PG, but 1984 PG. We got away with murder when we were kids. Things could be wildly, wildly inappropriate and they would just get a PG rating. Mainly, we're looking at a time before PG-13. This would be a solid PG-13. There's a decent amount of swearing. The terror dogs are actually kind of scary. Ray has a wildly inappropriate dream. The way Peter treats Dana is a little icky. PG.
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
Do you want to know how the sausage is made? When I write these reviews, I tend to listen to the soundtracks to the movie I'm writing about. It actually puts me in the same headspace as when I watched the movie. I find most of these soundtracks on YouTube. I don't have a Spotify account, so I apologize. What quickly happens is that, because I YouTube so many movie soundtracks, I get recommendations for videos that discuss movies. There was one video that said that Ghostbusters was about nothing. He put a very clear caveat in the video. Just because Ghostbusters was about nothing didn't make it a bad movie. In fact, he loved the movie. I don't know if it is about nothing. By my entire blog is about finding a deeper meaning in film; to watch it critically and find substance where others gloss over. I'm not saying I'm always accurate. In fact, since I do these daily, I'm sure that many of them would be considered giant leaps in logic. But I have always adored Ghostbusters. I can quote the movie nearly start-to-finish. It's wonderful. It's a comedy that I still laugh at. So I don't think that I've ever wanted a greater challenge than finding what Ghostbusters is about on a deeper level.
A lot of the video's arguments lie in the fact that we have flat characters versus dynamic character. Because there are four people who could be considered the protagonists, it is hard to pin down who has a character arc. A character arc often is indicative of the theme. So this puts me in the position of having to isolate one of the Ghostbusters as the protagonist. If push came to shove, we'd have to go with Bill Murray's Peter Venkman. I mean, I'm tempted to pass that responsibility to Sigourney Weaver's Dana Barrett. She actually undergoes both a physical and emotional change throughout the film. But she's also not in the movie all that much. Similarly, Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore would make a fascinating character to examine, but he comes into the story really late in the movie. (And the movie kind of treats him like a second class citizen in the real world. Why does he never get any real billing for this movie, even on contemporary re-releases of the movie?) Egon and Ray are almost tropes. They're great. But they have very little emotional connection to people so much as they are devices to make the plot move forward. Again, I love all of the characters, so these comments are just setting up the premise. Peter Venkman is the protagonist. Many of the choices of the film rest on his shoulders. Considering that Peter is at the crux of a lot of decisions in the film, there are small choices being made with him. When we first meet Peter, he is actually sabotaging his own experiment to impress a girl. Science to him is "a con" or "a dodge." But over the course of the film, Peter, while not vocal about his belief, actually kind of becomes a hero.
Yeah, the hero's journey. What did you expect? But Peter actually finds value in his work by the end of the movie. He goes from being a con artist to a being a genuine hero. The thing is that the movie doesn't really get all heavy handed with how Peter gets there. We're really accustomed to the Dan Harmon / Joseph Campbell story circle. Peter never really rejects the call. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a moment where he has to make a choice. He makes a dozen or so baby steps in the process of becoming a hero, but the moment where he actually makes the transition from con artist to hero is his date with Dana Barrett. ("Are you get the Gatekeeper?") Up to this point, Peter is not acting out of altruism. Rather, the Ghostbusters becoming national news is affirming the con that is working. Yeah, ghostbusting isn't a con because Egon and Ray know what they are doing. But Venkman is riding the acclaim that his partners get. Realize how much work the other two guys do in the preparation of this business. Egon is the technical guy. Pretty much, every piece of technology is based on Egon, with the help of Ray. Ray is the metaphysical guy. He is the guy who bridges science and the lore. He fixes cars and mortgages his mother's house once again. He has value. Peter probably justifies his existence as being the face, the heart, and the soul of the Ghostbusters. But honestly, he is kind of a leech on the team as a whole. He wants to use what little petty cash that the team has to take a girl he finds pretty to go on a date. Yeah, he confronts the nasty little spud, but he's often put out by actually having to do the work that the rest of them do. Walter Peck is the antagonist and I'm not giving the EPA a free pass here. (It's weird. I think that this is the one movie where the Environmental Protection Agency is considered the bad guy of the movie.) Peter is the one to provoke Walter Peck. Peck actually has a point that Peter's handling of their first confrontation is what made Peck play hardball. Peter doesn't apologize for this moment, but he also becomes dolefully aware that becoming a ghostbuster involves responsibility and sacrifice. When he sees Dana possessed, there's a shift in character. I don't think that he believes her from his initial inspection of the place. Admittedly, he's probably not using that device correctly. At least, I don't think he's using that device correctly. The movie doesn't really spell out that moment where he made the shift and the theme is definitely something that has to be interpreted with a little bit of effort. But the movie is actually about something. It's about realizing the moment when your fun little hobby actually has merit. It is the moment when Peter has to grow up and become something bigger than he was at the beginning of the movie. The Peter at the beginning of the movie wouldn't agree to the plan to beat the form of the destroyer. Nope. But because the movie is about baby-steps, sometimes it is hard to keep track of a character's evolution. If it helps, compare Peter in the opening scene and in the scene where they are crossing the streams. Ask if the character from the beginning would do that and I posit that he would not.
I got real jazzed when I heard that Jason Reitman was making Ghostbusters 3 or whatever it is going to be called. I know that there's some controversy to this. When I heard that Paul Feig was going to make a Ghostbusters movie, do you know how excited I was? Then, a bunch of comedians I liked were going to be in it? Gender didn't play an issue. I'd like to establish that. But I didn't like Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. MoviesAnywhere gave it to me for free so I'm going to try watching it again soon. But Ghostbusters, while first and foremost being a comedy, doesn't really think of itself as a comedy. A lot of the jokes in Ghostbusters come from the absurdity of the normality of everything going on. I keep harping on Venkman, but he's our everyman character. Ray is an expert in the occult and an enthusiast. Spengler emotionally flatlines. Winston should be our avatar, but he only shows up in the latter half of the movie. So Peter becomes the audience member and he's handling things in stride. He says things as they are, but he never really gets truly scared. He screams when the spud comes at him, but his result is mild annoyance. Everything is mundane in the movie and that's what makes it amazing. In the new one, everything is a Saturday Night Live skit. There are dance numbers and over-the-top performances. No one actually plays it cool. The Ghostbusters are all about day-to-day conversations about the apocalypse. Seriously, look at some of the lines where things are absolutely dire. "Tell him about the Twinkie." "Your girlfriend lives in the corner penthouse of Spook Central." Even the discussion about Ivo Shandor is told like a ghost story as opposed to a rallying cry. The new ghostbusters were hyper-reactive to every threat, which makes perfect sense. But jokes don't work in context of these big moments. When Egon is "too frightened beyond the capability of rational thought", he says it in the same tenor as "I collect spores, molds, and fungus." I wish I was the advocate for the most recent Ghostbusters movie. I was so excited for that film when everyone else was dogging the trailers. I bet on the movie being way better and the opening shot gave me hope. But everything after that? It almost felt like a skit. It grew tedious and that's what's a bummer. The exception is Holtzman, who compeletely nailed the sardonic delivery.
After seeing Ghostbusters far too many times to count, I still find this movie absolutely perfect. I know, it's actually kind of an odd fandom to have. It's a comedy and it is silly. But it hits a lot of sweet spots for me. There's some stuff that can be considered regressive, but I think I need to learn to be unapologetic for my love for the original Ghostbusters.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.