Ghostbusters remains one of the most well-regarded comedies of the 1980s, and with good reason. The movie contains comedy that is still enjoyable today, in addition to excellent special effects that still manage to not be too dated.
The movie’s plot involves three paranormal psychologists (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) who decide to open their own business for trapping and containing various ghosts and spooks. Along the way, Dr. Venkman (Murray) does his best to woo their first client (Sigourney Weaver). They encounter various colorful ghosts, including a glowing green mass named Slimer, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a huge representation of a character on a marshmallow bag.
The comedic aspect of the movie is ridiculously top notch. Across the board, the comic performances are right on point, particularly Ramis (also the movie’s co-writer) as the nerdy Dr. Egon Spengler. Even Ernie Hudson, who shows up about halfway through as the fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddemore, has one of the movie’s best comic lines. “Tell him about the Twinkie.”
Unquestionably though, the comic anchor of this movie is Bill Murray. Murray had just perfected his trademark sarcastic wiseacre persona by this point, and this movie may be the best example of it working to great comic effect. It’s not clear how much of it is the script (by Ramis and director Ivan Reitman) and how much is Murray’s superb comic timing, but just about everything that comes out of Murray’s mouth in this movie is worthy of a chuckle. Particularly great scenes include his attempts to woo a demonically possessed Sigourney Weaver and his first encounter with Slimer. It is entirely possible to watch this movie many times and still pick up different Murray wisecracks you have overlooked each time. My current personal favorite is after Murray yanks a tablecloth off a finely set, expensive dinner table and says “The flowers are still standing!”
The sci-fi aspect of the movie is not to be overlooked either. From Slimer to the marshmallow man, to a giant jungle cat-looking monster that is turned loose on New York, the special effects all hold up surprisingly well for a 20-year-old movie. Many other movies from that period and even later look surprisingly dated today. While I have no frame of reference to prove or disprove any of the “science” in the film, it all at least sounds pretty legitimate.
Like most successful movies, Ghostbusters spawned a far inferior sequel (although that one has its moments too, mostly due to Murray). The original, however, is a full-fledged classic, worthy of viewing – if for some reason you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen it yet.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at Cdelross@temple.edu.