Wednesday, August 13, 2014
GHOSTBUSTERS (Ivan Reitman, 1984)
When the university’s Board of Regents shut down their paranormal studies lab in GHOSTBUSTERS, Drs. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) direct their energies into a commercial enterprise. No one in New York City except for these newly unemployed academics can capture supernatural pests and remove them from the premises. They set up shop in a former fire station and wait for the calls to come pouring in.
With supernatural activity increasing across the Eastern Seaboard, the Ghostbusters have gone into business at the ideal time. Some of their clients are merely dealing with spirits making nuisances of themselves. Unusual phenomena, like eggs flying out of the carton and frying on the countertop, spook Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), but finding an ancient god of destruction’s portal to another dimension in her refrigerator indicates she better call in the professionals right away to examine her Central Park West apartment.
Although GHOSTBUSTERS requires a team effort to thwart the bad forces attacking the city, it’s really Murray’s film despite being written by Aykroyd and Ramis. His performance drips with insincerity, and much of the film’s humor flows from how unserious he is about the apparition invasion. Murray gives the sense that Venkman is in this parapsychology racket because it gets him close to highly suggestible women. His flippant attitude cancels whatever threats the ghosts, demons, or government officials might raise.
Each of the other Ghostbusters fails to be developed beyond his defining quality. Aykroyd is the fast-talking enthusiast. Ramis fills the role of the bookish Ghostbuster who designs their tools of the trade. Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore brings a religious perspective to the happenings, although with as little as Ray and Egon are showcased, it’s curious that GHOSTBUSTERS needed to add another paranormal investigator to take on the workload.
GHOSTBUSTERS provides a few jolts to confirm that the heroes are facing credible antagonists, but even those moments reside within the playful tone director Ivan Reitman maintains. The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man epitomizes the mixture of comedic scares the film strives to achieve. GHOSTBUSTERS’ most enduring image is an absurd comic variation on Godzilla and King Kong. The damage he wreaks is real, yet this cuddly manifestation of evil looks too silly to be anything but funny. The greatest weapon in GHOSTBUSTERS is the ability to shrug off all sorts of supernatural terrors with a few well-placed jokes.