Friday, July 15, 2016

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984) directed by Ivan Reitman

This summer has lots of sequels and remakes coming out, so I'm reviewing the earlier works and seeing if they will inspire me to see the new films! 

Three parapsychologists have cushy research positions at a Manhattan university but their investigations into ghosts and other spectral activity get them kicked out. But not just their questionable investigations--Dr. Pete Venkeman (Bill Murray) has a style more like P. T. Barnum than Albert Einstein.  The other two, Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), are the brains in the team. After an encounter with a ghost in the New York Public Library, they realize they could capture these spectral apparitions. They decide to go into business for themselves as the Ghostbusters, a high-tech team who can undo any haunting for the right price. The business takes off, which is good because one client (Sigourney Weaver) is a pawn in a sinister plot by an ancient Babylonian deity (or is it Sumerian?) who wants to return from an alternate dimension and destroy the world.

The movie is a fun blend of comedy, action, and horror, though most of the emphasis is on comedy. I watched this movie dozens of times as a kid. Coming back, it is still hilarious. The actors all give great performances. The movie has some jump scares but overall I wouldn't call it a scary horror movie, the emphasis is more gross-out horror, though even that is played for laughs. Their ghostbusting technology is fun and the special effects hold up quite well after thirty years. I was surprised by the large number of product placements. Plenty of famous and not so famous cameos fill the movie (Larry King, Casey Kasem, Roger Grimsby, etc.) making some extra fun for people old enough and New York enough to recognize them. The movie was a big budget risk at the time but the risk paid off handsomely. In a way, the success of the movie mirrored the success of the characters in the movie. They had a good idea, worked hard on that idea, and became great successes and even heroes. It's the American dream, with plenty of gags thrown in (the way it should be!).

High recommended!

The current remake looks like a high-tech, digital re-skin of the original movie:

I'm sure this remake is a funny and exciting in its own right but I worry about it. The remake of The Italian Job is a serviceable heist movie but looks anemic and colorless compared to the Michael Caine original, which had a lot more style and edge to it. The original Manchurian Candidate is another iconic film with a fairly pedestrian remake. And let's not get into how poorly Star Trek Into Darkness compares to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. These new Ghostbusters have some pretty big shoes to fill. Maybe they can knock it out of the park like the live-action remake of Cinderella. I'm keeping my expectations low just in case.

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