I’ll admit it; I’m not the biggest fan of the original “Ghostbusters.” It’s not that I don’t think it’s funny or spooky or a total rarity in and of itself. It’s just, I don’t know, not my favorite form of comedy.
Of course, the original “Ghostbusters” came out in 1984. Some of the jokes and the effects don’t hold up anymore. That happens with any film as time goes on. Since I was never that into Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd vacuuming up ghosts, I was intrigued by a 2016 version featuring an all-female cast. The rest of the world, though, wasn’t so into it.
I felt defensive and protective over the new busters. I told myself the new movie would be funny. Paul Feig is a good director. It’s cast is incredibly talented. Internet trolls and media critics be damned.
All of those things are still true, even after I’ve seen the film. But now I know where the reboot’s true weakness lives.
But rather than let me tell you the problem with the reboot, I’ll tell you about the friend I made in the theater when I saw it. The theater was crowded so I ended up sitting by a mom and her young son. The son couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old and he was very talkative. Normally, I would have been annoyed with a little kid trying to talk to me during a movie, but this was different. He was asking me about comedy.
Throughout our ongoing conversation he told be that he had seen the original “Ghostbusters” and its sequel. He even had a stuffed Ghostbusters bear that played the theme song when you pressed it. “Wow,” I thought. “This little kid really loves this stuff.” Who knew! I had no idea that someone that young knew anything about those movies, let alone liked them (also, where can I get a Ghostbusters bear?).
During our chat I also found out that he thought the sequel to the original film was scarier than the first and he was nervous to see the new movie in case it was scary. I wanted to tell him it would be fine. This was a comedy, not a thriller. As the film started and we got deeper and deeper into it we laughed at different jokes (he at the bodily function jokes, me at Leslie Jones walking into a room of manikins) and noticed different things. He was scared when a ghost came out of the basement and projectile vomited on Kristen Wiig. I was cringed with the unfortunate use of Bill Murray.
And then my little pal’s mom excused herself from the theater to get a soda refill, leaving me and my friend alone with him. He turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said, “I think the boy Ghostbusters are better than the girls.”
My initial reaction was to be appalled. Thank goodness his mom was gone so she didn’t see me ball my fist up and hold myself back from punching her kid in the nose. I took a deep breath, turned to him with a smile, and asked him why he thought that. Just like any kid, he saw things very simply. “The girls don’t know what they’re doing. The boys knew how to catch ghosts.”
I nodded and turned back to the screen so I wouldn’t say anything else. The problem was, though, that this seven year old had figured something out that I had not; the problem with the film. You see, I could talk about feminism in comedy until I’m blue in the face but the fact is that the 2016 “Ghostbusters” is just OK. It wasn’t bad. It was decently funny. It was fun. But it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.
Despite a plot that was out of a 1970’s TV sci-fi movie, the film lacked female confidence, which was what we all wanted most from it. Sure, the characters are allowed to be dorky scientists who didn’t know what they were after. They were studying ghosts after all. But they could have done with some Bill Murray-inspired attitude and fake-it-til-you-make-it confidence until they got there. As my little movie bud pointed out later on, they didn’t even know how to use their proton packs by the time they got to the big Times Square battle.
I’m not disappointed in the reboot per say. I just wish there was less of a zany plot and more character. More personality. More something.