“Ghostbusters” grossed $295 million during its theatrical run. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” is one of those movies that many people think of when asked to provide an example of a classic ‘80s comedy, alongside “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Airplane!” and “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” “Ferris,” “Airplane!” and “Vacation” are great; each movie melds fascinating characters with a simple yet hilarious plot and one-liners that have stood the test of time. “Ghostbusters” has exactly none of the above traits.
To be fair, the theme song is fantastic and the special effects hold up surprisingly well almost 40 years later. This does not mean that “Ghostbusters” is complete irredeemable garbage, though. It offers elite Hollywood star power, an intriguing plot concept and a couple of good laughs. Yet outside of those few funny moments, much of the film is lost in the goo of the ridiculously fast pacing and flat characters.
The plot is solid and was both original for its time and today: three down-on-their-luck university professors join forces to save New York City from a ghost infestation after getting banned from their university and told to figure it out.
What follows is these Ghostbusters, as they have christened themselves, rise through the rank of social stardom at a rate even the Kardashians would be jealous of. Despite flying with little to no knowledge about how their high-tech equipment even works, the Ghostbusters handily solve each case and earn the affection of the world.
Perhaps it is ridiculous to nitpick the feasibility of a sci-fi comedy, but it seems as though the Ghostbusters are never given a real challenge to go up against. Not even the most powerful ghouls are much of a problem for them. The subplot with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is almost laughable with how useless it is.
How can the Ghostbusters be scrappy underdogs fighting against The Man when they capture ghosts with ease and the government agents are not even a big threat to their operation? Sure, the EPA powers down the station, but that choice hardly has bad consequences for the Ghostbusters. In fact, that move brings them closer to solving the rat king of their ghost problems: Zuul.
By the time that we reach the part of the film with the big bad Zuul, “Ghostbusters” has done so much preening and dillydallying that not even Zuul seems to be a big threat. There is not any doubt that the Ghostbusters will defeat her – they have never failed!
Another troubling aspect of the film is its lack of nuance in its main trio. Again, it is useless to nitpick a comedy, but it seems as though the characters are just sloppy stand-ins for the lead actors. The three of them are shallow: Bill Murray plays the sleazy smooth-talker, Dan Aykroyd the excitable true believer and Harold Ramis the socially awkward geek.
Murray’s character is really the only one to shine in “Ghostbusters.” He strikes out but comes right back for more with a smirk on his face. However, this is at the expense of the two other members of the trio, who barely express any emotion or character traits outside of the stereotypes given to them.
“Ghostbusters” seems like a movie written around Murray. The audience spends much of its time with him, sympathizing with him despite his seeming disdain for being around his fellow Ghostbusters. It begs the question that if Aykroyd and Ramis’s characters truly believe in the work that they are doing, what brings Murray’s character there? What draws him close to Bustin’ Ghosts?
The end of the film offers no conclusions other than the Ghostbusters uh… won. Murray’s character gets together with Sigourney Weaver’s character rather suddenly, after she has spurned him for much of the film. The end of “Ghostbusters” rings hollow; there was never a huge stake in their battle with Zuul and it took them an hour and a half to get them to the part that actually mattered anyway.
Neil Ciceriega’s “Bustin,” a remix made from the original “Ghostbusters” theme, is a better sci-fi spectacle.
“Ghostbusters” is a special film. It has laughs (albeit less than expected), originality and perfect special effects. But its status as an enduring classic makes one wonder if it is considered as such because it is genuinely a great comedy or because it was made in the ‘80s.
Final Grade: C
Link to Owen Johnson’s versus column: http://umlconnector.com/2019/02/underrated-class…-the-recognition/