GHOSTBUSTERS - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: The pickings for golden oldies is getting slim now that local theaters are showing more and more new movies, but the original ‘Ghostbusters’ is hanging in there, playing at the Megaplex District theaters. My review was published in the Deseret News on June 8, 1984.
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis want to be the Marx Brothers of the ’80s, but they’ll settle for being The Three Stooges.
Actually they’ve gone one better — they’ve settled for being Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis in an ’80s horror-comedy that brings to mind Abbott & Costello’s “Hold That Ghost” or “The Laurel & Hardy Murder Case” or Bob Hope’s “The Ghost Breakers,” or any number of comedies that spoof haunted-house movies, and yet remains an original.
“Ghostbusters” has ghosts like you’ve never seen, some astonishing special effects, and best of all, some wildly hilarious business.
So what if it runs out of steam before it’s over, or if it gets too silly toward the end? There’s so much good stuff up front you’re willing to forgive its few excesses.
Dan Aykroyd, left, Rick Moranis and director Ivan Reitman on the set of 'Ghostbusters' (1984).
First off, the story, by Dan Aykroyd (Harold Ramis gets co-writing credit), is terrific: Three parapsychologists (Bill Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis) doing research at a New York college are booted into the street when their grant is cut off. So they decide to open a ghost extermination service, which they dub “Ghostbusters.”
Aykroyd mortgages the house his parents left him and they rent a dilapidated old building that apparently used to be a firehouse. Now it’s a firetrap. But they fix it up and equip it with all kinds of weird paraphernalia, then advertise on television.
Their first customer is Sigourney Weaver, who sees eggs fry themselves on her kitchen counter and a vision of hell inside her refrigerator. Murray, the ladies’ man of the bunch, takes an immediate interest in the case. “Generally, you don’t see that kind of behavior in a major appliance,” he agrees. But is he really interested in the case, or in her? What a silly question. She cuts him down to size by noting, “You don’t act like a scientist — you’re more like a gameshow host.”
Next, they find themselves in a posh hotel, where they nearly destroy the place as they use a special ray gun to chase a ghost. The hotel ghost is finally captured, business begins to boom, but it’s soon apparent that a major confrontation is building up, and eventually they find their ghostbusting abilities are all that lies between Manhattan and Armageddon.
“Ghostbusters” foregoes, for the most part, the usual extreme vulgarity this crew has been associated with in movies like “Stripes” and “Caddyshack,” reaching instead for creative humor and a few genuine scares — which it achieves in commendable doses.
My main complaints have to do with those moments when the film sinks into mediocrity — an “Exorcist” spoof that only works halfway, a giant monster in the end that is the height of silliness and an overblown climax that begins to lose its sense of fun.
But those aren’t fatal flaws. Most of “Ghostbusters” is thoroughly delightful, with many hysterical scenes.
Bill Murray has never been better than he is here, dropping his deadpan one-liners right and left, and dominating the screen, despite the formidable talents that surround him. Dan Aykroyd lets Murray run away with the lion’s share of the laughs, but he gets in his own licks now and again (is anyone funnier when he tries to look serious?). And Harold Ramis, who played Murray’s sidekick in “Stripes,” is perfectly cast as the stone-faced intellect of the group, looking for all the world like a modern-day Buster Keaton.
Sigourney Weaver shows a heretofore untapped deft comic touch. There was a hint of such in “Deal of the Century,” but that film was so heavy-handed that very little about it was funny. Here she gets a chance to show her stuff, whether shrugging off Murray’s advances or being possessed by the devil. And Rick Moranis has some very funny moments, playing his patented nerd. Ernie Hudson is also good, supporting the traumatic trio in their ghostbusting work.
Director Ivan Reitman shows a steadier hand here than he did with either “Meatballs” or “Stripes.” Despite its popularity, “Stripes” was a rather poorly constructed film, which lost its sense of direction about halfway through. That same problem afflicts “Ghostbusters” to some degree but overall this one is much more agreeable.
Rated PG for profanity, a brief sex scene between Aykroyd and a ghost, some occasional vulgarity and violence, “Ghostbusters” may actually be a bit too frightening for younger children, but older kids should get a real kick out of it — along with their parents, of course.