‘Ghostbusters’ good, not great

Ghostbusters

(Photo by Columbia Pictures) Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon, left to right, make up the latest version of “Ghostbusters.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

The original “Ghostbusters” came out in the summer of 1984, during the three months between my junior and senior years in college.
I have never forgotten a conversation between my college roommate and myself when we got back to school in the fall. We were both big fans of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. My roommate asked me, “What did you think of Ghostbusters?” My response was blasphemy to him. I said, “You know what? I like the song better than the movie.”
Over the years, I have watched the original film many times, and my fondness of it has increased. It is certainly a strong comedy compared to the sequel that was done five years later in 1989. In the original film there are many clever moments and two great lines of dialogue that still make me laugh every time I hear them. One is not appropriate for this article and the other is spoken by Joe Franklin to a Ghostbuster: “…I’m sure there’s one big question on everybody’s mind, and I imagine you are the man to answer that. How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”
The 2016 version of Ghostbusters does not have one line as clever as the Elvis one, but my favorite one comes when Kristen Wiig’s character Erin accuses the mayor of inactivity and cites another mayor who did not take responsibility. The mayor responds to the accusation with these words, “Do not compare me to the ‘Jaws’ mayor.”
There are other moments in the new film that are funny. Much of it is verbal jokes, but there is much physical humor as well. Overall, I laughed often, yet some of the jokes did fail, similarly to the original.
The four leading ladies in the new version are all quite good. Each stakes out a different personality, creating characters that never overlap. None of the four could be singled out as dominant, and that is certainly a strength. There are also many continuous jokes throughout the film. Some are more clever than others.
The original film looked great for the era in which it was made. However, 32 years later, special effects have come a long way. The new film looks grand most of the time when effects are being utilized.
I also think the filmmakers made the right choice when they decided this film would not be a sequel to the previous films. There are some parallels and some not-so-subtle references, but this story stands alone. These four ladies are the original Ghostbusters in New York, according to this film, and that is how it should be.
Looking back on the original film and remembering the conversation with my college roommate, I remember how disappointed he was that I did not like the first “Ghostbusters” as much as he did. I should Facebook him to find out what he thinks of the new film. As for me, the original has grown on me through the years, especially because it takes me back to a time when life was simpler.
Perhaps the best description of why I like the original “Ghostbusters” more now that I did when I was 21 comes from a line from the series “Star Trek: The Nest Generation.” This line was spoken by the Android Data: “It has been my observation that most relationships are based more on familiarity than affection.”
If I become as familiar to the new film as the original, perhaps my relationship with it will grow too.

  Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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