With “The BFG” being the latest big-budget studio release to go down in flames, this summer is now officially littered with unprecedented fallout from box-office bombs. Films such as “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “The Legend of Tarzan” and other wannabe blockbusters have busted no blocks whatsoever.
This ought to terrify Sony Pictures as it prepares to inflict a controversial “Ghostbusters” on the world at large. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the first trailer for the film is the single most “disliked” movie trailer on YouTube in history, with 907,581 thumbs down as of the time of this writing. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this new “Ghostbusters” will likely be the biggest flop of 2016.
I realize “Ghostbusters” defenders will automatically label me a misogynist for making that prediction, which, I think, highlights the biggest problem with how this film is being presented to a skeptical public.
The decision to remake “Ghostbusters” came after decades of efforts to make “Ghostbusters 3” with the original cast, all of which were torpedoed by Bill Murray’s unwillingness to strap a proton pack on his back for a third go-round. Most people, including me, see “Ghostbusters” without Bill Murray as something akin to “Indiana Jones” without Harrison Ford — i.e., a really bad idea. It’s pretty clear that any Murray-free remake of what is arguably the defining comedy of the ’80s would encounter significant resistance regardless of the gender of its leads.
It’s troubling, then, how the Powers That Be have decided to characterize the intense opposition to their decision to reboot the franchise. Paul Feig told a producers conference that he’s “been hit with some of the worst misogynistic stuff you’ve ever seen in your life” since he was tapped to direct the film. Why? Because the new Ghostbusters are all women. And, clearly, that means there’s only one reason anyone wouldn’t buy a ticket to this movie.
“People hate the ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer, and yes, it’s because it stars women,” screamed a headline at the Washington Post. The Atlantic published an article about “the sexist outcry against the 'Ghostbusters' remake,” and NBC News declared the “sexist ‘Ghostbusters’ backlash coincides with 2016 gender divide."
I don't want to see this new “Ghostbusters,” but it has nothing to do with the fact that the new Ghostbusters are women. It has everything to do with the fact that the film doesn’t look particularly funny.
That’s weird because I think Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are two of the funniest human beings on the planet, and their box-office track records show that millions of people agree. I would happily watch them in funny movies, and so would just about everyone else. But I’ve seen all the “Ghostbusters” trailers, and they were 100 percent laugh-free. They also show a bunch of cluttered visuals packed with CGI ghosts that inexplicably look faker than the analog ghosts in the original. I get the sense that the movie is going to be a busy, scattered mess with pointless action sequences, no real character development and tepid one-liners that fall flat. Those are the kind of movies I tend to avoid, even when men are the stars.
If I’m wrong, and it turns out this movie really is funny, then, sure, I’ll show up. But if it’s not funny, I’m staying home. And a slew of snarky articles telling me I’m sexist for staying home isn’t going to change my mind. “If you don’t see ‘Ghostbusters,’ you’re a misogynist” doesn’t strike me as a very effective marketing tagline.
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.