The "Ghostbusters" reboot will be wonderful and terrible

Even with a solid director, why do we need a warmed over classic?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 9, 2014 2:24PM (EDT)

I have an idea for a TV show about contemporary pop culture. It's called "The Leftovers." Wait, you say that title's already a thing? Who cares?

The official news Wednesday that Paul Feig – the creator of "Freaks and Geeks," the director of "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat" – would be teaming up with "The Heat" writer Katie Dippold for a new and female-driven version of "Ghostbusters" is as good as the idea of a new "Ghostbusters" could possibly be. Putting the comedy classic in the hands of a maestro like Feig, tied to his vow that it "will star hilarious women" has real potential to not suck. Feig and Dippold are funny people who deliver consistently entertaining work. There's also a strong possibility, given the duo's cast history, of Melissa McCarthy being in this thing, and amen to all things Melissa McCarthy. It's encouraging that Feig says, "I love the first one so much I don’t want to do anything to ruin the memory of that." Frankly, if I could reserve my seat at that Upper West Side movie theater with the big reclining chairs today, I would. Now here comes the however…  However, I wish it was something else. I wish it wasn't "Ghostbusters."

Perhaps the long-awaited confirmation of the comedy's reboot wouldn't feel so exhausting if it hadn't come so soon on the heels of the announced "Twin Peaks" return, the "In the Heat of the Night" TV remake, the swiftly shot down "Say Anything" sitcom and even a redo of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." That all happened, by the way, just this week alone. What will Friday bring? Oh right, another "Dracula."

It's easy to be churlish about the glut of remakes and reimaginings – look, I'm sure "Gotham" is fine but I lost interest in Batman about three reboots ago – in spite of the fact that some of them work out just fine. I gratefully devoured the return of "Arrested Development;" I enjoyed the American version of "The Office" as its own separate thing from its brilliant British counterpart. I would rather watch George Clooney's "Ocean's Eleven" and Jeff Bridges' "True Grit" than their originals any day of the week. I have paid to see "Serenity" and "Veronica Mars" in theaters. But the reason many of us view the idea of going back to the once successful well with skepticism and occasional flat out revulsion is that it's a gambit that more often than not fails spectacularly. There's even a whole category of the Razzies – the Oscars of awfulness – devoted to "Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel. Remember last year's "winner" – "The Lone Ranger"? Remember when Russell Brand was "Arthur"? Remember the modern update of "Footloose"? Why, God, whyyyyyyyy?

Sequels and re-dos have been around as long as entertainment itself – plenty of the Shakespeare plays, including "Romeo and Juliet," were reworkings of older stories. Certain characters and themes are so iconic, new generations will always want to tell their stories again. The issue now, though, is blatant, cynical nostalgia-driven branding. You can almost feel Hollywood constantly refreshing Buzzfeed to see what from the collective childhood audiences would be willing to pay money to re-experience, even in the crappiest, laziest form imaginable. (Tip: A movie of "Friends" would make a mint.) The message to viewers is clear: We don't need to waste time coming up with new ideas. We can just give the people another "Godzilla" and wait for the revenue to roll in. Somewhere, someone is penning an updated "Mean Girls" with Cady as a twentysomething washout and I don't want to know about it. I don't want an avalanche of warmed over, second generation stories. I'd like more new stuff on the plate, please.

I get that making entertainment is expensive and so it's prudent to go with the most low-risk projects imaginable. In that light, a Paul Feig "Ghostbusters" is basically cash in the bank for the studio. But what if Paul Feig and Katie Dippold made a female-driven comedy that wasn't "Ghostbusters"? Just to be, I don't know, original? Like "Bridesmaids" was. Imagine coming up with a new classic. One that could even have a paranormal bent -- but just doesn't provoke such a strong and unnecessary sense of déjà vu.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Bridesmaids Ghostbusters Katie Dippold Paul Feig Say Anything Twin Peaks