Director: Ivan Reitman
Writers: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis (uncredited)
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis
Release Date: June 8th, 1984
Runtime: 1 hr. 45 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
This last Monday, Harold Ramis passed away from a rare vascular disease at the age of sixty-nine. For a lot of people, this “Harold who?” may seem to have very little impact on their lives; but if you’re a fan of comedy, a fan of anything funny, you’ve likely either encountered Ramis already, or have watched those heavily influenced by his body of work. And if you grew up in the 1980s like I did, you couldn’t avoid him even if you didn’t have a funny bone in your body. He wrote and acted in some of the funniest films of all time: Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, and of course, Ghostbusters. If you think this reads like Bill Murray’s resume rather than Harold Ramis’s, you’d be half right: the two worked together, with Murray often being the star (or scene-stealing bit part, such as his groundskeeper in Caddyshack) of the movies Ramis wrote. Ramis never hogged the spotlight, allowing others to shine, but those movies he appeared in would not have been the same without his uncomfortable, dorky-yet-human characterizations. In honor of Ramis’s passing, I’m going to review my favorite of his films today: Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters, for those three of you that haven’t seen it, is a story about three scientists living in New York, whose area of specialty is the paranormal. They are: Dr. Egon Spengler [Harold Ramis], the brains behind the operation; Dr. Raymond Stantz [Dan Aykroyd], the enthusiast; and Dr. Peter Venkman [Bill Murray], the ladies’ man. While Ray and Egon are serious about their research, Peter just sees science as an opportunity to meet young co-eds, and his belief in the paranormal seems opportunistic at best. Early in the movie, the three get called to the New York Public Library due to an unusual disturbance: a long-dead librarian has been seen filing books in the basement. This turns out to be just the first in a series of ghostly encounters, as the three decide to form a business around removing spirits and poltergeists from customers’ homes and places of business. They come complete with cheesy self-made cable ads, one of which is seen by Dana Barrett [Sigourney Weaver] right before she realizes there’s a portal to another dimension in her refrigerator. Who’s she gonna call?
In a stroke of luck, just as the trio get their unlikely business model off the ground, mortgaging Ray’s house in order to rent an old firehall and to buy a hunk-of-junk former ambulance (the Ecto-1), New York experiences a spike in paranormal activities. Or is it luck? Walter Peck [William Atherton at his slimy best], an EPA investigator, convinces the mayor that the spike is caused by the Ghostbusters themselves in an attempt to drum up business, and has them shut down the containment field holding their captured ghosts and spirits. All hell – quite literally – breaks loose, and only our heroes can save the day.
The three ghostbusters act as a complimentary team, with Egon’s cool technical approach, Ray’s infectious excitement for each new discovery, and Peter’s complete lack of focus whenever a woman is around. Dana’s introduction to the group allows each of the team members to shine in their own area, and her (non-)relationship with Peter becomes the heart of the movie. Rick Moranis plays a bit-part as an endearingly out of touch insurance agent who is Dana’s neighbor, and is not so secretly in love with her. Even small roles by Ernie Hudson, as a fourth ghostbuster they hire due to business growth, and Annie Potts as their ineffectual and lazy receptionist, shine. The special effects can seem dated at times, but the writing and acting is so strong that it is easy to overlook this, if you give the movie a chance. At the time it was released in 1984, Ghostbusters was one of the most complete comedic experiences from beginning to end Hollywood had ever released; for my money, it still remains one of the best comedies of all time. My son, who has just turned four, watched the movie for the first time two weeks ago, and now he can’t stop talking about it. That it still speaks to a new generation tells me that this is a movie that will live on for a very long time, even if Egon is now one of those ghostly apparitions he used to chase.
Steve’s Grade: A+
Arguably the most complete movie from the combined talent of Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray, with excellent turns by Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, and a host of other excellent actors. Funny from beginning to end, with a great 1980’s era soundtrack and cheesy 1980’s special effects.
Bonus: A fan-made video of Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme song with clips from the movie and its sequel.