After a terrible week (or really, a series of terrible weeks strung together to make a terrible year, with Dallas, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, basically every shooting in the last six months, the deaths of Bowie and Prince, and advent of Pokemon Go), we now get this charming re-do of the classic, schlocky 1984 hit, featuring— somewhat scandalously—vagina owners instead of dudes in the main roles.
Paul Feig, essentially the only person making decent comedies anymore, along with stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones has trumped the naysayers and successfully delivered what critics lovingly refer to as a “feel-good comedy of the summer.” Boy, do we fucking need it.
TRICIA: That casting coup turned out to be a non-scandal, especially with Kate McKinnon’s butch, gadget geek getting all weird every time the camera pointed at her. What did you think about the gender reversal?
SEAN: Because I’m so enthralled by all four lead actors, and even more enthralled by watching the world of bitter, obstructionist dorks implode with rage over their casting, I was almost ecstatic to see how well the whole thing turned out. It’s not just that it works and is hilarious and has great special effects and all the candy—It's also a perfect commentary on gender inequality in movies. Leading by example.
TRICIA: I loved how even the villain (spoiler alert) was basically a mean, Internet troll, who presumably didn’t get laid, whose fantasy it was to be wanted and handsome and powerful and to control everyone (including women). Although, I’m not sure how I felt about the actor himself.
SEAN: He looked right: kind of dumpy, bad sideburns, etc. (Basically my own worst nightmare of myself.) But his villain characterization is all about his arrogance and entitlement. And then when the ladies get him up against the ropes, his whole meltdown is about how the world has robbed him of his "basic dignity." That’s like an angry white male blogger mantra. It is also the not-so-subtle subtext of all the dudes who “refuse” to see the new Ghostbusters. You can’t take this from me, too!
TRICIA: Those dudes are going to be missing out big time on some great performances. Kate McKinnon is especially entertaining in that Jim-Carrey-go-for-broke way. Every time she did something, it didn’t matter how banal the action is supposed to be, it becomes mega-exaggerated and weird and awesome.
SEAN: She gets to be the one who steals every scene, every shot. I love when actors are allowed to kind of be in their own movie within the larger movie. In a way, it’s also what saves the whole thing from over-committing to the (let’s be serious for one second) MASSIVE STUPIDITY OF THE WHOLE PREMISE. The original had Bill Murray to do that. He was obviously making fun of the movie he was in, which elevated the whole thing. This has Kate McKinnon, and I would happily follow her into hell.
TRICIA: For her to be able to steal a movie when she’s sharing screen time with Melissa McCarthy is saying something. And, yes Ghostbusters is a terrible premise, however, this version is far-better written than the original and though we don’t have the uncomfortable Murray-sexual-harassment scenes, we do have Chris Hemsworth as the dumb blonde and Kristen Wiig ogling him. But because of the gender reversal the power dynamic isn’t quite the same.
SEAN: Also, the fact that he’s both off-the-charts dumb and off-the-charts beautiful makes Wiig’s offhand efforts to hit on him feel perfectly silly. But also plausible. But also less creepy. Or so aware of the potential creepiness that it's automatically neutralized. That part of Wiig's character is really a dazzling little comedic invention.
TRICIA: Hemsworth did a good job poking at himself, as well. The bonus scene where he disco dances was pretty funny. That could have fallen very flat in the wrong hands. I loved when he was possessed by Rowan, he puffed up his very pretty chest and bragged about being so handsome.
SEAN: It was a shrewd choice to put the dancing in the end credits.
TRICIA: The original Ghostbusters definitely took place during a more innocent time, before Isis and Bin Laden were household names; the shift of the big ghost hunt from a patrician hotel/apt to a bad rock concert in New York presented an alternate universe, one where the Paris massacre had never happened, where the scariest threat to a major city is a giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and a possessed and very very handsome Chris Hemsworth. There’s only one acknowledgment of our current terrorism crisis, when McCarthy’s character designs an ad for their new ghostbusting company with the slogan “If You See Something, Say Something.”
SEAN: It’s interesting that somehow the fact that they’re shooting guns (albeit nuclear laser guns) in city streets and in crowded theaters, you don’t make the association with the terrifying reality of life in 2016. That may be where the absurdity of the whole paranormal premise comes in handiest. It’s truly an escape. The violence isn’t real. The laughs are real. I got really scared when they introduced a big set piece taking place at a metal festival. Surely this was some kind of papal indulgence for the males who might feel alienated by all those ladies busting ghosts. But then the ghost showed up, looking exactly like a spectral version of some Frank Frazetta album cover, and it was clear that all the choices had integrity of purpose. Paul Feig, I’m sorry I ever doubted you, even for a second.
TRICIA: This remake was perhaps the only good remake in modern history. It’s a definite improvement.
SEAN: Though the original was a massive event of my childhood, and I can still basically recite every word of it from memory, the main thing it still has going for it is nostalgia. I can't divorce myself from that feeling. I have for sure seen it over 100 times and it helped shape the wise-ass sensibility that I've been alienating people with for more than 30 years. But it's uncomfortable to look back on the way it reflects its era (it's still the definitive corporate entertainment—right down to having an uptight Environmental Protection Agency inspector as the villain). I'm not saying it didn't have great bits, but the new one really is way funnier, and way sillier.
TRICIA: I rewatched the first movie the other day; it’s not even very funny, Sigourney Weaver as The Girl is a terrible idea (and also utterly unbelievable after she played Ripley in Alien). In a (spoiler alert) cameo, I love that Bill Murray returns as the ultimate mansplainer in a weird hat. It’s so perfect.
SEAN: All the cameos are nice (even Harold Ramis, as a statue). I wondered if Dan Aykroyd, as the grumpy cab driver, was actually expressing his real feelings. He seemed to be bummed out that the remake was taking place, just like the bloggers.
TRICIA: The movie has a ton of incredible one-liners. What were your favorites?
SEAN: More or less every word out of McKinnon’s mouth. But also the brilliant back-and-forth improv about Patrick Swayze films. Also Leslie Jones scolding the graffiti artist. And the best DeBarge joke of all time. But, not to be all sensitive, I actually thought the key line came after Wiig’s character tells the story about seeing a ghost when she was a kid and being mocked by her family for years after, McCarthy looks right at her and says “I believe you.” The serious character moment in movies like this is always a tough sell, but in this case, it actually grounded the ridiculousness, not only in a human context, but more specifically in a female one. (It was also a nice play on “We’re ready to believe you.”) It made me trust everyone involved.
TRICIA: As Wiig says in the final line in the movie, “It’s not terrible at all.”