There are a lot of different questions being asked about the Ghostbusters reboot coming out later this summer. Many people are asking “Why would you rape my childhood and make a hollow reboot of a classic film?” Others are asking “Why is everyone hating on this reboot so hard and is it because of some deep seeded hatred towards women led reboots of male dominant nostalgia vehicles?” Today I don’t care about either of those. I just have one question. What if the Ghostbusters reboot had been written to be rated R?
Now I know what most people are going to say to that question. “Absolutely not! The Ghostbusters is a family friendly brand that has had cartoon series, toy merchandise, and broad family appeal.” That’s all true, Ghostbusters is not a brand that needs to be raunchy for it to be successful. But let’s take a look at who they put in charge of the reboot.
Paul Feig is an experienced writer/director with a lot of work in both television and film (He created the excellent Freaks and Geeks back in 1999). But most people know him from his recent films he directed usually starring Melisa McCarthy. His last three films Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy were all R rated comedies. While I am personally not a big fan of The Heat, Bridesmaids and Spy are excellent examples of really successful R rated comedies. Especially in Spy, where most of the jokes came from the dialogue and aggressive profanity latent insults coming out of the mouths of McCarthy and the rest of the cast. Clearly, Feig has a good idea of how to be simultaneously vulgar, funny, and smart.
Now if you look at the cast, many of the leads have experience with R rated humor. Melissa McCarthy clearly is no stranger to blue humor. Her career as of late has revolved around R rated comedies, and she is often very strong in these films (unless she isn’t being directed by Feig, but that’s a completely different story). She was even nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar for Bridesmaids, a rarity for comedians, even less for comediennes.
Kristen Wiig starred in Bridesmaids along with McCarthy. She was also nominated for an Oscar, this time for the screenplay which she co-wrote. While her time on Saturday Night Live wasn’t really R rated, she definitely showed everyone her comedic chops and proved to be the most famous cast member during her time on the show.
One could make a similar case for Kate McKinnon, who is the Kristen Wiig for her generation of SNL cast members, showing a real fearlessness that one only sees every so often in a performer on SNL. She can be funny in any platform, which means that she can just as easily be funny with profanity, as she is already funny without it.
Then of course, we have Leslie Jones, whose main showcase of work can also be found on SNL. Say what you will about her style of comedy, but she is another incredibly capable comedienne. She has a lot of great timing, her bit parts in the films Top Five, and a cameo in Trainwreck show that she can hang with some of the best working actors in her field.
So all of these people have some form of background in R-rated comedy. What if Sony had just taken that leap and had Feig do what he did best make Ghostbusters truly its own thing and really stamp his brand on it.
I personally think that there is a lot of potential for an R-Rated Ghostbusters for a number of reasons. I think this film really would have become its own entity at that point, and would have been seen as less of a shallow reboot of a much revered property and more as its own physical piece of entertainment. It would have been decidedly more modern in its format. Ever since The Hangover in 2009, PG-13 comedies have been seen less and less in favor of comedies with more of an edge.
The biggest argument one could make for R-Rated Ghostbusters being a possibly great move is the recent 21 Jump Street films. This series of films were made based off of an 80’s TV show that was skewed mainly at older kids and teenagers. But the films themselves are R-rated self-referential parodies. These are very successful films with an audience who has a lot of love for the sense of humor these movies showcased. One could say that Ghostbusters could benefit very similarly to these films. Even Sony, the distributor of the new Ghostbusters films, wanted to have Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the director/writer pair for the 21 J.S. films take on the Ghostbusters reboot, but the duo passed on the film.
I myself remember hearing about this film and the casting of it, and the whole time I was getting excited for it, I kept reminding myself it wasn’t going to be rated-R. Before that, I could very clearly see in my head Melissa McCarthy chasing ghosts down a hallway screaming something like “Get over here you slimy little fucker.” That got me really excited for this movie.
Going back to where the backlash would come in, many Gen-Xer’s would probably not enjoy seeing the characters from their childhood acting in a way that’s foreign to them. That’s a symptom of nostalgia, not being able to see the thing you loved as anything else and wanting it to stay the same, no matter what else could be added to it. There’s clearly a lot of potential in Ghostbusters for an R-rated kind of story, and you need someone who can find that story sometimes. That person could have been Paul Feig. I’ll even appeal to the nostalgia crowd. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t have been curious if Bill Murray had thrown in a couple “fucks” into a Ghostbusters movie. It would have been entertaining then. And it would be entertaining now.
There is one big qualifier that would need to be considered if the Ghostbusters had been rated-R, does it need it? That’s the big question; because making something more mature isn’t a perfect formula to making something great (The recent DC films are a textbook example of marketing to the wrong audience and making a subpar product). When all is said and done, Ghostbusters may not need an R-rating to be good, clearly they’ve gotten along just fine without one. But I truly believe that the potential of a unique and hysterical take on the Ghostbusters would be worth the risk. Risks are what bring in audiences today, Deadpool’s R-rated success has shown that audiences respond well to out there risks. A reboot of Ghostbusters is far from “a risk” these days, but an R-rating would have at least added something new and interesting to the table.
Either way, it’s clear that the R-rated idea is all hypothetical and the jury is still out on whether the PG-13 Ghostbusters will be good or not. But that’s not what’s important. In the end, they will keep remaking and rebooting established properties if people keep going to see them. So if that’s the case. Something needs to keep things interesting. Maybe this could be one of the ways?