Saturday, May 21, 2016

Something Strange, and It Don't Look Good

Over at The Federalist, Liz Finnegan tries to parse some of the acrimony that seems to have been generated by the scheduled July release of Ghostbusters, a re-envisioning, reboot, restart or something of the 1984 smash of the same name.

A third Ghostbusters movie has been long desired. When Bill Murray showed up at the 2010 Spike TV Scream Awards in his Venkman jumpsuit and carrying a proton pack, pretty much the entire pop culture universe blew up. But Murray repeatedly declined a third movie, at one point being rumored to have actually shredded a script sent to him and returning it in that form to its writer. Harold Ramis' 2014 death would have seemed to have ended the chances for movie no. 3, since he was the writer responsible for making Dan Aykroyd's original script filmable as well as playing Egon Spengler. Iconic 80s movies given sequels with only portions of their original teams are not pretty: Witness Blues Brothers 2000. Or better yet, don't and take my word for it.

As Finnegan notes, Bridesmaids director Paul Feig announced that same year that he would be helming a Ghostbusters project and that it would star "hilarious women." The choice to make the spectre-smashing team all female generated significant interest and buzz, with groups automatically rejecting it or enthusiastically accepting it sight unseen for casting reasons alone. Two trailers for the movie have become the most down-voted movie trailers ever on YouTube ("Chin up, Paul. It gets better." -- Rebecca Black).

A number of the people who think that the idea of an all-female cast is important believe that the only fuel for this dislike is sexism and misogyny.  Finnegan suggests it has more to do with people finally losing patience with the media and entertainment industry's continuous mining of beloved classics to produce crappy echoes of said classics for no other reason than filthy lucre.

I've no doubt there's a sizable number of dudes who are ticked off that they're being given girl ghostbusters and who aren't mature enough to just keep quiet and skip the movie. And I think Finnegan's onto something as well. For every Battlestar Galactica success there seem to be a dozen Poltergeists. I think she seriously overestimates Ghostbusters as somehow "defining a generation," but it doesn't have to be on that level for people to want their experience of it unsullied by a gimmicky cash grab reboot.

There's no reason an all-female team couldn't be a great addition to the franchise, and no reason not to try something new if circumstances prevent actually bringing the band back together. But so far, the two trailers I've seen haven't delivered anything new or funny. The jokes are retreads or mild chuckles or both. I had to see the original movie twice to find out the lines immediately following the first appearance of Mr. Sta-Puft, because the packed house I saw the movie in laughed so loud you couldn't hear them.

Could there be such a moment lurking in this new Ghostbusters? Of course, although nothing on Feig's or co-writer Katie Dippold's résumés indicates it's likely, and that impression is backed up by the aforementioned trailers. So am I planning on seeing it in a theater? Probably not -- the accumulated weight of dull trailers, second-rate comic writers and the dud Ghostbusters 2 make me a lot like the people Finnegan describes. It sure smells like someone's trying to serve up leftovers as a five-star meal, and I've got nothing against leftovers -- but I'm not going out to eat them.

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