At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Ghostbusters “84”

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Supernatural Comedy/ Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton, David Margulies, Michael Ensign, Ruth Hale Oliver, Alice Drummond, Jennifer Runyon, Steven Tash, Kymberly Herrin, Timothy Carhart, Reginald Vel Johnson, Roger Grimsby, Larry King, Joe Franklin, Ron Jeremy, Debbie Gibson; Voices of: Paddi Edwards, Ivan Reitman, Casey Kasem/ Runtime: 105 minutes

Distinct for not only being gifted to the world at the summit of what is seen by many as one of the last truly divine eras for the world of comedy whilst also proving to be a top-flight showcase for some of the funniest comedians at that time or even now for that matter, I think it is safe to say that 1984’s seminal and iconic slice of cinematic pie Ghostbusters is one that manages to give us as movie goers a delightfully over-the-top and completely intriguing cinematic viewing experience that despite over 3 decades having come and gone, still manages to be one of the finest that the Comedy genre has ever seen fit to give us as lovers of cinema. Indeed constructing the comedy and then inserting it in the context of an overflowing with phenomenal special effects supernatural smorgasbord, Ghostbusters is a slice of cinematic pie that manages to acquire its delightfully hilarious comedic moments through a distinct and novel blend of both dialogue and visual comedic beats that help to nullify the perilous nature of a narrative that deals with prophecy of a biblical nature (though not ones made in 1995 thank God) and other miscellaneous Armageddon festivities. Thus when mixed together with downright oddball narrative elements that work beautifully with the heart and (dare I say) spirit of this slice of cinematic pie and intriguing blend of hilarious one-liners, top-notch physical comedy beats, and a group of performances that are truly nothing short of iconic, I can honestly say it is not surprising that, since its release in 1984, movie lovers the world over have decided to call on this slice of cinematic pie for some hilarious yet also riveting entertainment when they needed it the most.

The plot is as follows: Ghostbusters starts its intriguing yet delightfully kooky and slightly spooky saga as we witness that a trinity of off-kilter researchers at a university in New York City by the names of Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, and Dr. Egon Spengler respectively are on the cusp of making a huge revelatory breakthrough in their quite unique field of paranormal research. There’s just one teeny tiny little problem: they are desperate need of more money in order to give their studies the legitimacy and the validity that they so desperately need in order to be accepted by the scientific and university communities at large. Unfortunately, we soon witness that our intrepid trio is shortly thereafter and with no post haste let go from the university they are faculty at for, among other noteworthy items, their kookiness and for no more and no less than being looked at as studying something that no real scientist would even remotely begin to look at with even a degree of seriousness towards. Not one to really see defeat as a say all-end all however, we soon see Venkman manage to persuade the other two to put their research together into the formation of a group known as (what else?) the Ghostbusters. A group that incidentally operates as a squad of top-of-the-line-eliminators of the supernatural who aspire to hook into a open market, make themselves a pile of cash, and eliminate the city’s unneeded paranormal visitors. Yet despite being outfitted with a fancy work car, a remodeled firehouse for an office/living quarters, a tough-as-nails yet shrewd secretary, and state of the art ghost-catching tech, our intrepid group doesn’t really get that much business. That is at least until a resident of the Big Apple by the name of Miss Dana Barrett who, one routine day, opens her fridge and finds there’s not just eggs and 2% milk in there, but also a portal to another dimension (huh wonder if THAT is covered in the warranty agreement). We soon, along with our intrepid squad, discover that her apartment complex is a main hub for otherworldly occurrences with the main entity wishing to be unleashed on poor New Yorkers who live there is one known as Zuul, an old as dirt entity with an 80s hairdo (think Xanadu if she was a homicidal supernatural presence and wanted to kill everyone). Thus with the amount of supernatural shenanigans going down at a growing rate, we soon see the team bring on another guy by the name of Winston Zeddmore, in order to have even a ghost of a chance at ensuring that New York City is void of otherworldly forces that would love nothing more than to immerse the Big Apple in the worst kind of paranormal mayhem possible….

Now right off the bat I am going to say that the comedy in this film manages to work on the level that it does not because it is prevalent or pushed in your face, but because of how subtle and low-key a lot of the comedy in this turns out to be. Indeed the majority of the jokes manage to emerge from the context of whatever is going on in the film at that time, and as a result this slice of cinematic pie is able to utilize a quite rapid set of jokes to help regale us with the story whilst also propelling the narrative forward. A lot of them also don’t come from what is said, but also through how low-key and subtle the performances that some of our cast manage to give in this. Indeed the quartet of gifted comedic thespians in that are Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Moranis have always managed to conjure up comedy through something as simple as a wry little smile though it is their delivery of the written humor which does help to solidify the film as a whole. It is also worth noting that another key reason that this film works as phenomenally well as it does is because not only does it basks rather than balks at just how darn absurd this whole premise is, but it also lovingly and with no hesitation embraces the ever increasingly odd and kooky set of events that occur in this movie. I mean it is only through genuine comedic brilliance that a movie could pull off with ease an ancient, reincarnated David Bowie-looking demigod with a homicidal bent and a Godzilla-level tall creature….that also happens to be a marshmallow man as this film’s chief antagonists. To that end, this is one slice of cinematic pie that yes it does shine due to its particular style of comedy, but it also is aided immensely by the dynamite chemistry between the cast in that effort as well.

Now not willing to play second fiddle to this film’s humor, it should be noted that a terrific job in terms of the technical ingredients manages to finish the job and make this from a very enjoyable movie into one that is nothing short of iconic. Indeed when taking into account what occurs in the narrative, composer Elmer Bernstein’s musical accompaniment manages to operate with a low-key yet effective style to it as it manages to ensnare the overall vibe of the movie in that it is very whimsical and lighthearted, but at the same time also throws us every so often the distinct moody and ominous note to showcase this slice of cinematic pie’s less prevalent, but still there horror ingredients. It should also be noted that, due to being quite immersive with special effects, this film manages to give us quite a few in the way of both tech and spirits for our spook squad, some which are downright phenomenal and the others…..ehh not so much. Yet even though they were quite good for when the film was released and also contribute a distinct charm to watching this movie, a lot of the more “antique” effects work also does a great job at magnifying how delightfully absurd this film tends to get. A fine example of this is the orange energy that comes out of the proton packs the squad wears which nowadays look like what you would see in a cartoon, but still holds up fairly well today due to both how colorful and basic it is. Also the numerous supernatural entities at play in this be it the older library ghost or that infamous fluffy green ghoul Slimer manage to still look amazing, but at the same time there are a few moments dealing with the demon dogs as they hunt prey which don’t look the best in the world anymore. Be that as it may be though, this slice of cinematic pie’s delightful assembly of effects tend to please as much as film helmer Ivan Reitman’s confident, and well-done helmsmanship which allows everything in front of the camera to sell the viewer more than any directorial tricks that he could attempt to pull off.

All in all thanks in large part to the fact that it is both brilliantly scribed and performed to absolute comedic perfection and then some, Ghostbusters has managed to stay in the heart and mind of many a casual movie goer and a film reviewer such as myself as a perennial and truly iconic slice of cinematic pie that is part of that distinct genre of movie magic known as the Comedy genre. Indeed by being able to sublimely mix together both some overtones that are rife with peril and risk of harm; not just to our quartet of heroes, but also all of New York City as well with a significantly high degree of whimsical comedic fun, this slice of cinematic pie manages to ensnare its quirky and oddball in equal measure material that it is working with and mold it into a riveting and at the same time hilarious supernatural romp that showcases the truly gifted comedic actors/writers that are Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis all operating at the utmost peaks of their respective talents. Thus when you combine these class acts along with just as wonderful support work from such iconic thespians as Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and William Atherton to say nothing of an iconic theme song courtesy of Ray Parker Jr. and absolutely phenomenal special-effects work as well as top-flight directorial work from gifted film helmer Ivan Reitman, what you are left with is a genuine piece of movie magic. Indeed it may have been over close to 4 decades since it first entered our world courtesy of movie theaters, but Ghostbusters has still, quite remarkably, shown no signs of aging whatsoever and as such the film manages to be just as novel and hilarious now as it was then and I feel it always will be because….I ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but boy does busting make me feel good now and always. On a scale of 1-5 I give Ghostbusters “84” a solid 4.5 out of 5.