Catching Up: “Ghostbusters (1984)”

When it comes to classic films, time is always the bad guy. What was once visually amazing, interesting as commentary of the time, scary, or funny may longer hold up as it once did. Even if you’re a filmgoer who can go into any older film with an open mind, it doesn’t mean you’ll see it as some spectacular film, especially if it’s considered quite highly or given the title of “one of the best films ever made”. There are some of those out there that don’t exactly do much for me. And if I think this, how many other people think along the same lines?

The Columbia Pictures film “Ghostbusters”, is a dated reminder of what people in the early to mid-‘80s thought was funny, interesting, and worth seeing, but may not be for most any longer.

This comedy film stars Bill Murray (upcoming series “Vice Principals”, “Ghostbusters (2016)”), Dan Aykroyd (“Ghostbusters (2016)”, “Pixels”), Sigourney Weaver (upcoming “A Monster Calls”, “Ghostbusters (2016)”), Harold Ramis (“Year One”, “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”), Rick Moranis (“Bob & Doug McKenzie’s Two-Four Anniversary”, “Brother Bear 2”), Annie Potts (“Ghostbusters (2016)”, “Royal Pains”), William Atherton (“Defiance”, “Jinn”), and Ernie Hudson (upcoming projects “Spaceman”, “A.P.B.”).

The film was directed by Ivan Reitman (“Draft Day”, “No Strings Attached”) and written by Aykroyd (“Blues Brothers 2000”, “Coneheads”) and Ramis (“Year One”, “Analyze That”).

The film originally opened on June 8, 1984. The film would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and two BAFTA Awards; winning one among other nominations and a few wins.

I thought somehow I’d feel better about this. Well, I don’t. I think, in a lot of ways, I’ll always view this film with disappointment written all over it. Like a neon flashing sign. The only upside to this particular movie experience is that I can say I’ve finally seen it. What took me so long? You’re guess is as good as mine. I don’t think I consciously had a reason keeping me from it, but I never took the time to seek it out, which is even stranger seeing as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video used to be things when I was growing up. And now that I’ve seen it, I’m kind of regretting my decision. I could’ve gone another 10 years without seeing this, probably been okay with that. And now, much to my own dismay, I’m going to utter words I never thought I’d utter. I’m actually excited for the remake film “Ghostbusters (2016)”, which officially opened today, and which many people are no doubt seeing and are having various opinions on. If my nephews have any say in it, which is how I got myself to finally seeing this film, I’ll be seeing the remake before the end of the month. This month is turning into a very strange month for films.

What isn’t so strange, is the fact that this film features really shitty CGI and animatronics, which I think they used a tiny bit. Puppetry of some sort was used, or at least it looks like it. While it is a bit off putting, it can’t be helped. I don’t know if this film was some kind of low budget film, but it certainly looks like it. Age isn’t kind to films with special or visual effects. I mean, just look at “Poltergeist (1982). Regardless, for me, I did find a slight upside to these badly aging special effects. They made the film a bit sillier. This is one of the things that always fascinates me about visual effects. Did they always look like this, or is it just time and various technological advances? If they did, I guess I can see why some people liked this film, if not, then I honestly have no idea why anyone responded to this film, even years later. I was at least able to chuckle and go along with this ridiculous film because of the badly aged effects. Not many films can have that effect, so I’ll take it as a win.

As ridiculous as the visual effects made things, and could make me chuckle a little, what couldn’t actually make me chuckle, let alone let out any real laughter, was the comedy. Where was it? Was it there? I couldn’t find it, and even if you’d given me a detailed map on where it lay, I’m sure I’d still miss it. That’s the tragic thing about this film. I expected some kind of comedy film that was just too much like a comedy film, and ultimately it would become annoying and tiresome. Nope, I wasn’t even given the chance. I think I could spot some instances where there was supposed to be a joke or funny moment, but they didn’t evoke a reaction from me. In the entire film, which I’m really wondering how my young nephews find it funny, I laughed once. The simple line of dialogue that did it for me was when Murray said, “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.” And yes, it’s that sad. I’m surprised I didn’t start crying and banging my head against the wall like Dobby the House Elf.

I was expecting there to be really dated jokes or references, something that I could simply attribute to the time, but there was none of that. And maybe, the reason I couldn’t find anything funny or worth much of a chuckle, is because of how conditioned I am to today’s type of comedy. If that’s the case, then it only reaffirms why I hate the majority of comedies that are released. They all go for the lowest common denominator when it comes to jokes.

And, just because it’s the thing I learned recently, I’m going to add it here. The comedy and jokes are the thing that scare me the most about the new film. I’m oddly excited about the ghosts, but the comedy, performed by actors who are largely hit or miss when it comes to comedic bits, even on Saturday Night Live (SNL), worries me. I may be able to enjoy the majority of the film, and find a few laughs along the way, but judging from a few TV spots I’ve seen, the comedy will be a problem. But again, this is typical of most comedies. Why aim for something smart? The audience doesn’t want intelligent comedies, even if they are remakes, so why try and show them what it’s like when you get that type of film?

Not bringing this comedy to life were the not so interesting characters, played by actors I’m still confused as to how anyone thinks they’re funny. Yeah, I had a big problem with these characters. I didn’t like them. Yes, Weaver, Aykroyd, and Ramis were the most stand able of them, even Potts, but they still did nothing for me. They were barely characters. Everything about them was surface deep, and that’s about it. Even knowing tidbits about Murray and Aykroyd’s characters, which really only told me why they were hunting ghosts, was useless. I couldn’t find a way in. Making things worse is the fact that Hudson was brought in halfway through, but had even less detailed about his character. At least Akyroyd and Ramis were consistent in their writing.

Far worse than these superficial details, is the fact that Murray’s and Moranis’ characters were terrible. I get Murray’s skeptic character, but after that, he’s downright unlikable. He’s kind of a creep and really just thinks with his penis. However, that’s not as bad as the fact that Aykroyd and Ramis tried to make Moranis’ character cute or funny, but really all he was was a major creep. Even Weaver’s character tries to tiptoe past his apartment, in the hopes of avoiding him. When I saw that, I was in full agreement. This is not simply a character who has a crush on a beautiful woman. No, I see Moranis’ character as that of a man who would take up stalking this woman and/or kidnapping her. Moranis actually had me hating his character more than Atherton’s, whom I just found to be a nuisance, and only served to allow for the finale to happen.

The only other bright spot I got from this film, besides the silly visual effects, was the score. It was the right amount of whimsical, fun, and exciting! More whimsical and fun, but it proved to be what I needed. I think I had more fun listening to it than I did listening to what the characters were saying. The film became a bit more playful and actually showed me that someone knew what type of film they wanted to make. I honestly can’t tell if Ramis and Aykroyd were even trying to make a comedy film, or if somehow comedy weaved its way in, plus audiences and fans just decided it was a comedy. It really is the little things.

Time plays an interesting role in how films age. Some can’t ever be viewed the way past audiences saw it, while others aren’t really hurt by time. These film’s still exist as they once did. Something can become dated really quickly, but sometimes you have to wonder if it’s not purely the legacy and hype of a given film, that isn’t driving much of what you expect when you finally get to seeing the film. If this is the case, brace yourself. You could be in for a very harsh landing. No matter how much you try and convince yourself otherwise, you may end up never liking a particular older film. Time was most definitely not on your side.


One thought on “Catching Up: “Ghostbusters (1984)”

  1. May I be slimed for this. I think memories of the 84 movie were sweetened by the subsequent aggressive merchandising and TV cartoon series. I do remember rewatching the movie in the 90s, and thinking, this is actually quite silly.


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