I took my kids and my friend’s son to the new Ghostbusters yesterday. They all knew and loved the original Ghostbusters and were really looking forward to the new one. And not one of them (not my 12-year-old son, nor my-9 year-old daughter, nor the 11-year-old friend) expressed any concern or questions about why this Ghostbusters team was all women. The just wanted to see some more ghostbustin’.
Like them, I also wanted to see some more ghostbusters, and I’m big fans of any McCarthy/Feig collaboration. I also like Kristin Wiig and Leslie Jones (especially when she’s flirting with Colin Jost!). And I was beyond excited to see Kate McKinnon on the big screen. I’ve always appreciated her SNL work but I fell completely in love with her during her Alien Abduction skit (one of the top ten SNL skits of all time).
And I’m happy to report that all of us enjoyed the movie. The jokes were funny, the plot was believable enough to get invested in, and the action scenes were awesome. We all agreed that the best fight scene involved Holtzmann and her sidearms taking on a gaggle of ghosts. There were jokes I found funny that went over the kids’ heads (like most of the opening tour of the mansion) but enough broad comedy to keep them entertained, from shooting a ghost where it hurts to everything Kevin did (Chris Hemsworth should only do Thor and comedy movies). My only beef is that Melissa McCarthy, a comic genius, played the straight guy for most of the film.
++Slight spoiler alert++
As for legal issues, the first question that jumps out in any Ghostbusters movie is whether these people are vigilantes. A vigilante is “a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate.” That’s certainly true here, when the Ghostbusters were specifically told to stand down because Homeland Security was handling the ghost problem. This order was ignored, of course, because they knew Homeland Security couldn’t handle the problem. (I just wish they’d given Matt Walsh, who is so brilliant on Veep, a bit more to do with his DHS role.)
Usually, there isn’t a direct statute or regulation that forbids vigilantism. Instead, it’s the actions taken by vigilantes – arresting people, harming people, etc. – that are illegal. Laws against false imprisonment, kidnapping, and assault and battery address the actions taken by vigilantes. But those laws are addressed to people: you cannot falsely imprison people, assault people, etc. See, e.g., NY Penal Code, Art. 135 (unlawful restriction of a person). And ghosts aren’t people (any longer). So the Ghostbusters are probably safe on that front.
They could get in trouble for impersonating a law enforcement official, which is against the law everywhere. See, e.g., NY Penal Code, Art. 190.25 (3)(a). But their uniforms looked more like those of garbage collectors and, as was noted in the movie, their car siren had a distinctly “un-American” sound. Lastly, the Ghostbusters, like all other heroes of late, have to face the question of whether they should be responsible for the damage they cause while fighting ghosts. As Josh already analyzed so aptly for Supergirl, the answer is: it depends. But when they damaged Bennie’s motorbike because they were testing out Holtzmann’s awesome new toys (a very funny scene), that’s on them!
One final, non-legal note: I totally prefer the way Ghostbusters handled the end of the movie, after the official “end,” to the way Marvel makes us sit through very long credits to get one more teaser scene. I could have watched Kevin dance all afternoon!