‘Ghostbusters’ Is Flat: When Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough

(L-R) Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters.

(L-R) Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters. Columbia Pictures

I rolled my eyes the moment I heard about a Ghostbusters reboot with an all-woman cast—even if it teamed Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. What’s next The Revenant with chicks? The She-Wolves of Wall Street (O.K., that’s Working Girl)? The Hateful Eight with seven menopausal women and one abused eunuch?

Word to the studios: We lack penises, not brains!

Taking a creaky but beloved Bill Murray franchise and recasting it with chicks isn’t progress. Ghostbusters demonstrates that a lame concept can’t make a female-driven film stronger. Meanwhile, shaming men as fanboys or misogynists for not embracing this dreck doesn’t help.

As The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney noted “…the kneejerk hostility engendered among self-appointed guardians of the beloved ’80s comedy franchise, long before the new movie was publicly screened. The unfunny mess that hits theaters Friday, like a big goopy splat of ectoplasm, will no doubt make those naysayers feel vindicated. But the fact is that an estrogen-infused makeover, particularly one with such a comedically gifted cast, was a promising idea. Sadly, that’s where the inventiveness ended.”

This dread disease—the reboot, the sequel, the prequel—squashes Hollywood one tent-pole film at a time like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Manhattan.

The bloated 3-D action-adventure Ghostbusters—coming out of Sony with an estimated $144 million to $180 million depending on who you reference—is symptomatic of a larger problem in this summer of chaos: sequel-itis. This dread disease—the reboot, the sequel, the prequel—squashes Hollywood one tent-pole film at a time like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of viewers recline before their massive home screens with surround sound and 99 cent snacks and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’d rather watch Kimmy Schmidt—she’s unbreakable!—or Daenerys the Mother of Dragons. Give me The Night Manager, The Man in the High Castle or the diversity of Longmire. Give me subtitles and the French police procedural Spiral.

This is a quality issue first, a feminist one second. As I wrote in Variety, if we’re going to make change—and earn a profit—we can’t just plug in female casts as if they were Lego blocks. We want something new or at least satisfying! Zero Dark Thirty, Ex-Machina, The Witch, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games or Pitch Perfect 2.

Last summer, our pal Charlize Theron upstaged Tom Hardy’s title character in Mad Max: Fury Road and led to that ridiculous debate about whether she’d perverted the franchise with feminist propaganda. Of course not, Theron’s one-armed Furiosa was just a female character allowed to be fully dimensional and kickass, which is really what I want as opposed to the flimsy Ghostbusters quartet.

Let’s put aside that Ghostbusters is a dud; it’s no Bridesmaids, also directed by Paul Feig. Taken together, the comedienne quartet has all the charisma of Ted Cruz. The comedy’s so desperate for zingers that the answer to “who you gonna call?” is Bruce Vilanch.

As female viewers we can’t be so desperate that we’ll embrace almost anything female-driven as if we were Dickensian orphans pleading “please, sir, more?”

I don’t want to betray my sisters—the ones busily organizing watching parties and #GoSeeGhostbusters or #SupportGhostbusters. I get it. On Easter Sunday, my neighbor invited me and the moms to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It was a group thing. We laughed, we cried, we cooed over John Corbett, we shared stories afterwards at Applebee’s about our own mothers and daughters—but was it a good movie? No.

As female viewers we can’t be so desperate that we’ll embrace almost anything female-driven as if we were Dickensian orphans pleading “please, sir, more?”

This was driven home to me last night when, at my husband’s bidding, I watched Baby Face starring Barbara Stanwyck (described, wrongly, by Owen Gleiberman in Variety as “Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Fontaine, Bette Davis—radiant sensual goddesses all, but sorry, these weren’t the beauty contest winners. They looked like heightened versions of us.” In this wicked 1933 drama, the knock-out plays a young woman prostituted by her father since she was fourteen. When a kindly customer turns her on to Friedrich Nietzsche as a means of escape, Baby Face spends the rest of the movie exploiting her sex appeal to rise from the dregs of Erie, Penn., to Manhattan’s heights. She picks up and dumps a series of weaselly bank employees, each more powerful than the next. By movie’s end, she’s covered in diamonds and furs, sleeping on satin sheets in her own penthouse. The movie is so cynical and sophisticated it makes All About Eve look like Dora the Explorer.

Maybe we need to look back to look forward. We don’t need to rise up and support Ghostbusters, a film with the budget of a small country and the brains of a small ferret. Instead, let’s get our hands on the Hollywood wheel and aim higher.

‘Ghostbusters’ Is Flat: When Good Enough Just Isn’t Good Enough