Just in time for the remake to hit the screen, I have a confession to make…I can take or leave the original GHOSTBUSTERS. I can understand people liking it – the characters are good, it’s pretty funny – but loving it? I’ve just never got what all the fuss is about, and I don’t think I ever will.
In case somehow it’s bypassed you, Ghostbusters follows three colourful academics (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) and a guy who answers an ad in the paper (Ernie Hudson) as they fight to save New York from a paranormal threat.
Murray does his thing and does it well. You can see he had a lot of fun riffing with nary a glance at Aykroyd and Ramis’ script (Ramis steals most other scenes himself). But let’s not kid ourselves – at one point Peter Venkman is accused of being a creep, and he is, he really is. Imagine how it would go down today if a character we are supposed to root for turned out to be a borderline sexual predator, and that this was just meant to be taken as a bit of a laugh? At least Sigourney Weaver puts up a fight and doesn’t easily succumb to his slimy charms.
The film is now 32 years old, and it looks it. The striking special effects combining early CGI, puppets and traditional animation might start to look shonky today, but this isn’t necessarily a negative, in fact it’s part of the film’s charm that they still look so distinctive. I am convinced that the film never looked good on a craft level, though. Ivan Reitman is a good comedy director and he always makes room for his performers to add colour to scenes. He can’t cope with action though. Shots are framed clumsily throughout with the top halves of people’s bodies cut off or too much empty space when scenes move quicker than planned and the actual scenes depicting ghost busting are unimaginative. Also am I the only one bothered by the fact that the Ghostbusters’ final fight isn’t against something dead? They should rebrand as Godbusters. I also don’t like that they are able to break their one “It would be bad” rule without any discernible consequences.
The central premise and gag of following what happens when rational people (scientists) research the irrational (ghosts) is still the most interesting thing about the movie, but this conceit could have always been taken further. Aykroyd is a famous believer in the supernatural and I’m surprised he didn’t explore why the characters believe what they believe before their first encounter with an apparition in the library.
The film does come in at a tight 1hr 45 and there’s no messing around with the story – characters are established, the problem is introduced, the problem is solved. It’s one of those films that I might watch a few minutes of when it’s on just because it’s so undemanding, but seldom will I actively revisit it.
Was this a film that needed a remake? Not really. Am I offended by the existence of a remake? Not in the slightest. Let’s be honest, it’s not LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, it’s not BEN-HUR (that remake is coming soon). It’s Ghostbusters. It was fine in 1984, it’s still fine today and I have a sneaking suspicion that gathering some of the funniest people working today, just like they did three decades ago, will result in something fine again. Probably. It’ll certainly be an experience watching it with my friend who happens to be a Ghostbusters megafan. SSP