In other words, THIS SURE AS SHIT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE IT TAKES PLACE IN NYC!!! What is it with movies like this doing these things? Like I mentioned in my Fan4stic review, Sam Raimi made his Spider-Man movies in friggin Chicago and yet it felt more like it took place in New York than this movie. I don’t know how much of the original was filmed in NYC, but it did have a certain flavor to it that made it feel like it took place there and how the Ghostbusters were a part of it. It was already revealed that this movie was shot in Boston, even the end credits “thanked” the city of Boston for allowing the movie to be filmed there, so why not just have the movie take place in Boston? It’d certainly make this movie stand on its own more. The “not set in NYC” feel is  especially jarring when the Ghostbusters have their battle in Times Square, with all the product placement Sony could muster for it (though that Twinkie ad being a nod to the original was pretty funny). I may not live in NYC, but I think I’ve been there enough times to have an idea what a movie set in that city looks and feels like. Also, they have different uniforms, but the logo remains the same? Why not just use a different logo? Or have a similar yet kinda different looking logo? That’d also help this movie stand on its own more. I know some franchise reboots lately use similar logos to the originals that started them, but they do manage to help the film stand apart somewhat from said originals. As for when Wiig and McCarthy come out of the portal with white hair, the only thing that comes to mind is that it’s a reference to Winston Zeddemore’s line “I have seen shit that would turn you white”.

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All in all, this movie is a mixed bag, but it’s okay at least. I hate everything surrounding it, all the bullshit controversy, sexism, misogyny, misandry, whatever that’s caused so much hate for it, when really what should be hated about it was that this was a corporate cash-grab on a well-beloved licensed property, and that’s pretty much it. I’m not trying to downplay the idea of sexism or misogyny, because it does exist, but this movie doesn’t really warrant that. There are some good things in this movie, but there’s also bad too. The original Ghostbusters was a landmark film that couldn’t be matched, with Ghostbusters 2 proving that, because the creators behind the original didn’t intend for it to be such a big thing, so they tried replicating it to mixed results. Same goes for this movie, which I think is mostly because it just doesn’t have any heart or identity to it. There’s effort, yes, but it’s in a lot of the wrong areas and whatever good is in other areas is few and far between, as well as all the winks and nods to the original that could’ve just not been done in order to make this movie stand on its own. I like from what I’ve seen of Paul Feig’s other work and the works of the other cast members such as Wiig and McCarthy (at least when she’s not being utilized as the “female Chris Farley” in the worst kinds of ways), but this is definitely not a sign of their best work. And as for all the hate that this movie has gotten simply because it has female Ghostbusters, well just to remind those people who feel that way, there have been female Ghostbusters before, such as Janine, Kylie Griffin from Extreme Ghostbusters, and a couple others here or there, though I can understand how this movie tries to present the characters here as if the original characters didn’t exist, which I don’t really like. Given how this movie turned out, and how it has a subtitle now, I’d like to think that this just takes place in an alternate universe, similar to what Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and others have done, that the originals are still out there just taking a somewhat temporary backseat while this new one is happening. Heck, Ghostbusters has done alternate universes before anyway, since the franchise has explored parallel dimensions in certain mediums, with one universe consisting of the original movies, the 2009 video game, and the IDW comics (I think it’s never been made clear to me), and another consisting of both The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters cartoons. There was even a recent crossover between the two universes in an IDW comic called Ghostbusters: Get Real, which I hear is pretty good. Maybe someday there could be a “crossover” between the original and the new here, but who knows at this point. I just would’ve preferred if this movie was in the same universe and tried to do a “pass the baton” legacy thing like other franchise revivals in recent years. And if you really think this is the worst thing that happened to the franchise, just remember there’s also the Q5 rendition of The Real Ghostbusters, Sanctum of Slime video game, and the recent 2016 Ghostbusters video game to consider as to which is the worst thing to happen with the Ghostbusters name attached to it.

In the end, busting makes me feel “meh” in regards to this movie. But for everything else Ghostbusters, busting makes me feel good.

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