Ghostbusters at the Bookshelf - Review

Friday, February 1, 2013


Written by Chris Carr

The inaugural meeting of the Bookshelf’s Movie Club screened Ghostbusters January 31. They will be holding a monthly movie as picked by the members of the club by ballot. Many thanks to Peter Henderson, Danny Williamson and Scott Richardson for putting this together. As a cult-movie buff and interested screener, I feel it’s my duty to review the movie in question, fairly and unbiased, as if I’d never seen it before. Here is that review—Ed. Note.


I was once told that every good movie came out in the eighties. Excellence in film came in the form of Casio-keyboard soundtracks, pan and scan technologies and just enough smoking to cancer a horse.

If it pleases the court, I put forward the exhibits, Escape from New York, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and the good years of John Hughes as a terse example of evidence supporting such a claim. In the ‘80s of film, men were men, who’d shoot before questions and women found a new brand of sexuality, á la Molly Ringwald, Frances “Baby” Houseman and Jessica Rabbit.

The Ghostbusters is a story of a fledgling paranormal policing company in the troubling, para-dimensional times of the early 1980s New York. While most citizens concern themselves with Reagan v. Mondale, our love interest in the film, Dana Barrett (played by Sigourney Weaver), is forced to deal with a spectral being named Zuul, who has inhabited her refrigerator.

Enter Dr. Peter Venkman and friends. And with them comes my first comment of the film. This movie is very much the Bill Murray show. His antics and ground-beef face fill up a great proportion of the film adding levity and a sense that we should not be taking the film too seriously. He plays the role of Venkman with a calm authority that says, “We should get stoned first. Then go ghost busting.” However, as lasting as his stain is on the film, I still feel like their could have been more Murray in the film. To explain, and kudos of Dan Aykroyd for just letting Murray be Murray in the film, I feel that every movie ever made doesn’t have enough Bill Murray in it. That is, really, the only thing Life of Pi was missing.

The best performance (not including Murray, obviously) is new Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore, played by the quintessential Ernie Hudson. An every-man, just looking for a paycheck, Zeddmore signifies the common observer. He’s the guy the audience looks to put themselves into the scenario. He asks the questions we all had, that would be necessarily obvious to the great minds of the three intellectuals who started Ghostbusters. He showcases this by giving the sage advise to Aykroyd, “Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say ‘YES’!” Advise that could only be given by the wise working-class, that we should adhere to. 

In the film we meet the worst ‘80s enemy of them all, the Man in the Suit. In Ghostbusters, he arrives in the version of a man named Walter Peck. He’s a bureaucrat, hoping to grinch his way into the successes of the Ghostbusters, under the guise of an environmental official. He turns off the containment unit, releasing the spirits the Ghostbusters had captured throughout a five minute montage, earlier in the film. For reasons unexplained, this gives the aforementioned fridge-ghost the ability to rip the roofs off buildings.

And there stands Gozer (Originally wrote David Bowie--Ed.), Zuul’s master atop a building specifically created to amplify paranormal activity. Gozer is then the final boss battle Venkman and his group of merry men have to vanquish. But not before Gozer turns into the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. So we got Zuul, to Gozer, to Stay Puft, still with me? The only way to defeat this monument of confectionary chaos is by gingerly touching the tips of their proton packs, thus crossing the streams. Watch this movie again, it looks like four boys using the same urinal, really, go look.

What amazed me was how well this movie has aged. Sure it’s nice to see Rick Moranis at his best again and the jokes are just as poignant to still be funny, devoid of nostalgia. What I did notice though, was the attention to background humor in the film. At several points in the film, the hilarity stems from the background, sub-funny reactions and idiosyncrasies of the players in the movie. Consider the scene when the news anchor is talking about the new found popularity of the Ghostbusters. The scene in itself is not funny and is fairly mundane. However, enter the bearded man in the background, fixing his beard in the reflection of the camera. I giggled like a Japanese fan-girl that entire scene because of this guy. The film implements this affect a lot, something lost when I saw it as a child.

In summation, great film. It’s not just a great ‘80s movie, it’s a classic because its good, not because its old. Once again, it’s worth the watch over and over. There is a certain comfort the Ghostbusters give the watcher. It’s as if Murray’s character was written to cradle the audience in a blanket of apathetic rhetoric and obligated duty. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, having written the script for the film, created a character in Venkman the lets the audience be comfortable at laughing as the devastation also in the film. Ghostbusters is a disaster movie, but it doesn’t feel like one because of this great character development and unorthodox scripting of the film. Really, the end just kind of decides to happen, without build, but because we have all decided to go on this journey, under the watchful eye of Venkman and Co., it doesn’t matter. It’s just a great movie.

But you knew that. 

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