That Ghostbusters is a highly valued cultural phenomenon and artifact from the 1980s cannot be overstated.
It was a John Landis production even if it was directed by Ivan Reitman.
It starred a cast of straight middle-aged white males with common middle-aged white male concerns like trying to keep a business afloat while knocking heads with the government or being enticed and flummoxed by a local middle-aged damsel in distress played by the somewhat conventional looking brunette Sigourney Weaver.
It must be noted, her legs aren’t that conventional.
It was a stridently silly and apolitical film.
Don’t think that such things went unnoticed even in the 1980s before the glut of intersectionality — lifted from college language textbooks featuring children in wheelchairs playing football — was slathered across every big-budget movie for the last ten years.
To not touch on politics and to fail to foreground your own political consciousness, even back then, was considered frivolous.
In Ghostbusters there is nary a sub-plot about a downtrodden or underrepresented class.
Unless you count the neurotic and nebbish local accountant, of course, who might have had some kind of syndrome.
Ghostbusters was a massively corporate product with bankable 80s personalities and a splashy and hummable theme song designed only to get you into the theater and to leave with it ringing in your head.
This lack of a political edge was referred to by Pauline Kael when talking about Ghostbusters.
Said Kael :
”The technical effects are pretty good, but there’s a blandness and dullness of mind about the movie… the process of the conglomerates’ takeover of the movies has accelerated, and the changeover in executives has been so fast in the last few years that they don`t want to do anything that isn’t absolutely safe. Any kind of originality scares them, and interesting projects they might have inherited are dumped.”
It Wasn’t “Original”?
Ghostbusters was a baroque Hollywood product that struck a nerve, unlike so many other over-budgeted flops. Sometimes that happens and the champagne flows.
Entertainment for entertainment’s sake that doesn’t take risks politically and lands huge is certainly the dream of every studio executive. You slide across home plate without ever having to throw any elbows in the op-ed pages or with the MPAA.
But is Ghostbusters more than the sum of its parts?
Yes, because it does something rare namely marrying comedy and horror elements successfully. This is a tricky business and isn’t pulled off very often but when it is the results are usually timeless.
The only other picture which does it as well and which occupies a similarly fond place in our hearts was probably The Monster Squad (1987).
Additionally, it had terrific practical effects that helped sell the spine-chilling aspects of the story. And it came with a strong script without a lot of fat.
Ultimately though it was the one-time, lightning in a bottle, chemistry of the perfect cast that led the picture to its legendary status that it enjoys today.
The only misstep for me with the film was the inclusion of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man that sends the movie into the realm of the absurd a little too much where they had really pulled off the extremely hard thing of grounding all of the ghosts and monsters in reality up to that point.
In the third act, it isn’t clear what kind of film are we watching.
The Marshmallow Man lowers the stakes (and the tension) if there was any confusion about whether or not this is a horror story with Lovecraftian filigree sprinkled with comedy or a full-bore screwball picture.
It appears to be the latter.
And That’s Really Fine
It’s a small complaint for a movie that otherwise hums along and does its best to keep you entertained for the entire running time and does an admirable job of making you just a little bit uncomfortable about its paranormal ideas.
So what’s the point? Well if you’re a big fan of Ghostbusters as many people are you will be happy to hear that Sony Pictures and Fathom Entertainment are teaming up to bring a special event to local cinemas.
No less than the return of our humble local assistant professors and wonky spook intellectuals.
Yes, the Ghostbusters will return to the big screen for the 35th anniversary of the 1984 classic’s theatrical run, which netted a cool $245 million domestically.
This will be a two-day event only on October 6th and 10th and tickets are on sale now, so get them before they turn into green goo.
But Wait There’s More!
Introduction by the cast and newly unearthed and rarely seen alternate takes will also be included although it’s unclear whether they will be fitted into the run time proper or appended to film at the intro or as a post-credits treat.
Here’s a list of participating theaters.
And so: keep lining the pockets of socially unconscious evil executives from the 1980s or sit this one out?