“Ah, if there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.”
I was looking forward to relaxing with Ghostbusters one evening over a month ago, but since then I’ve found that I don’t have much to say about it. It’s been sitting in my drafts, haunting me like an unbusted ghost. It’s a fun movie. It’s a clever script with a great splash of dry humor. For a relaxed viewing with the knowledge that you’re diving into a classic, Ghostbusters hits the mark without much complaint.
The film follows Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) along with his cohorts Egon (Harold Ramis), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), and eventually Winston (Ernie Hudson) as they start a “ghost-busting” business to hunt and contain supernatural forces that have been plaguing New York City. In particular, they must face Gozer, a shape-shifting god of destruction and his hellhounds Zuul and Vinz Clortho. Along the way, there are many quotable gags as the somewhat bumbling team of heroes gains fame as the city’s only hope.
I think a big success of Ghostbusters is that it doesn’t get carried away with its impressive special effects. A sharp script should always come first in an action-comedy such as this, and most failed imitators seem to draw too heavily from the big-budget wow factor of Ghostbusters than they do from building memorable characters. Bill Murray’s cynicism makes him the perfect frontman for the group. The driest of comedic actors getting slimed and looking ridiculous is a key part of the movie’s offbeat appeal. The film is quotable and never takes itself too seriously, never feeling constrained by its fun special effects. They serve as secondary to the well-maintained tone of the movie.
I can’t say I care enough about Ghostbusters to have a stake in the fandom debates of recent years. There was a remake, and like the original, it was okay. I’d say I prefer the original to the new one, which I thought had some fun moments in the first half but had a boring final battle scene. The original Ghostbusters feels like a tighter story with everything placed where it needs to be. While the remake copies a lot of plot beats, I think it lacks the dry humor that always works better for me. That said, I’m not in love with either.
The best thing about the franchise is probably its eccentricities. The firehouse as the Ghostbusters headquarters, for example, is something strange and memorable you wouldn’t find in a more standard action-comedy. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is another oddity that would be something of a gamble today; yet it solidified the Ghostbusters brand and conjures memories in your mind. Even the dialogue, which has such a dry tone and is often hard to pin down, remains a memorable risk taken by the movie.
Ghostbusters is a classic with widespread appeal. It’s a sharp story with enough memorable weirdness that is has planted itself nicely in our culture. You don’t need me to tell you that it’s Ghostbusters. It’s fun. It’s harmless, and you can’t go wrong with it.
Films Left to Watch: 830