Who Ya Gonna Call?

Definitely not these guys.

Angsty, Mary Sue, and Sidekick: together again

If you’re looking for a fun but scary, smart but heartfelt, dark but campy popcorn movie this month…well, you’re going to have to look elsewhere. While none of the preceding adjectives accurately describe this movie, here are a few that do:


A lot of bad movies are bad for very obvious, easy to describe reasons. Bad acting. Unlikable characters. Cheesy writing. This one is hard to describe, but I would describe its unbearable awfulness like this: the complete lack of coherent writing and narrative. That’s it. That about does it.

What does that mean? It means that literally every scene in the movie is “just some shit that happens.” *shrug*

There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to anything that happens in this movie, and if you allow yourself to think for one second why any of a dozen different things happened, it will just ruin your suspension of disbelief. It’s a movie that’s pretty obviously written as a kids’ movie with a bunch of pastiched scenes that are supposed to be “WHOA, COOL!!” moments…but can only have such an effect on children who haven’t seen more than ten movies, or any movie more sophisticated than a Disney cartoon.

Let me name just a few things about this movie that ruin the suspension of disbelief for anyone who allows their brain to work and wonder about anything for just a second or two in this movie:

1. The story doesn’t lead from one thing to the next in any sort of cohesive way whatsoever. The entire movie can be described as “This thing happened. Then another thing happened. Then something else happened. And all of these things happening is our story.” With no narrative or causal connection. One thing doesn’t lead to another, coincidentally, necessarily, or logically. The scenes in the movie do happen successively, of course, due the nature of spacetime in our universe, but they don’t lead into or cause the next one(s) in a way that flows as a narrative arc for a movie. No scene has to happen because of an event leading up to it. Each one is pretty much just its own vignette that you could cut and paste anywhere, no matter which scenes came before, or after it.

We have a scene showing Obligatory Teenage Angst and Crush, and one showing the Obligatory Lonely Nerdiness of our Mary Sue, we have another that shows the Obligatory Wit and Utility of Sidekick, etc. etc. etc., all the necessary, cliched moments of The Formula for a kick-ass kids’ adventure movie. But they are all inartfully just…there. All one at a time, stand-alone cliches, just…doing their job, I guess, of filling in the blanks of the cliches of the stories and the characters. But we don’t get any real character thought or development, or any reason that any scene should be related or connected to the next. Each scene is basically a snippet of the formula for what that scene is supposed to do, you can almost see the lines in the script “[insert exposition of x here]” in every scene.

You know how in Stranger Things every character’s story has its own unique development throughout, and then at the end you see how they all tie in together and bring the characters together, like how it all couldn’t have happened any other way due to how each thing happened to and affected each of the characters?

This is the opposite of that.

2. The main character is an absolute Mary Sue, from top to bottom, in every line of dialogue, in every action she takes. She literally knows how to do everything. Without research, training, or even a montage, she knows how to jerry-rig and restart a nuclear proton pack that her actual physicist grandfather took years of trial and error to build with a doctorate in physics by just “replacing some solenoids” or something. When she wonders out loud how he was able to put all this information and knowledge together to figure out how to solve the physics problems of the proton pack, the audience is directed to his wall with about ten different degrees on it. But she can get it working again in just one night tinkering around with some spare parts leftover in the basement.

Earlier, when the actual geologist who teaches summer school explains volcanic P waves and tectonic S waves to her (or vice-versa, who fkn cares), she’s like “DUH! I’m not STUPID.” Like, DUH. Fo’ REALS! Any kid who like, READS, knows all about stuff like this and well…everything! I mean, like any nerd, I love a smart kid in a movie, but this just exemplifies how the characters in this movie have no depth or character arcs. They don’t struggle, they don’t overcome, they don’t fear, they don’t fail, they don’t learn anything, they don’t progress. They’re just…there. Like one-dimensional set pieces.

All the characters in this movie together in the final, climactic scene

3. All the “nifty contraptions.” Oh my GOD. These are also insufferable, and also obviously pandering to children who just want to see something “AWWWEEESSSOOOMMMEEE!!” on screen without any appreciation for a half second’s thought to the practical limitations, just to try to make it logically fit into the physical universe these characters live inside, which is presumably the same as ours.

For example, this ridiculous thing:

What. The Actual Fuck. Is this.

So let me get this straight: a 15 year old who can barely drive is going 60mph+ down Main Street (we know this because we can see the odometer speeding up to increase the “tension” of the chase), with his sister sticking out of the car, chasing a ghost around…

And she lives through it.

Seriously. What is fkn going on here.

Allow me to state the obvious: that girl would be a red puddle of goo in about ten seconds when her crazily zig-zagging brother smashes her against the row of cars parked on Main Street. Her residue along those cars and in her chair would be the only reminders of her, and that ghost would spend eternity munching on whoever or whatever the hell he wanted.

This thing is literally the most useless contraption I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s worse than any failed “dad” or “nerd” invention in any movie, worse than any “toaster helmet” ever invented…and we’re supposed to actually take this one seriously as a serious weapon in this movie. The only use that this “gunner’s seat” has in this ghost-mobile is to elicit a “WHOA! That’s AWE-SOME!” from kids ages 5-? who won’t think for a half second about what driving around with someone sticking that far out of a car would be like.

Then there’s this little fella:

Awwwww. Isn’t he CUTE!

Oh look! A cute little Wall-E type roving ghost trap! What a neat idea…a rolling, pseudo-sentient robotic contraption that makes cute little noises and needs saving. How original!

I’m just…ahhhh…I’m just…I’m sorry, my brain turned on for a second…I’m just uhhh, wondering how this cute little Wall-E ghost trap can keep up with a car going full speed at 60/70/80mph as they chase or flee a ghost. And uhhh…how Sidekick is able to keep track of it and control it with the remote at that speed, at night, while the car’s bouncing around and swerving around the road…I’m sure he can do it because he’s really smart and uhhhh…stuff.

Dammit! Stupid Brain!

4. Just generally… KIDS.

Really, the whole premise of kids doing all these things is just…too much. When the Precocious 12 Year Old and Sidekick go test out the nuclear energy beam weapon at an abandoned factory for some target practice and melt the shit out of everything in sight…too much. The fact that these children are instantly able to use these supposedly incredibly powerful devices confidently and accurately to fight demons and save the world…too much. That the kids chase and capture a ghost that SHOOTS ACTUAL BULLETS but aren’t scared, harmed, or in any real danger…TOO. FUCKING. MUCH.

Just the very conceit of making this a kids’ movie, and of kids playing around with nuclear proton packs…just imagine that everything in the original Ghostbusters, a 12 year old does. Just picture that same movie with a scrappy gang of junior high kids sleuthing out the answers to 3000 year old historical questions of gods and demons, and fighting them and an army of the undead with the power of advanced nuclear physics. Would that make sense to you? Would you be able to believe it “inside the movie?” If the Goonies weren’t Goonies but 12 year old physicists using nuclear technology to trap ghosts and fight demonic gods, would you have bought it to enjoy the movie? Somehow I doubt it.

There are so many “What’s wrong with you, don’t THINK about anything!” moments I can’t keep track of them all. Like when Mary Sue finds a random ghost trap buried in the house. Ok. So she takes it to school and her and Adult Prop #2 [Teacher] decide to open it up for funsies. Let’s take a look at a handful of questions that arise from a split second of brain activity in this one scene:

1. They have to jerry-rig power for the contraption to turn it on. Great.


Very obviously you need some kind of power source to provide whatever kind of energy field traps a ghost. But now a ghost trap doesn’t require power to work, and it can just keep them in there just…being an empty metal container…?

2. Apparently it occurs to neither Mary Sue nor the adult science teacher that the ghosts are trapped by the Ghostbusters FOR A FUCKING REASON, and decide that the best use of a ghost trap is to…free the motherfucking ghost??? WHAT???

Just…it never occurs to either Mini-Hawking Mary Sue or the, uh, adult, that ghosts might be, I dunno…dangerous?? After they nearly destroyed Manhattan, and the world, and it’s all on YouTube??

3. THE ghost, the one that just happens to be contained in that one particular trap, turns out to be a ghost that can reopen the gates of hell and re-summon the demons that threaten the earth? Just coincidentally, it’s not a fat green blob of slime, or a kinky sex ghost that hides in the fridge, it’s literally the demon-freer ghost, and Egon, who [spoiler alert] moved to this town in the middle of nowhere to save the world from the demons should they return, brings back a ghost that can open the gates and stores it five miles away from said gates of hell?? In a trap with no power?? What the hell kind of sense does that make?

Can’t. Take. Teh. Stupid.

4. Once the dangerous ghost that blows up everything around them is freed, both Mary Sue and Adult Prop #2 [Teacher]…slink the fuck off and pretend like nothing ever happened, to avoid getting caught and getting in trouble. I guess it never occurs to either of them that…there might be a…proooob-lem here…? There might be…danger here…? To them or to anyone else?

Nawwww, they just get back to being Stereotypically Morose Child Prop and Horny Adult Hilariously Trying To Bang Mom again. Because: Formula.

And this is just one scene.

I could go on. I could wonder why Angsty, Crushing Teenager goes from being dumbstruck, picked on, and alienated, to partying with the (appropriately diverse) cool kids from work, literally from one scene to the next, and then suddenly finding himself in a romantic moment of connection with his crush despite the fact she supposedly finds him pathetic and supposedly has a boyfriend (who we only hear mentioned once). Again, there is no arc, there is no series of events, there is just: kid has crush, crush laughs at kid, kid and crush are suddenly close.

I could wonder why Sidekick and Mary Sue, when they start thinking something is going on and looking around the house for clues, out of the 500 books lying around the house, find the exact right book and the exact right chapter that mentions the undead bad guys they have to defeat in our story. Again, no exposition, no story, no events no build up, no tension…let’s just pick up a book at random and discuss the backstory of the demon that threatens the town. It’s not even a tense, anticipatory scene, it’s just like a fun scene where Diverse Sidekick practically looks at the camera to explain the exposition to the audience.

I could wonder, when supernatural events start happening, why they happen when and where they do. In the original Ghostbusters, there is a very specific reason that there was a Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. You remember what it was, don’t you?

That was a statement, not a question.

Here we got a bunch of cute Mini-Stay Puffeds…becaaauuuuse….sequel? There is literally not a possible, plausible, or potential reason these things show up in the movie at all, let alone precisely when and where they do, amusing and affecting one of the main characters, who doesn’t even seem too shocked by these fucking creatures even existing. Is this more where I’m supposed to fill in the blanks myself? With…nostalgia, I guess? Drugs? Certainly not with plot, reason, or backstory, since none is presumed nor implied.

In the end, this is just a movie with no story. It’s like a (shitty) Disney them park ride of your favorite movie, a mechanical pastiche of moments that are supposed to trigger nostalgia and for which you’re supposed to fill in the emotional blanks yourself, I guess. A collection of disparate, unconnected, nostalgia-inducing moments that are totally contrived and have nothing to do with each other. Every aspect of what passes for a story here is just a coloring book of a Hollywood cliche, with no heart or explanation, and no thread connecting one character or moment to the next. This movie wasn’t a story, it was just a series of individual scenes that you only understand because you’ve seen the original a dozen times.

If you’re looking for a fun and spooky kids’ adventure movie, I’d suggest rewatching Stranger Things, or any of the 80s movies that inspired it, rather than a cut & paste random mashup of the formulas they inspired. This movie is more like seeing the Chuck E. Cheese robots performing without their masks, so that you can see the gears and levers underneath, their faces all a-smiling, yet also grimacing death. When I watch a movie, I personally like to avoid seeing the levers, so that I myself don’t feel like one of those gears or one of those robots, being manipulated by the mere mechanics of it all.

A fan of this movie on his way to tell friends to watch it.

One thought on “Who Ya Gonna Call?

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