a critiQal film review Ghostbusters (1984)

Plot: Fired from their university research jobs, Drs. Venkman (Murray), Stantz (Aykroyd), and Spengler (Ramis) promptly set up shop as parapsychologists specializing in psychic phenomena and soon they're ridding Manhattan of bizarre apparitions. But the talents of these spirit exterminators--Ghostbusters--are severely tested when beautiful Dana Barrett (Weaver) and her nerdy neighbor (Moranis) become possessed by demons living in their building.

530 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 39s)

Looking for another 80’s flick that I hadn’t reviewed yet, I was scanning through NetFlix® instant films. I came across Ghostbusters II (1989), but not the original. With a Ghostbusters III rumored to be in the works, I figured I’d better start from the beginning. So, I delved into my DVD collection for Ghostbusters.

Would this classic 80’s comedy still be worthy of laughs? Or had time (and better special effects) reduced this one-time comedy gem to rubble?

Back in the 80’s, Bill Murray was the funnyman go-to guy. He starred in such classics as Stripes and Scrooged (1988). He shows why audiences loved him with his performance in Ghostbusters. Both personable and slimy, his character Peter Venkman leads this trio through crazy adventures with a quirk of a smile that had audiences grinning at the expected upcoming shenanigans.

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis fill out the trio, both managing to make the characters their own despite little to no back story. Sigourney Weaver, who would spend most of the 80’s kicking alien butt, was an odd choice to play the helpless damsel in distress. She did a good job with the bizarre role though. Nerdy Rick Moranis (who normally gets irritating quickly) shines as an equally-possessed next door neighbor. William Atherton (Die Hard (1988)) plays his normal smarmy self with ease. Annie Potts (Designing Women (TV)) is memorable as the under-paid secretary. Also look out for a quick appearance from another Die Hard (1988) alum, Reginald VelJohnson.

Ernie Hudson seems to be the odd man out of the quartet of ghost-hunting paranormalists, and seems largely forgotten amongst the much more personable characters played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. He seems to be the token black character of the film, and is tossed in more as an afterthought than as a major player.

The plot itself seems bizarre and out there at first. But, comedy director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Twins) is able to reign in the weird to give viewers some solid laughs – even while dealing with the spooky subject of ghosts and ghoulies. Even the ending, with the now infamous Stay-Puft Marshallow Man sequence, is refreshingly funny, even today. That’s despite the dire circumstances and the whole fate-of-the-world-hanging-in-the-balance thing.

The special effects have suffered a bit. This is most notable when it comes to the animated dogs, and viewers may wish for a bit of a touch-up to those sequences. Surprisingly, most of the effects still work quite well. They do seem a bit fuzzier and out of focus than viewers may be used to these days – a shock considering how special effects-intensive the film can be at times.

If you’re looking for a quirky comedy guaranteed to make you laugh, you can’t go wrong with Ghostbusters. It’s ull of comedy that manages to add to the film rather than take it over completely (a trick today’s films need to re-learn). The film – especially the main trio of Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis – are sure to keep you entertained through multiple viewings of this classic 80’s gem.

Who ya gonna call for some kooky paranormal fun? Yup, it’s still Ghostbusters – even after all these years.

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