Jesse Valencia

Film Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Jesse Valencia’s film review of the new Ghostbusters movie proves that ladies can bust too.


As a lifelong Ghostbusters fan, I stayed away from reading early reviews, criticism, and even watching trailers. I ignored the arguments around gender politics. I scrolled past anything about it on my social media feeds. I wanted to go in fresh; and I’m glad I did, because Ghostbusters is loads of fun.

The gender question with regards to Ghostbusters is ridiculous to me. These are ghosts, right? In a fantasy world that is completely make believe? It’s good to make the franchise inclusive. Little kids across the gender spectrum ought to be able to go out and bust ghosts with their friends and have these different characters to look up to and these ladies kick those spectres’ ectoplasmic asses big time.

There is a cuss word or grown-up joke here or there and freaky scary Class 4 Vapors of course, but I’m admittedly jealous of the six- and seven-year-olds who have never seen a Ghostbusters movie before and are about to get slimed for the first time. Yes, the movie is definitely geared towards kids, but all the people out there my age who grew up watching the old films will enjoy it too for a number of reasons.

The cameos from Bill Murray, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Ernie Hudson are all good fun, and no Ghostbusters movie would be complete without an appearance from Slimer. There’s also a visual nod to the late Harold Ramis that warms my heart, and a ton of well-placed visual references to the first two films that will delight longtime fans.

I thought the villain, Rowan (Neil Casey), was great. He’s this socially inept, creepy, weirdo white kid hellbent on destroying the world because people didn’t treat him nicely. Classic profile of the homegrown American terrorist or misanthropic mass shooter. Also, the ghosts were awesome and the special effects were amazing. I loved the proton packs and the traps, and the new gadgets they brought in are great. The pseudo-scientific Ghostbusters lingo was also pleasantly amped up. The car was great. The costumes were great. All of that stuff was spot on.

I gotta say, though, that Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) stole the show from leads Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). There’s a lot of great one liners and slapstick that made me laugh out loud, but Holtzmann has my heart, man. I was so into her character that I have developed this super weird crush that I don’t think most of my friends will understand. Her nerdy, quirky, brainy awkwardness just stuck with me and I was with her every step of the way. I love Wiig and McCarthy, but McKinnon and Jones are clearly having more fun with this flick. This movie totally belongs to them.

My main gripe about the film was that they tried way too hard to make heartthrob Kevin Beckman (Chris Hemsworth) seem both dumb and eccentric simultaneously. Making him realistically clumsy and forgetful would have been enough, but his covering his eyes instead of his ears when something was too loud in one scene made me go “okay, that’s a bit stupid.” He also didn’t seem to care or be interested in his job too much, which I guess is supposed to be reflective of how Millennials regard a lot of low-end jobs these days, but what I prefer about the original’s receptionist Janine (Annie Potts) was that she was realistic and believable. Working class and tough. She was really just there for the job. Kevin is just there to make the audience laugh and it’s a little too obvious.

For me, I think the social realism is what made the first two movies work so well in terms of believability. Here are these crazy, broke, blue-collar Ghostbusters running around the city and nobody believes them until it’s too late. It is set in this realistic world where New York totally sucks and Reaganomics is getting into swing, so there was this working-class attitude underlying the first film that I think the new one feigns but doesn’t quite capture. The world of this Ghostbusters is completely bonkers. For instance, the EPA and Walter Peck were far more believable obstructions to the Ghostbusters’ operations than the mayor, his assistant, and the two Homeland Security agents who stand in for that in this movie.

I’m still trying to figure out why Chris Hemsworth’s role in the film was so ridiculous. Maybe it was his acting? Not that he’s a poor actor, but he came off to me like he was trying hard to play this part and not succeeding very well. Was it just the way they wrote his character? There was definitely a bit of lazy writing with regards to him, since he really is only there for an empty string of gags and laughs until Rowan possesses him and uses him to make New York a conduit for spook central.

The last thing I was disappointed in was that the film was indeed a remake rather than a continuation of the old series. I thought it would have been a cool challenge to set this Ghostbusters in the same universe as the first two films with an “it’s happening again” sort of atmosphere around it.

Other than that, I thought the movie was great fun. I’d say it was less like the original movies and more like the old Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I’m sure there’s going to be a fair amount of haters who will write off the film completely, but to me that’s lazy journalism. Critics who fail to see both the positive and negative aspects of any given film don’t really know how to critique things. Batman v Superman had its dumb moments as well, and doesn’t hold a candle to Tim Burton’s Batman films, but it was still fun, and given the year we’ve had, I’d say bustin’ some ghosts and having a few laughs is exactly what America needs right now.



Ghostbusters is in movie theaters now.




Jesse Valencia

Jesse Valencia is an actor, musician, visual artist, and U.S. Army veteran living in Northeastern Arizona. His book on The Brian Jonestown Massacre is forthcoming from University of Hell Press.

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