Ghostbusters is my favorite movie of all time. There, I said it. Now I’m sure this means you can discount everything I’m about to say about the reboot as the rantings of a rabid fan of the original but I’m going to say it all the same. Ghostbusters may be the greatest comedy of all time and the reason this reboot isn’t getting the same sort of reaction is because I’m not sure a lot of people know what made Ghostbusters great.
Ghostbusters is not the greatest movie of all time because the idea of combining ghosts and humor was the greatest ever and guaranteed success. I would think that was a given but before we had our cast assembled that seemed to be the motivation behind making a sequel. The idea of deriving humor from catastrophic events is almost as old as fiction and only slightly older than the idea that the supernatural can be so absurd that it’s funny.
Ghostbusters is not the story of ghosts and the busting thereof. That definitely happens in the movie and it’s important to the plot but if someone asks you “what was Ghostbusters about?” and all you have is “Dudes with portable nuclear accelerators perform a suddenly necessary public service/save world” then I don’t know if you and I watched the same movie.
And, and this is super important, Ghostbusters didn’t succeed because it starred three brilliant comedians. It succeeded because two of them were also brilliant writers.
You can’t just throw funny people at ghosts and create Ghostbusters again. You can do that and create a super funny movie and I still think we’re getting that despite that first trailer doing everything it could to convince me otherwise. The reboot is going to be funny, it’s can’t not be considering the stars. Most of those girls are physically incapable of saying lines that don’t make me laugh. I have, no exaggeration, heard Melissa McCarthy explain picking up the paper and making a dessert, separate stories, and they were two of the most amusing stories I’ve ever heard. So don’t think I’m saying that this new movie is going to be a snore-fest or even that it won’t be as good, or possibly better, than Ghostbusters 2. It’s just not Ghostbusters and doesn’t seem to be making any effort to be Ghostbusters
Ghostbusters worked by playing a fundamental card in fiction that many movies, especially horror, escapist fantasy and sci-fi movies, tend to miss. It gave us characters who were like us but who made decisions that we could make and often dream of making but that we never make (and so can’t verify as unrealistic). The different personality types didn’t just serve to create an Odd Couple-like comedy. They provided us with someone onto which everyone could project themselves. Didn’t think Venkman was that funny and maybe could have taken things a bit more seriously and, you know, studied?
You might enjoy Ray. Don’t care that it’s the apocalypse and just want to collect your pay check and go home? We’ve got Winston for you. The point is these aren’t just funny characters, they’re relatable characters.
That’s not a new concept, though, creating relatable characters I mean. So what sets Ghostbusters apart? The Ghostbusters take that “we’re just like you” one step further and take a risk that we’ve all thought about doing but never had the fortitude to do. After having their comfortable lives upended and losing their jobs they don’t just go out and look for a similar job. They find something they believe in and take a huge risk, buy a firehouse and an ambulance and create an entirely new sector of business in which to work on the sole basis that they believe that it’s going to be the next big thing. They turn their hobby into their job in a way that’s super risky and really shouldn’t pay off. They have no business plan, just some real firm hunches and a little science that tells them that the service they provide will be essential in the near future. And by Gozer they turn out to be right. It’s the ultimate of ultimate “I’m going to quit this call center and go into business for myself and do all the things I said were right and just make all the money and that’ll show them how right I was all along” story. They don’t just make money, they make all the money (discounting GB2, which poos all over that concept and makes little sense while doing it). And the money becomes secondary. They save the world. These four guys, three of whom were fired just a few months back and one who was just looking for a job, saved the whole entire world with nothing but their clever foresight and the willingness to take a huge risk based on what they love.
The point, and I do have one, is that this is an analog of a story we’ve all sat around and told ourselves or our friends what we’d like to do and what risks we like to take an how they might turn out and why they’d be worthwhile. Ghostbusters just takes those dreams and puts them in front of you on a big screen with far more clever writing and acting than our late night stories. It’s “this is what I’d do if I won the powerball” but with special effects and those stories are something we all like to think about all the time.
But it doesn’t look like the reboot is going for that at all. They are firmly behind the “throw funny people at ghosts” philosophy which will be fine. That is essentially what GB2 was and I don’t think there are a lot of people who would say that GB2 was bad. It just wasn’t Ghostbusters. We’re all expecting Ghostbusters. In our defense, that’s what they’re calling the damn movie. But they’re not re-making Ghostbusters. They’re re-making Ghostbusters 2, a supernatural movie starring funny people written by different funny people with the intention to recreate something that was great but with no real understanding of what made the first thing great. It even looks like they have a surprisingly funny actor poised to steal the show as the villain
And, as I’ve said before, Ghostbusters 2 wasn’t bad. It was consistently funny, it gave me an instant emotional response every time I hear that old Jackie Wilson song and/or see the statue of liberty
Ghostbusters 2 was just a fun comedy, a “romp” if you will. It didn’t go out of it’s way to make me yearn or change my life or try to be better. It tugged on my heartstrings once, maybe twice (watching Rick Moranis suit up was also kind of nice) and made me smile for about 90 minutes. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But we’re just in preview stages, remember. I don’t think the original Ghostbusters previews had any indication that they were creating what they ended up creating *goes back and watches them* no, no they didn’t. So there might be a subplot where no one believed in these girls, we might get a Bad News Bears kind of situation where they fail spectacularly, maybe there’s full frontal from Chris Hemsworth, there are a lot of things that could take this movie from good to great.
But at the moment none of that is in the trailer, so forgive yourself for not being as excited as maybe you “should” be as a big Ghostbusters fan. And, assuming the reviews pan out, go see the movie even though it’s not “ghostbusters”. If I stopped going to movies because they weren’t as good as Ghostbusters I wouldn’t have seen a movie since the eighties.