Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ghostbust

Art students are often found in museums, copying the work of the masters. In this way, I expect, they learn a lot about technique. If they are fairly good, the work they produce will look a lot like the masterpiece from which it is copied. It won't be a masterpiece though, even if it is a very faithful copy, because the students are not themselves masters, but ultimately because it is only a copy.

The new Ghostbusters copies the old, but it's not even a really good copy. The student lacks technique. The delicate brushstrokes of the original are here reduced to clumsy splotches and blotches. They say that a great masterwork reveals more and more of itself with closer study, and the original Ghostbusters had a little bit of that as various subplots were woven together. The new GB is as subtle as a pie in the face, and just about as funny.

In the original, the principal protagonist, Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) was a cynical fraud and a scoundrel, using his psychic experiments as a dodge to seduce cute coeds. When he gets fired, you know that he deserved it. By contrast, his new GB counterpart, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), is up for tenure but gets denied when she is revealed as a co-author of a book on ghosts. Sad story perhaps, but boring.

Venkman is redeemed to some extent when real ghosts start happening, by his unflappability and wit under pressure. Gilbert has nothing to redeem and has few opportunities to display any redeeming aspects of character. A big waste of a big talent.

Feminists, who seem compelled to defend the new GB against its allegedly testosterone fueled critics, have been quick to claim that it proves that "women can be funny." I don't consider it one of the better arguments. Kristen Wiig is a talented actress and capable of being very funny, but she's used here only as a straight man. Melissa McCarthy can be funny too, though her mostly slapstick style is not my favorite. The much praised Kate Mckinnon didn't impress that much. She seemed more like a nutjob on speed.

There were some laughs, mostly trite and slapstickish.

Some of its failures: not scary, no real wit, no plot depth, zero sexual tension.