Say friends, we want your honest opinion, are you lining up for the July 15th release of GHOSTBUSTERS? If so, why so? If not, why not?
With a quick pulse-check out of the way, allow us to proceed. See, we've made no secret of our feelings for a refurbished GHOSTBUSTERS movie. As staunch lifers who grew up with the original, our feelings have spanned the spectrum of utter contempt, protective disregard, vocal disapproval and damn near total boycott. But is it fair? After all, Bill Murray felt the exact same way we did about what could be seen as a desperate cash-grab of a redo, but since has not only lent his blessing, but agreed to make a cameo appearance. Does that mean we should show likewise forgiveness? I mean, the notion to totally flip the gender politics of the first two films and give the movie a much needed estrogen-laced makeover does indeed seem like a brilliant one. But will the four new gals exhibit the same kind of chemistry as the originals? Will they craft as memorable a characters? Is it possible?
All this and more is what we aim to shoot at below. We'll consider what made the original GHOSTBUSTERS such a landmark achievement, what made the sequel such a colossal bust, and where the new movie figures to fall in relation to the two. One thing's for certain, there's gonna be a lot of motherf*cking slime! So get the mop, the bucket, the slicker, get the proton pack handy and rev up the Ecto-1...we're fixing to Dissect the GHOSTBUSTERS once and for all!
To our minds, the success of GHOSTBUSTERS can be traced to a trifecta of rarely found but perfectly cooked ingredients. At once, it was a scary horror film, a hilarious comedy, and an eye-popping FX-laden spectacle. It's difficult to achieve just one of those things in any one movie, so to deftly meld all three into a massively crowd pleasing experience, and do so by creating such memorable characters who spout such eminently quotable lines, well, it becomes clear why the movie works so well...then and now. It starts of course with the screenplay by its stars, Dan Aykroyd and the late great Harold Ramis. Neither a stranger to screenwriting success - in comedy no less - Aykroyd coming off of THE BLUES BROTHERS and Ramis having already penned ANIMAL HOUSE, CADDYSHACK and STRIPES...the latter directed by Ivan Reitman himself...there's an inherent shorthand to the material that surely gave all involved a leg up. Fusing the sense of humors of both Saturday Night Live and SCTV, a new kind of ad-libbed sketch-like comedy was born. A high-concept with room for improvised comedy...all studded by impressive grand-scale visual FX.
There are three particular scenes that exemplify perfectly the juggling act between these three pins. The first comes when Dana Barrett hangs up the phone with her mother, and is suddenly attacked by Gozer, in the form of a growling, red-eyed Terror Dog, while sitting in her armchair. The scene is preceded by Louis Tully making a fool of himself out in the hall, again pathetically locking himself out of his apartment. This allows us to let our guard down and not anticipate the proceeding horror. Also, by having Dana talk to her mother moments prior, it humanizes her even more, which goes a long way in actually caring about what happens next. Then, the kitchen door aglow, we're distracted so much we can't be prepared for the ghoulish strong-arms that pierce through the chair, violently grab hold of Dana, and slide her toward the kitchen door...where the slimy, barking monster-dog evilly awaits. It's the first real "oh shit" moment that informs us we're all in for more than just a rollicking farce.
The second instance of the horror, humor and VFX perfectly marrying happens not too long after, when Dr. Venkman shows up for his date with Dana. After trading some flirty banter, Dana's demonically possessed temperament shifts into a lusty fervor, and soon Venkman is in the presence of a levitating minion of pure evil. Before she elevates and hovers over the covers of her bed though, there's one shot, very EXORCIST like, in which Dana's mouth is clinched, her eyes blackened, her voice hoarsely panting while Venkman holds her hands down upon her chest. It's a truly terrifying shot, one instantly sapped by Venkman's perfectly timed quips. "What a lovely singing voice you must have," he chides, before sedating the ghastly Gozerian with 200ccs of calm-the-f*ck-down juice. It's a wonderfully conceived and brilliantly realized sequence...funny, scary, visually arresting, highly entertaining!
A third scene, by no means the last, that so credibly fuses horror with humor is the scene in which Louis Tully - perhaps the funniest character in the entire film - is chased down and cornered by the rabid Terror Dog hiding in his closet. Granted, it's during this scene that VFX seem a bit dated, a bit clunky, but the tonal balance has never been more pronounced. When Tully dead ends at the window of a super fancy restaurant, only to be slowly approached by a salivating beast, his half-cocked fumble to assuage the monster - "sweet little doggie...cute little pooch...maybe I got a milk bone" - before being unceremoniously slumped to the ground...we both wince at the horror and howl at the humor. That the patrons of the restaurant simply look on in silence, don't care one iota, and go back to their plates only punctuates the juxtaposition. It's in these three scenes that the winning formula of GHOSTBUSTERS are most salient!
Despite proving a financial success, so much went wrong with GHOSTBUSTERS II that it took nearly 30 years between it and the new reboot. In the words of Bill Murray himself, who was on record having detested the film, there was "a whole lot of slime and not much of us." Indeed, Ivan Reitman leaned too heavily on the FX aspect of the film, and not enough on the pitch perfect tonal balance of hair-raising horror and side-splitting humor the original so successfully struck. And it's not just Reitman who's on the hook, blame ought to be squarely placed on Aykroyd and Ramis for writing such an inferior script...with a whole five years to do so. Inexcusable. The story about a river of ectoplasm flowing in the sewers of Manhattan, and the evil painting whose subject - Vigo the Carpathian - coming to life to wreak havoc on the city seemed a silly one. Worse yet, the whole story-line involving Dana Barrett and her baby Oscar inherently made the film more infantile. It detracted from the chemistry of the guys, neutering Venkman's lothario lifestyle and turning him into a sad father figure. No fun. Also, because of the wild popularity of the 1986 interim cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters, a much lighter approach was taken in the sequel as a means of catering to the younger crowd. Simply put, Reitman and the writers made the gross mistake of allowing the masses, a childlike demographic, dictate what kind of story to tell.
How many trademarks has team GHOSTBUSTERS left in its wake of unparalleled success? We know about the theme song by Ray Parker, forever cementing the phrase "who you gonna call" into pop-cultural perpetuity. Or, how about the literal trademark of a crossed-out ghost...the ubiquitous insignia known the world over? How about the infamous proton packs and positron gliders that have been turned into a merchandised toy line? I know I had one as a kid...and loved every second playing with it. Just as I continue to love the framed, autographed poster I have of the film, replete with signatures from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts. I'm looking at it right now, and will cherish the hell out of this sucker for the rest of my days. To me, that's the biggest trademark the movie can hold...as lame as it may sound, the special place in all of our hearts it will forever reside. I know it will mine!
Time for some fun-filled trivial tidbits and cool factoids. For instance, how many of you knew that the original casting of the film didn't include Bill Murray at all. The movie was conceived as a starring turn for John Belushi, who would have played Peter Venkman had he still been alive. Not that he was totally absent. Word is Aykroyd dubbed Slimer the Ghost of Belushi, apparently for his penchant for eating and drinking everything in sight. That's not the end of it. Chevy Chase was then offered the part, but declined due to an original script he claimed was far darker and far scarier. Bet he regrets that decision!
What about Eddie Murphy? Word is Eddie Murphy was set to play Winston Zeddemore, a role that had been far more developed than in the finished version. Once Murphy left to do BEVERLY HILLS COP instead, the character was greatly reduced, and Ernie Hudson was cast. Originally, it was Winston (as designed for Murphy) that would have envisioned the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man instead of Ray. Pretty crazy, right? Well so too was the fact that John Candy was originally cast as Louis Tully, but because he wanted to give his character a German accent and two pet Schnauzers, he left the production altogether. But not before recommending his fellow SCTV alum Rick Moranis, who we know took the part and ran with it to the tune of being one of the funniest parts of the whole flick.
What about the bookshelf that suddenly collapses to the ground in the library. Did you know that was totally unscripted and happened by accident. The dialogue, like most of Venkman's, was completely improvised on the spot. Hell, did you know Gozer was originally going to be played as a gaunt, pale doorman by none other than Paul Reubens? Did you know the voice of Zuul was done by director Ivan Reitman himself? Did you know that there's a hilarious deleted scene in which Aykroyd and Murray play Central Park hobos, debating the merits of old time boxers? Murray even rocks the same voice as his CADDYSHACK character, Carl Spackler. The scene takes place as Tully runs through the park away from the evil Terror Dog. Funny shit!
As you're already fully aware, after decades of gestation, hearsay, rewrites, lost rights, green lights, red lights, vitriolic internet backlash and finally, a freshly conceived gender reversal...The GHOSTBUSTERS are back in town. You think they can scare up the kind of business the 1984 original did? It's a tall ask, considering Ivan Reitman's original ranked, until the release of HOME ALONE in 1990, as the highest grossest comedy of all time. And, not to put any pressure on Paul Feig and the grossly exorbitant $150 million budget he approved for the reboot, but adjusted for inflation, GHOSTBUSTERS is still among the top 30 or so all time most profitable movies ever made. Not that we've tracked presales on Feig's newfangled 3D venture, but we know how difficult, if not impossible, the new version will be to eclipse the original just in terms critical mass approval, so simply in terms of the business side, that first flick casts a hugely inimitable shadow. The original GHOSTBUSTERS is still Columbia's highest grossest film of all time. So, again, do you think the gender-bending update can muster that kind of popularity?
We understand the thinking. Pair the hottest comedienne in town, Melissa McCarthy, with the director who has elicited her funniest performances. Paul Feig helmed BRIDES MAIDS, THE HEAT and SPY, hits all, and ones that gave McCarthy free reign to swing her wacky, over the top physical comedy gags. Will it work in a spectacular, FX driven ensemble though?
Here's the tight-lipped synopsis, almost skillful in how uninformative it is:
Ghostbusters makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his take to the supernatural comedy, joined by Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This summer, they're here to save the world!
Fans of the original still balking at the new version may find a modicum in solace knowing that Bill Murray isn't the only initial cast member set for a cameo here. IMDB shows Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver all onboard as well, however limited. Will they return as Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore, Janine Melnitz and Dana Barrett though? Who the hell knows!
Looking back, it's easy to see why the original GHOSTBUSTERS was such a smash hit, why the sequel struggled to duplicate its success, and why the general filmgoing public has legit cause for concern regarding the new updated version. If Paul Feig's attempt at reviving the material is to succeed, not just commercially but critically, it will be because there is a delicate balancing act between the horror, the humor, and the FX driven action. If all three aspects are given equal weight, then there's every reason to believe the new film will live up to the original. If it focuses too heavily on one over the other...particularly the technology over the story...then we could easily have another GHOSTBUSTERS II on our hands. Our guess is that Feig and writers are well aware of this, and took extra care to ensure what we love about the original is present in the update. Question is, even if it hits all the right notes, will GHOSTBUSTERS 3 really ascend to the status of its first predecessor? Beginning July 15th, the answers will begin to pour in.