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Ghostbusters & Ghostheads

Despite its “battle-of-the-sexes” controversy, it was surprisingly easy to stay out of discussions pertaining to Paul Feig’s reinvented Ghostbusters.  I had no interest in the film’s politics.  It wasn’t because I had strong opinions – I was just indifferent.

The gender swap and the idea of a franchise facelift didn’t trigger me, although I would’ve been disheartened if Ghostbusters perceived these changes as its only merits of originality.  I had faith in Paul Feig (director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy).  He’s a wise filmmaker with a howling sense of humour, and the last thing he would want to do is make a one-trick-pony remake.

With those thoughts going into the movie, I left with a heavy heart after watching Ghostbusters.  It may empower cinephiles who have been rooting for the film during its road of extreme criticism but, as a comedy, it’s a disappointment and Feig’s worst film out of his otherwise successful filmography.

The movie enables Feig’s bad habits in the worst ways possible;  unmonitored improvisation and a complete lack of control over the pacing are killer pitfalls.  Longwinded conversations about the plot unravel after disconnected riffs about everything from take-out food to Patrick Swayze movies.  It just goes on and on and on until someone mentions paranormal activity.  Then, everyone snaps out of it – as if “ghost” was a trigger word – and the film redirects itself towards a drab plot involving Manhatten being haunted by agitated ghouls.  Occasional spurts of impressive special effects can’t save the film’s aimless nature.

Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones can be funny actors, but Ghostbusters doesn’t require them to build comedic momentum.  Even as they wear iconic jumpsuits and ramble off scientific lingo, comparing their work in Ghostbusters to public appearances, their alter-egos all talk and react like their real-life counter-parts.  The film rather plays like a bunch of friends taking this opportunity to amuse each other.  Mind you, that same approach made 1984’s Ghostbusters such a hoot, but at least director Ivan Reitman was able to shape likeable characters using Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ script.  This new Ghostbusters is so loosey-goosey, I question the quality of the original penned by Kate Dippold and Paul Feig.

In the wake of Ghostbusters, I was shuffling through my Netflix queues for new releases.  All of a sudden, a documentary called Ghostheads appeared and I decided to take a chance on it.  Ghostheads works as a good companion piece to Feig’s Ghostbusters because it’s been created with the same heart.  However, where Feig failed, documentarian Brendan Mertens succeeds.

Ghostheads submerges itself in Ghostbusters culture by introducing viewers to different franchises that feature real-life Ghostbusters.  When these men and women aren’t verbalizing their undying love for the series and its characters, they dedicate their time to volunteering at local events or community affairs.

That may sound like thin soup to base an entire documentary around, but Mertens finds the longevity in his subjects and their stories.  The interviews with these Ghostheads are open, and most of these sessions end in emotional tears.  While the documentary is constantly juggling different perspectives of sheer fandom, Ghostheads uses common interests to string a cohesive narrative together, which in turn gives these outspoken fans an honest, interconnecting platform.

Paul Feig makes an appearance to talk about the Ghostbusters movement and the pressure of making a new instalment.  Surprisingly, we don’t see Feig’s story in a critical light, but that’s because the fans are legitimately interested to see a new spin on the series.  Stars of the original Ghostbusters also show up to share their opinions about the large impression their film has left, along with some interesting tidbits around the 1984 comedy (William Atherton’s brief story about a school bus full of young fans is really funny).

I don’t often tell people to dodge one movie for another.  After all, it’s up to you whether you want to see these movies or not.  However, if Feig’s Ghostbusters doesn’t necessarily interest you but you’re looking for your Ghostbusters fill, Ghostheads does the trick.  If Feig’s Ghostbusters left you feeling disappointed, Ghostheads is an effective remedy.

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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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