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Ghostbusters
Tonight's Feature Presentation

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

Starring: Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis

Written By: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis

Directed By: Ivan Reitman

The Short Version

One of the most fun comedies ever made.

One of the most amazingly quotable movies ever made.

One of the most memorable movies of the 1980s.

One of the most rewatchable movies ever made.

Who ya gonna call?  Ghostbusters!


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEESE PIZZA.

Yummy, yummy stuff you could live on if you had to, and a staple at a good Halloween party.


Pairs Well With...

MILLER HIGH LIFE.

Dr. Venkman says that it’s Miller time, so… it’s Miller time!  (Unless someone brings back Hi-C Ecto Cooler; then try mixing that with some Vodka.)

“GET HER!”


Who ya gonna call?

Even if you didn’t already know what movie I’m reviewing here, the odds are staggeringly high that you’d be able to answer that question correctly and without any conscious thought whatsoever.  By instinct alone, anyone at all schooled in modern day English-speaking popular culture will say, and perhaps even sing: “Ghostbusters!”

There’s a reason for that, folks.

I can remember the first time that I saw Ghostbusters as a kid.  I had never laughed so hard at anything before in my life.  When Dan Aykroyd said “It’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man,” it was the single funniest thing I had ever heard.  By the time I was done laughing, there were tears in my eyes and I’d felt like I’d just finished doing about a thousand sit ups.  (I would so pay to see Godzilla vs. The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, by the way.)  There have been just a few years between then and now (cough), and since then I have seen a few movies that I’ve considered funnier, but there haven’t been many, and no matter how many times I see it, I always know that I can still pop this one in the player and be guaranteed to laugh my ass off (as I did tonight).  It is, without question, one of the most rewatchable movies I’ve ever seen.

Apparently, a lot of people agree with me.  Everywhere I’ve ever worked, or at any social event where people have felt the urge to start quoting movies either as a game or just as part of a conversation, Ghostbusters has always been in the top two on the source list.  For example:

Feel like crap coming in to work?  “I feel like the floor of a taxicab.”

Feeling twitchy, don’t have something handy, or don’t want to acknowledge your presence somewhere?  “There is no ____, only Zuul!”

Someone challenge your qualifications to form an opinion?  “Back off, man.  I’m a ________.”

Something completely out of the norm, or a major change afoot?  “Dogs and cats living together; mass hysteria!”

Gotta deal with the above?  “Why worry?  Each of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.”

Or, perhaps, “I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.”

Passing on the bad news about the above?  “Tell him about the Twinkie.”

I know many a kid who ended up using “Mother pus bucket!” as a substitute for something harsher.  Many an adult, too.

I have even, frighteningly enough, known people who have used whichever end of the “Are you the Keymaster?” / “I am the Gatekeeper” exchange they felt gender or situationally appropriate as a pick up line, with varying degrees of success.

I’m leaving out many of the best ones, of course, but I think you get the idea.  In my experience, there’s only one movie that has ever beat Ghostbusters on the quote meter, and amazingly enough, it is not Star Wars.  Rather, it’s that other perpetual Dan Aykroyd favorite, The Blues Brothers.

You only quote ‘em that often if you love ‘em, folks.

And yet there’s so much more to Ghostbusters than just a snappy script.  Indeed, some of what we naturally think of as the script is actually ad libbing and improvisation, and you don’t get stuff that good without a very talented cast.  The comedic skills of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd are legenday, of course, but it’s not just them.  It’s Harold Ramis.  It’s Ernie Hudson.  It’s Rick Moranis.  It’s everyone right on down the line to William Atherton as the “dickless” EPA jerk everyone loves to hate, “Mr. Pecker.”  What’s more is that all of these people play across many different varieties of comedy, from simple laughers to innuendo (“Keymaster/Gatekeeper;” catch it?) to sharp lines you have to be thinking about to catch to good old physical stuff.  The way in which this entire ensemble and its supporting cast comes together and gels so perfectly is truly a comic wonder to behold. 

But the script and the cast aren’t just about the jokes, either.  Any movie has the potential to be funny to the masses for a while, but to truly endure as Ghostbusters has for twenty-seven years and counting, there needs to be something more behind it.  In this case, the screenplay for Ghostbusters has one of the tightest plots and better-developed stories you’ll see in a movie that’s destined to be played for laughs, and the cast has more than enough dramatic chops to go along with their comedic abilities. 

Bill Murray’s Venkman isn’t just a funny man who wants to get laid; he also plays the vital role of the one guy on the team who is charismatic and decisive enough to take charge as its leader, despite the fact that at first, he doesn’t actually take it seriously.  As time goes on, subtle changes in Murray’s performance show that his character does eventually take his job very seriously, even though he’s still cracking jokes, and that along the way, he actually has fallen for the girl in something more than just a carnal way.  This stuff isn’t spelled out in black and white; it’s all about the skill of the actor bringing it across.

Similarly, Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson keep things close to Earth, which is a spectacular feat in not only this sort of comedic environment, but also within what’s really a horror special effects extravaganza.  Hudson’s the guy “just like us,” and he has the luxury of really being able to sell that quality to the audience (and thus bring them in and make it that much easier to suspend disbelief) because he doesn’t have the dual role of straight man (which instead goes to Harold Ramis).  Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver plays the damsel in distress without the silliness that often comes with the distress, nailing the role of sophisticated 80s woman perfectly without any hint of fashion victimization in the process.  (Trust me; this is a feat in the 80s.)  She also gets to have some fun sexing herself up when her character becomes possessed, and the results are… wow.  It’ll be tough to remember that this was the same woman who single handedly kicked an alien’s ass just five years ago when you see how she moves while she’s wearing that dress.  We call this range, and she has it.  And hey, watching her stand toe-to-toe with Bill Murray in a one-to-one scene where Murray also gets to play for laughs and having her still come out on top of the scene… Again, wow.

But going back to those special effects mentioned a moment ago, Ghostbusters accomplishes a feat that rare enough in any effects-laden blockbuster, and even more so in a comedy: it features spectacular, large-scale visual effects without being driven by them.  “The Ugly Little Spud” (later renamed “Slimer” in cartoons, and here called “Onion Head” in the credits, despite when Venkman calls him aloud) and Mr. Stay-Puft are amazing, but there’s never a question that the human cast is still running the show.  The lights and monsters are pretty, but the fact that we remember most of what the real people are saying shows that at the end of the day, it’s still those people we were paying attention to.  This is how things should be in movies that are filled with visual effects, but it’s not how they usually are.

But then again, as I think we’ve amply demonstrated here, Ghostbusters isn’t really your usual sort of movie, is it?  Already a phenomenon as soon as it hit theatres, Ghostbusters has since become one of the great iconic pieces of modern comedic filmmaking, and one of the most memorable films of any kind to come out of the 1980s.  Even more incredibly, though, it has transcended its own generation in a way that very few films ever do, no matter how popular they are.  Yes, people of all ages enjoy Back to the Future, for example, but if you weren’t there in 1985, it just isn’t the same.  If you didn’t grow up during the time of The Breakfast Club, that classic may not even make any sense, whereas if you were there, that movie is definitive.  Ghostbusters, though, speaks equally well to people who were growing up in 1984 as it does to people who were growing up in 1974 or 1994 or 2004, breaking that extra barrier, like The Blues Brothers, to become an icon not just for one time, but for all time.  And that, my friends, is as special as it gets.

Bottom line, who ya gonna call?  Ghostbusters!

And remember, if someone asks you if you’re a god, you say yes!

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011


More From The Bar! | The Lost Boys | Christine | Lifeforce | Ghostbusters (2016) |



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