TBT – Ghostbusters (1984)

Bill Murray, comedy, Dan Aykroyd, ghostbusters, ghosts, Sigourney Weaver, TBT

Despite my excitement about the upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters, it did make me super nostalgic and all I wanted to do was watch the original. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve watched that film and I’m always outraged when I find out someone hasn’t watched it. I mean, in this day and age, who hasn’t seen Ghostbusters? I lived with a guy at university who hadn’t seen anything. I could accept that he hadn’t watched Gremlins or The Breakfast Club or something like that. But Ghostbusters? I mean what kind of awful childhood did that guy have that he never got the chance to watch it? I’ve since lost touch with him (not based on this revelation but it didn’t help his case) but will always remember him as the guy who never watched Ghostbusters. I assume he still hasn’t watched it and I feel bad for the guy. He’s missed out on so much.

It’s been over 30 years since Ghostbusters was released and it still feels as fresh as it ever was. Originally written  by Dan Aykroyd for him and John Belushi, it has become such a beloved classic that the announcement that it was being rebooted caused uproar. It’s one of my favourite films. Every time I hear the theme song I can’t help but get taken back to that first time I saw it. The joy, the fear, and the utter hilarity. I admit it’s not exactly the most intelligent or perfectly crafted film. However, if I had to pick one film that was close to perfection then this would definitely be a contender.

The story revolves around three scientists who were booted out of their cushy university offices and have their funding cut off. In order to make money they start their own business hunting ghosts for a nominal price. After a brief montage of their success, we see that the Ghostbusters experience a euphoric rise in popularity. Except with the city officials. Their big case comes in the form of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) whose fridge is transformed into a magical portal. Unfortunately, it marks the start of an impending apocalypse. And when the world is ending, who you gonna call?
Ghostbusters works on so many levels. With a sharp script and an outstanding performance by Bill Murray. There are countless quotable lines, memorable action pieces, and some great chemistry between Murray and Sigourney Weaver. The special effects, in 1980s terms, are remarkable and add to the story rather than take away from the comedy. It’s a fun romp that works all the more because Dan Aykroyd believes what he’s selling. In others words, the ghosts are not just silly sources of comedy but presented as a real possibility.
In fact, there is so much right with Ghostbusters that’s it hard to find something negative to say. However, there are some things that could have been done better. The story is really by-the-bye and is little more than a brief anecdote bloated by quotable lines and special effects monsters. Every time I rewatch the film I am shocked by how short it is. I always imagined that it was drawn out for longer but there is very little substance to the narrative. We have the Dana plot, a few interludes with other ghosts and a brief stop off at City Hall. I’m not saying the story isn’t good; it’s just not substantial.
In terms of cast, the group chemistry isn’t all it could be and that basically comes down to the dominance of one star over the others. Writers Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd seem sort of happy to let Murray take the spotlight here but it’s hard not to detect a certain amount of resentment filtering though. Thanks to the studio’s changes, Murray takes this film to even greater heights because of his undeniable star quality and commitment to the character. However, Ramis and Aykroyd are left with very little to do and are completely overshadowed.
Ernie Hudson is relegated to the role of sassy black co-star and has very little to do but quote bible scripture and play the streetwise New Yorker. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get anything to do and leaves very little impression on the narrative. It’s not Hudson’s fault and he is a talented actor but Winston just doesn’t get any good moments. We now know that Hudson’s character was changed massively to allow Murray the role of top dog, which makes the reality even more frustrating.
There is no doubt that Ghostbusters is Murray’s film rather than the equal partnership it should have been. His performance is the most memorable thing in it but it also sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s probably just me but I get more uncomfortable with his dominating role every time I see it. No matter how much I love this film (and I fucking do love it) I just wish it could have been more of an equal partnership. Although it’s a bit of a Catch 22 when you think about it. Murray completely takes over the film but without his dominating improvisational style this film probably wouldn’t have been the success it is to this day.

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