Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Ghostbusters

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 
Bart: Aw, what do you care about good comics? All you ever buy is Casper the Wimpy Ghost.
Lisa: I think it's sad that you equate friendliness with wimpiness.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half bottles of acetylsalicylic acid out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Four women usurp ghost-busting jobs previously (and rightfully) assigned to men, apparently.

Tagline: "Who you gonna call?"

Better Tagline: "I ain't afraid of no bros."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Dr. Erin Gilbert’s (Kristen Wiig) bid for tenure at Columbia University has just been derailed by a (not literal) skeleton in her closet: namely, co-authorship of a book about g-g-g-ghosts. Her co-author, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), is now developing specter-snaring tech with engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Gilbert reluctantly agrees to accompany them on a ghost-hunting expedition, which eventually turns into a business endeavor. They’re joined by MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), an eyewitness with extensive knowledge of the city, and soon learn a much more sinister threat is at work.

"Critical" Analysis:
 Childhoods can't be ruined after the fact.

You can *experience* a terrible childhood, of course; many children do. It just means — as adults — your formative years were what they were. When someone refers to something (usually a movie) "ruining their childhood," they mean their cherished memories of the original property have somehow been tainted, as if the new incarnation erased that previous version from existence. It's a saying that came into existence around the time of the Star Wars prequels, but reached new levels of hysteria when a revamped Ghostbusters was announced.

Was this particular remake really necessary? Strictly speaking, probably not. For every Dredd or The Thing improving on the original, there are a thousand more in the vein of The Wicker Man or The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3. Having established that, there's nothing wrong with the new Ghostbusters. It's faithful to the first movie (occasionally to a fault), sometimes clunky and often outright hilarious ("Don’t ever compare me to the Jaws mayor!"). Chris Hemsworth displays surprising comedic chops (intentional this time, not like in Thor: The Dark World) as the imbecilic secretary, while Jones and McKinnon spread their wings comfortably outside the confines of SNL. More to the point, McKinnon is a goddamn gem, and steals the movie nearly every moment she's on screen.

It's also better than Ghostbusters II, which was so terrible that it probably actually did ruin some childhoods.

We can lay many of the complaints about the movie at the feet of those who've spent the last several months wailing in outrage over the creation of an all-female team of professional paranormal eliminators. Indeed, many scenes in the film — the women reacting to online comments, or firing particle beams into the crotch of the Big Bad, himself a basement-dwelling bullying victim out for revenge — were clearly "inspired" by this negativity. Then again, how could director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold avoid it, given the shit storm that blew up the literal minute the cast was announced?

And if the movie focused solely on that antagonism, it wouldn't work nearly as well it does. Fortunately, this new group has more exuberance and physicality than their 1984 counterparts. The original movie was always a shaggy dog favorite, built largely on improvisation and hasty rewrites that came together as a classic. This new Ghostbusters is more polished, and boasts an equivalent if not higher laugh-per-minute ratio than the original, largely thanks to the cast's enthusiasm.

Less successful are the callbacks to 1984. Almost all the original cast cameos (with one exception; stay through the credits) bring the movie to a screeching halt. Worse, they aren’t particularly funny. Whether this is simply a case of contrasting comedy approaches or some deeper anti-remake sentiment, we’ll leave to the always reasonable voices that have been discussing this movie for what feels like eternity.

Does this sound ambivalent? It shouldn’t. Ghostbusters (2016) is very good. From the pants-soiling introductory sequence (with Silicon Valley's Zack Woods) to the final battle, where McKinnon’s Holtzman goes full 300, it’s a highly enjoyable experience. The audience at the preview screening laughed and applauded throughout, which, if the unfortunately named "GhostBros" are to be believed, just proves they were paid by Sony to spread undeservedly positive word-of-mouth.

The thing is, there are worthwhile crusades out there. In less than a week, the Republican Party will nominate a beta-carotene-addled Chia melon for President of the United States. His administration would deftly combine Warren Harding levels of graft with Bush II levels of incompetence. That’s worth fighting against. Scientists also warn that we’re hurtling past the point of no return regarding climate change, leaving our descendants to deal with increasingly devastating natural disasters and massive socio-economic upheaval. That’s also worth fighting against.

Instead, we're inundated by a Niagara Falls of nerd tears about how the new Ghostbusters is an affront to mankind because the original “didn’t need updating” and McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon and Jones are unfunny/ugly anyway. It’s the second part that gives lie to the first, since virtually none of these sniveling homunculoids uttered a peep of protest as Hollywood reanimated virtually every genre property released since 1970. If a fraction of the time wasted creating multiple sock accounts to downvote YouTube trailers, submitting bogus one-star reviews to IMDB or screaming into online echo chambers were spent solving actual problems...well, who knows? Picture Lionel Hutz's world without lawyers and go from there.

Hey, at least we can all agree that Fall Out Boy song is shit, right?
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar