‘Ghostbusters’: Aside from Thor, the Movie Misses the Mark
I had high hopes of the new all-female cast edition of Ghostbusters.
Since recently discovering Melissa McCarthy in a hilarious lip-synching YouTube comedic throw down with Jimmy Fallon I hadn’t laughed that hard in ages, and since she had recently starred in a series of articles on prominent women in comedy, I figured any movie with her as the star was bound to work. If her co-stars were equally capable how could it miss?
Good feminist that I thought I was, I was thrilled to see a large crowd of women outside the theatre for a mid- week midday movie. I reasoned that at last here was a “feminist” movie with a female following, and it would be a great fit. I was even worried the tickets would evaporate before I could get to the window.
Well. No. I had my choice of seats. The crowds, most of them Portuguese, I believe, were probably at the theatre for a Disney cartoon. Not Ghostbusters. Those of us who filed into the theatre for Ghostbusters may have been, like me, Upper West Siders determined to beat the heat for a couple of hours. The guy in the seat next to me had his own pungent m.o.- he took off his sneakers and his socks and settled in with a drink and popcorn as if he were in his own living room. Different demographic.
And sadly, the movie did miss. By a mile. I found myself nostalgically yearning for the old magic SNL cadre who comprised the original movie. A comedy troupe. Each of them funnymen all by themselves and knitting together seamlessly as a group. Icons, all.
Although amusing in stand- alone moments, and when given the rare gift of decent writing, these new female comics just didn’t work together as well as the veteran troopers of their predecessors. It was a scene redolent of the early Monkees- pick a bunch of rock musicians with shaggy haircuts who have never worked together before, give them some lines, and some tunes, and pitch them as a rock group ready to go up against the Beatles.
That comparison is not quite fair to these stars, but the hapless thrown together quality of the dialogue often left me saying “Whaaaaa?” and in a movie where the point was to laugh uproariously, my fellow audience members were stoutly, stonily silent all the way through. A tough crowd? No. a fair one.
What happened to the Melissa McCarthy character? In the movie, her character was shrill, defensive, determined to squash her fellow actors and steal every scene/screen. I doubt this was a deal of her making but it certainly, at best, made little of her undoubted comedic talents and at worst, turned her into a “feminist” caricature.
And the writing was at best uneven. At its very worst, the sole African American cast member- who I don’t doubt is an intelligent sardonic laugh riot when onstage doing standup, had to struggle to transcend the dismal Steppin’ Fetchit lines and shtick she had been handed. An insult to all comics and particularly to women. (Thankfully she already has garnered a lot of car commercial work and will never need to starve before landing another role more suitable to her.)
What did work? Sadly, the most appealing and amusing character in the movie was the haplessly incompetent yet stud like male receptionist, beefcake Chris Hemsworth, the Australian actor who plays Thor in the Marvel comics action series. Who knew he could be funny? Well, he stole the show- partly by dint of a good script and partly because he was simply, excruciatingly, playing against his action figure type and willing to make an utter fool of himself to good effect. We in the audience loved him. We hooted.
And the effects worked. Putting together ghost images that had to be bigger, crazier, more colorful, more catastrophic than those of the first movie – well, they did it. It was the Jurassic Park of ghost movies. It will be the next one to beat. The Ghostbusters effects have even merged seamlessly in a GEICO commercial, with Progressive Flo floating in a roiling sea of green ectoplasm toward the stunned watcher.
If you’re getting the impression that this movie phenomenon was a product ripe for exploitation, you’re quite right. Are the commercials more interesting than the movie which inspired them? Again, you’re right. Grim when you think about it.
So. Should you go to see this movie? I suggest instead you go to the next Stan Lee-Marvel Comics authored blockbuster for a good laugh. And take note of long blond haired, huge muscled, droll Thor! Coming to a theatre near you!
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