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The other day I saw the trailer for the new Ghostbusters movie. Or rather, I saw the reaction to it by the great and powerful Maddox; he held up his middle finger to the whole thing. This should surprise no one, but that made it better.
Ever since it was announced that the new remake (why?) of Ghostbusters was being made (why?), and that it was an all-female cast (why?), there’s been a lot of discussion about the fact that the gender change was kind of a silly stunt move and the movie would suck as a result. Well now I’ve seen the trailer, and I can honestly say it will suck, but not for that reason.
First, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: Hollywood stopped making good, fun B movies, for the most part, right around the early ’90s. You can see the change; it’s striking. A lot of it is because audiences these days aren’t willing to suspend disbelief about things that would probably run up a lot of lawsuits; in our much more litigious society, all those things wouldn’t work. There’ve been exceptions, but not many. And movies are now written almost exclusively by committee; screen plays get passed around and so many hands touch them that they end up a complete mess, because you can’t write anything that way. So we already knew they were incapable of rebooting Ghostbusters on that basis alone.
Another reason that this will suck was obvious from the trailer, but it’s not the one I’m getting at. I’m not the first to bring this up, but the original movie was character-driven, and the new one is gag-driven. That’s clear from what they chose to show us. That matters because the characters made the story; their reactions in character were a lot of what made it funny. But that cast could handle such a thing. For the new cast, that isn’t true—with the sole exception of Kristen Wiig.
So now for the real reason this movie will suck: the cast. It’s not that they’re bad, mostly, but that they’re mostly wrong for the types of roles. Even taking them as brand new characters and not trying to do a one-for-one comparison to the originals, they don’t have chemistry as a quartet.
Kristen Wiig is the only bright spot in this cast. She’s played serious roles. She can do depth. I’m convinced she belongs here. Unfortunately, she’s alone.
Kate McKinnon doesn’t fit. I really love her as a comic; I think she’s brilliant on SNL, especially when she does impressions. But it’s clear they’re trying to make her fill Bill Murray’s shoes, and that won’t work. Murray was always brilliantly low-key, even in his wackier roles, so it was easy to take him for an everyman thrust into a weird situation. McKinnon is playing it straight goofy, but without subtlety. Not her fault; it’s obviously what the writers wanted, and it’s a better fit for her sensibility, but she’s playing her part like it’s a 90-minute sketch.
Then there’s Melissa McCarthy. I’ve seen her do decent work, but her movie roles have tended toward loud Chris Farley types of characters. I loathed Chris Farley; I know that a lot of people will disagree with me on that, but hear me out. Farley had one and only one stock character: angry loud guy. That kind of character is funny in tiny doses, used judiciously, but it was almost all he ever did. (I did hear Tommy Boy was worth seeing, though.) And that’s been my problem with McCarthy’s cinematic work. Tammy may be the extreme of that, but she’s never been far from that extreme. She’s funny, and she has talent that she’s mostly been wasting on crap roles, but she’s wrong for Ghostbusters.
And this leaves Leslie Jones. Her time on SNL has been an unfettered wreck, because she has one and only one stock character: angry loud woman. It’s awful. And here she’s being used as a drop-in replacement for Ernie Hudson, who played a straight-man type superbly. Leslie Jones does not have that in her wheelhouse. Hudson played possibly the classiest character on the original team; Jones is clearly going for the opposite, because angry loud woman is her only character.
Go on and watch the trailer again. I dare you not to cringe now when you see Jones scream, “The power of pain compels you!” The studio thought it would be funny; and maybe to millennials who’ve only distantly heard of the original and don’t have taste, it is. But to the rest of us, it highlights everything they did wrong with the casting. The chemistry between these four is all wrong, even if taken out of the context of Ghostbusters entirely.
It’s not that they’re all women. It’s that at least three of them are the wrong women.