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Despite Controversy, 'Ghostbusters' Opens With $46 Million


And that is the sound of the summer of 1984 and the summer of 2016. Who are you going to call?


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ghostbusters.

CORNISH: From the very moment that a big-budget reboot of "Ghostbusters" was announced, it was controversial because it stars women, as in the entire ghost-busting crew is replaced by women - Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. The movie opened over the weekend and the controversy goes on. NPR's pop culture correspondent, Linda Holmes, came down to chat with me about it. Welcome back to the studio, Linda.


CORNISH: Before we get into the controversy, I just want to ask about the movie itself. People have talked about it in the context of hits like "Bridesmaids." What did you think of it?

HOLMES: I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think if you compare it to, you know, your average summer comedy it looks very, very good to me. If you compare it to some of the other movies that this same director, Paul Feig, has made with some of these women - Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids" and then Melissa McCarthy in "Spy" and "The Heat" - I don't think I loved it as much as I love those necessarily. But "Spy" is really one of my favorite movies, so it depends on what you compare it to. I enjoyed it a lot. Is it my favorite movie? You know, no.

CORNISH: But you did enjoy some of the performances, right? Especially - there are two "SNL" players in this, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon.


CORNISH: We have a clip of McKinnon in action.


KATE MCKINNON: (As Jillian Holtzmann) This puppy I like to call a ghost chipper. Hololaser technology sucks in the ghost and neutralizes it. Step up to bat and do what you're going to do.

LESLIE JONES: (As Patty Tolan) You truly scare me. I just want to let you know that.

HOLMES: Yep, that's Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. Kate McKinnon - I mean, they're both wonderful. This is a really nice Leslie Jones performance. But to me, Kate McKinnon in this movie is so strange and it's such an oddball performance...

CORNISH: ...And she plays the inventor, as we just heard there.

HOLMES: She plays the inventor.

CORNISH: That's the engineer scientist of the group.

HOLMES: I could not take my eyes off of her. It reminded me a lot of watching Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids," which was kind of her breakout movie role where she's just very weird in that movie in a way that kind of drew everyone's attention to her. McKinnon is like that for me in this movie. She's great. She's so funny. That sort of was worth the whole movie, to me.

CORNISH: Right. People may know her from "Saturday Night Live" or her impressions of Justin Bieber and Hillary Clinton.

HOLMES: Indeed.

CORNISH: Two names I would not expect in the same sentence...

HOLMES: Absolutely (laughter).

CORNISH: ...And she nails them both.

HOLMES: She really does.

CORNISH: It seems like this came to symbolize more than the typical summer blockbuster. I mean, this conversation about this - it being a reboot with female leads - help us understand this controversy.

HOLMES: Well, you know, it's important to remember that every reboot or sequel comes with a certain amount of built-in reboot and sequel fatigue anyway. And that happens to all movies like this. But then on top of that there was, for this movie, a lot of stuff that was very gendered because it had female leads and because the original had male leads. For a subset of those people, that was a huge part of what their complaint was either because they didn't want to see it with women or because they felt like putting women in it was a gimmick or some kind of politically correct, as they would say, nod to feminists or something like that.

So there was some of that. There was some racist abuse on Twitter directed at Leslie Jones as late as yesterday. There was a lot of very ugly stuff that was kind of layered on top of the fact that with any movie, some people just don't like it or don't care about it. But it was that gendered and in some cases racist stuff that has gotten kind of the most attention and been the noisiest.

CORNISH: So this movie in the end pulled in $46 million. That's just this weekend. But you talked about kind of reboot and sequel fatigue. Like, what's the takeaway or lesson going forward?

HOLMES: For me, the takeaway is I personally would've gone to see this movie if it had just been these four actresses in a comedy written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold - who wrote this movie and also wrote "The Heat" - that took place in some other universe. I didn't need it to be a sequel or a franchise or anything like that to go see and it.

CORNISH: Or appeal to your sense of nostalgia.

HOLMES: No, I just - I still value people just going and writing an original story and making it. So for me, what I hope for in the future is just lots more original comedies with all of these actresses and, you know, this great director and these writers. And, you know, that's - that is my hope for the future.

CORNISH: Linda Holmes, pop culture writer and editor and host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Thank you so much for coming in.

HOLMES: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.