Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton and Sigourney Weaver
Plot: Suspecting that ghosts do exist, three disgraced scientists set up their own business tracking down and catching paranormal pests. That business: the Ghostbusters!
Why is the Ghostbusters such a popular franchise? With a reboot just released on DVD, several cartoon series and enough merchandise to fill a Ghost Trap, it is an extensive collection of viewing material. As bigoted as some of the arguments were about the all-female cast of the reboot, it just goes to show how close to everyone’s hearts, the Ghostbusters is. Even more incredibly so, sequels, remakes and cartoon spin-offs aside, it could be strongly argued that the craze started right from the beginning. With just one movie, the world went Ghostbusters mad.
Cynics would question why. The movie is a shameless blockbuster. With a story often with a finger pressed on the fast-forward button, the original 1984 feature blasts through explosive set-piece after explosive set-piece, dodging the main exposition questions with evasive charisma. No one questions how these four heroes can create unprecedented ghost-catching machinery in a world that has barely started research on the paranormal. Even more surprising, the leads spend a lot of the film in the dark on what ghosts actually are, suggesting that they are more ‘have-a-go’ heroes rather than brilliant scientists (the opening of the film is dedicated to proving how useless they are). Reitman’s film simply asks us to take on board the necessary details: these are our main characters, the world is suffering a growing ghost problem, now shut up, buckle up and enjoy! The benefit of having a story that doesn’t slow down to fill in the background details is that it is too fast to not enjoy. The film understands its strong points and puts them front and centre. A fun chase with one of the more popular Ghostbuster spectres in a hotel. An explosive showdown to send off the film. Even in between the bigger action sequences, the movie aims for big and fun. It throws in fun side-points like William Atherton’s slimy government official and Dr. Vankman’s outrageous flirting techniques. There is not one duff scene in the film, every moment a glorious 80s example of how blockbusters should be. Big, fun and unashamed to deliver entertainment. Its understanding of humour in a movie is paramount. Sometimes, we might say that the casual joking hurts some of the bigger moments of the film. If you don’t understand the kind of movie you are sitting down to see, you might suggest that some of the tense showdowns are undermined by the wise-cracking of the leads. As New York hits the biblical apocalypse and Bill Murray is dryly quipping in a way only Bill Murray could, you could end up frustrated at how we aren’t ever feeling that sense of impending doom. The words ‘end of the world’ and ‘hell’ are buzz words, rather than plot points. But instead we get something far more impressive: comical consistency. Throughout the entire film, Reitman keeps his sense of humour in check. All the gags are natural extensions of the characters and never too gross-out. In making dry sarcasm and fun tongue-in-cheek the front-line of the movie, rather than bigger slapstick spectacles, Ghostbusters becomes both fun and intelligent. I am far more captivated by Bill Murray’s subtle toying with a demon possessing his date for the evening, than I would be with the more obvious ‘case of mistaken identity’ line of humour.
But the real reason Ghostbusters is up there with some of the finest in 80s cinema is how real the heroes are. You can never escape the sense that both the characters and actors Murray, Aykyord, Ramis and Hudson (Ernie Hudson is frustratingly under-used to point out one flaw in the movie), are four friends having the time of their lives. They are unwitting lads, trying to both do some good and have some fun. They are the kind of people you can imagine yourself being. Today’s blockbusters much rather have superheroes as their leads, inaccessible god-like beings who easily save the day. I am not even talking about Captain America and Batman; even our human heroes like Jason Bourne and Sherlock Holmes, possess almighty power that rise them above the everyday bloke category. Ghostbusters is all about giving us heroes that we can emphasise with. They are both empty enough so we can envision ourselves as them, but three-dimensional enough not to be shallow souls drifting through a screenplay. Right from the moment, they step on screen, we have a solid idea of who everyone is and what their strengths are. Murray is introduced making dry quips, being slightly cruel for no better reason than amusing himself and having a weakness for the ladies. Aykyord is an excitable fellow who is intelligent, but has little common sense, jumping into every situation in the film without falling back on the smarts that got him this far in the first place. Ramis is the engineer of the group, straight-faced even when he terrified. With a movie that moves as quickly as this one does, it is important that we can gel the ensemble together in as few steps as possible. When the Ghostbusters are formed in a few brisk steps and the movie can truly begin, then we hit the heights of entertainment. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a blockbuster movie.
Also, it has Bill Murray in it, so it automatically gets five stars.
Final Verdict: Riding on charisma and entertainment, Ghostbusters knows what it wants to and achieves it easily. You call it big and dumb; I call it smarter than most modern movies by a country mile.