From the classic original to the classic 2021 sequel, there’s some good stuff and bad in between.
Film – Year Ghostbusters – 1984
Director Ivan Reitman
Screenplay Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton
Soundtrack This is one of the better soundtracks of the 80’s for its mixture of relevant songs and feature of artists in the Arista label. This is one of the first 10 albums I ever got (on cassette) and I played the hell out of it. Most people know it for the highly played and publicised title track, which lost a lawsuit to Huey Lewis for plagurising his I Want A New Drug. One of the better moments of the film is highlighted by The Bus Boys’ Cleanin’ Up The Town, which begins the memorable montage in the middle of the second act. The woefully underrated Magic, by Mick Smiley decidedly marks the beginning of hell literally busting loose on New York in an elegant way. If you ever have the chance to hear the whole song, you should. In The Name of Love by Thompson Twins is one of their best songs and should have been a hit. The soundtrack is tied together with two Elmer Bernstein tracks (Main Title Theme and Dana’s Theme) that feel like syrup over pancakes in the best way.
Review The amazing thing about this film that launched 1000 ideas but only 3 other films so far is that it mixed two genres (comedy and sci-fi) so cohesively one can’t find the seams. Taking Akroyd’s original script and bringing it literally into the modern era and dimension, Ramis and Reitman found Bill Murray at the pinnacle of his powers and they rode his act to glory. In truth, Ghostbusters is the top of the line for Reitman and Akroyd, too. Ramis’ true genius behind the screen had yet to blossom, but he was never more memorable in front of the camera. The story is one of discovery, genius and spookiness, but none of which is taken seriously to the point of boredom. The supporting cast are all given smart roles. Even though his original script was cut down, Hudson is likely the wisest presence on the screen outside of Weaver’s smart, vulnerable Dana. Annie Potts’ Janine is delightfully New York while Moranis plays a great example of the kind of fragility that can thrive in the Big Apple. Reitman is not overwhelmed by what were great effects for the time, and this means the film has aged nicely. The balance of comedy and mysticism is delightful with nothing close to saccharine. (***** out of *****)
Film – Year Ghostbusters II – 1989
Director Ivan Reitman
Screenplay Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Peter McNichol
Soundtrack There is little here to recommend outside of Bobby Brown’s delightfully original On Our Own, which manages to give the film energy that is lacking elsewhere. The rework of the original tune by Run D.M.C. goes nowhere and most of the rest of the songs don’t add much to the atmosphere. The biggest moments of the film are anchored by the redo of the old Jackie Wilson classic Higher and Higher (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) covered here (as he was in La Bamba) by Howard Huntsberry.
Review It’s a movie I defended for years just because I loved the principal players so much. In truth, it’s always been not so much a disappointment, but just one that didn’t have inspiration that it so deperately tried to push onto the screen. There are some great bits of comedy. Indeed, some of Ramis best moments are in Ghostbusters II, in particular when he has his assistant see what happens when they take the puppy away. Murray has some great lines here, but he’s nowhere near inspired as he was in the first film. Akroyd smelled the paycheck and he really gets into this stuff. His “I love you man” still works at the end of the film. He’s never been funny since. Putting Louis Tully together with Jenine Melnitz is merely to give each more scenes and it lacks the chemistry of the pairing of Melnitz with Egon. Hudson’s Winston is still the fourth wheel, but it’s clear that the writers love the actor as well as a character. While the effects in many ways are better (The Scolari Brothers) the overreliance on slime as metaphor and the use of the Statue of Liberty feels kind of dumb at this point. (***1/2 out of *****)
Film – Year Ghostbusters: Answer The Call – 2016
Director Paul Feig
Screenplay Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Charles Dance, Michael K. Williams, Chris Hemsworth
Soundtrack There are 5 versions of the Ray Parker, Jr. song, if that tells you anything about the direction of this project. Nothing from this group stands out, aside from Rhythm of the Night from the 80’s DeBarge. Updating the same sound with contemporary artists would not work,even if the film was decent.
Review It’s not a film that anyone wanted, made in a way no asked for by no one. (*** out of *****)
Film – Year Ghostbusters: Afterlife – 2021
Director Jason Reitman
Screenplay Gil Keenan, Jason Reitman
Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim, Bokeem Woodbine, Tracy Letts, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, J.K. Simmons
Soundtrack Very good score by Rob Simonsen that echoes the best parts of Elmer Bernstein’s original. There are many good songs that help to move along the plot, including The Clapping Song by Shirley Ellis and Baby It’s You by The Shirelles. The best song Haunted House rolls eloquently over the end credits. It’s not clear that the song was actually made for the film, but damn it fits the tone of the last act.
Review This is the film we didn’t know we needed.