Ghostbusters (July 2016)

I was supremely excited for this movie, and it did not disappoint. It even prompted me to buy a logo patch to sew onto my punk-kid jean vest, just so I could be that much more like Jillian Holtzmann. I’ve been a big Ghostbusters fan ever since my parents introduced me to the originals as a kid, and it’s always been a franchise I’ve looked back on with a sense of “Yep, I’ll be watching that one again soon.” The 2016 version took me by surprise when it was announced, and once I knew the concept, it held onto me and never let go. An all-female Ghostbuster team? With 4+ comedic actresses that I knew and loved?? YES PLEASE.

When the movie came out, there were mixed reviews from fans. Some of them claimed that it destroyed their childhood (puh-lease), others said it was a brilliant addition to the franchise. Hoping desperately that the latter was true, I went to see it for myself. I had a great time in that theater; it was a wildly entertaining movie. It’s definitely not as family-friendly as the original series (though it tried, with some awkwardly-placed slapstick), but for an appropriate audience, much of the humor was spot on. My aunt laughed so hard I thought they were going to kick us out before it ended.

I’m not the first one to say it: Kate McKinnon made me gayer. If I wasn’t in love with her already from watching her on SNL, I definitely was by the time the credits rolled out. Wow. McKinnon stole the show, ran with it, and never looked back. I got the sense that she was having a blast being Holtz, and I can’t blame her. Jillian Holtzmann was my favorite character by far, just because she was so fabulously, unapologetically weird. Holtzy is everything many writers are afraid of; a badass female character who doesn’t fit into an overused, easy umbrella stereotype. She’s not the cutesy, YA novel type of odd. She makes strange faces, she slouches, she delivers pickup lines and sits like L Lawliet. Sometimes she wears suits, other times crop tops and overalls. She develops revolutionary weapons technology at the kitchen table, she drops the sickest one-liners, and most importantly, she kicks ghostly ass. I love her with all of my heart.

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And because I love her so much (so much), I want to free her from the closet (y’all knew I’d touch on this). The director has all but confirmed it; Holtzy’s gay! The studio’s convinced that if they dance around the fact, it’ll be enough for viewers, but it’s really not. I’ll be the millionth reviewer to go into this, so I won’t spend a lot of time here, but you get the idea. (EDIT: That being said, as a bio-female who likes to dress masculinely and rarely sees suit-wearing women onscreen, I also nearly cried tears of joy in that theater when Holtzy donned a vest and slacks. Points for wardrobe excellence!)

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The other Busters were fun to watch as well; especially Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan, although honestly, I wanted to see Jones as one of the scientists rather than as the only person on the team without a PhD (I realize that her character is the 2016 Winston Zeddemore, who acted as the team’s “everyman” character, but my opinion stands.) Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert was also interesting, but not interesting enough to work as a protagonist (It could be argued that all of the Busters are central characters, but to me it felt like Gilbert was set up as the main one). I would have liked to learn more about Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates, but although she wasn’t the most developed character, I still liked her. She delivered a few lines about soup that made me laugh much harder than I’m willing to admit.

There’s one more thing I need to touch on before I can finally let myself go to sleep: Kevin. Kevin was a huge mistake. I realize that he was supposed to be a kind of social commentary (“Men have objectified women for centuries, now it’s time to turn the tables ahahaha!”), but I’ve never been a fan of that strategy. It just seems like a petty, impersonal kind of revenge, and it doesn’t look good onscreen. You can’t fight sexism with more sexism. We’re not solving anything by objectifying men right back. We need to set a standard of well-developed, interesting and involved characters of every gender. Another thing, it’s one thing to make Chris Hemsworth’s character a hunky airhead, but another to make him entirely idiotic. The original Ghostbusters’ secretary, Janine Melnitz, was an effective and interesting character who played an important role in the story. Having Kevin around is like propping a Ken doll up next to the phone and calling him a valuable member of the team. It’s alright if the guy’s not the brightest proton in the pack; just let him be an active participant.

Overall, this movie blew away the Bechdel test (as Kate McKinnon did with my rating on the Kinsey Scale) and gave me some great Halloween costume ideas, as well as firmly stuck the Ghostbusters theme (Yes, the old one. Sorry, Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliot.) in my head for the rest of the day. It also renewed my love for the franchise as a whole. I don’t think it’s better than the original, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a damn entertaining movie. While some fans may avoid the 2016 film because change is oh so scary, I’m going to embrace it. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

GRADE: A-

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