Review: Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: Fired from their cushy University gig, three para-psychologists, Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) start their own business, “Ghostbusters”, dedicated to controlling New York City’s growing problem with ghosts.

REVIEW: I was born in ’81, so you can imagine that growing up GHOSTBUSTERS had a huge effect on me. I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw it. Unlike The James Bond series, which I vividly remember discovering on December 31st, 1989 when ABC played THUNDERBALL, I have no similar memory of discovering GHOSTBUSTERS. Like BACK TO THE FUTURE (which came out a year later) it was always just there, and I don’t really remember a time when it wasn’t one of my favorite movies. I presume I somehow saw it on First Choice (the Canadian equivalent of HBO) sometime in ’85 (when I would have been four) but over the years I’ve watched it so many times that I’d wager the number is somewhere around forty or more.

Most of these viewings probably happened during my high school years, when me and my childhood best friend Danny used to watch it weekly. In fact, Danny was such a big Ghostbusters fan he had replicas of the suits, the proton packs, the PKE metres, and the traps made – all of which must have cost a pretty penny as they looked so authentic. Of course, I also bought the film on VHS, DVD (twice) and Blu-ray, but up until a few short years ago I had never experienced GHOSTBUSTERS on the big screen.

Which brings me to the point of this article (forgive me for burying the lead). This weekend, to mark the 30th anniversary of the first film, GHOSTBUSTERS is getting a nationwide rollout in its 4K restored version. It’s opening pretty much everywhere (including Canada) and regardless of how many times you’ve seen the film, you owe it to yourself to see it on the big-screen. Those of us who grew up with it on video can tell you what a revelation it was just seeing the film on DVD, as we were used to a heavily cropped pan & scan version that spoiled director Ivan Reitman’s 2:35:1 scope visuals, and cannibalized the special FX, which were nominated for an Oscar. If you grew up watching it on DVD or Blu-ray, you’ll likely have a similar experience seeing it on the big screen for the first time, as GHOSTBUSTERS was always a film that was best appreciated on the big-screen, with a ravenous audience of fans laughing along to all the best lines.

As for the film itself, it’s tough to explain just how much of an effect GHOSTBUSTERS had on the modern blockbuster, but suffice to say, something like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY wouldn’t exist without GHOSTBUSTERS. What Reitman’s film did was blend genres in a way that was truly novel and is still tough to pull off. When I read about the series being rebooted, I always wince because I feel like someone will get the recipe wrong. It’ll either be too funny, or too serious. GHOSTBUSTERS is the rare tentpole that’s hilarious throughout, but also has real stakes, with the fate of the world (or at least New York City) being at stake throughout. Even a visual gag like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man becomes kinda scary and legitimately threatening in the big FX-laden climax, which is something that’s hard to pull off. In fact, it’s so tough to pull off I’d argue Reitman and company weren’t able to replicate the formula for GHOSTBUSTERS II (which depending on your age is either worse or much better than you remember).

Watching the film now, it can’t help but feel miraculous just to see how seamlessly all the elements blend together, and how on-point everyone from the actors to the special fx guys, to the set designers, composers, etc., were here. It’s a flawless film, anchored by the amazing chemistry between real-life pals Bill Murray (a last-minute substitute for the late John Belushi), Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis, Aykroyd and Ramis co-wrote the screenplay, and clearly knew exactly how to play to their strengths and Murray’s. This pretty much made Murray the cult icon he is today, with him being the “cool-guy funny man” which is a tough gig to pull off. His chemistry with love interest Sigourney Weaver is top notch, with her clearly relishing the break from her more serious roles and having a ball acting alongside Murray and Rick Moranis (as the bespectacled Louis Tully – aka The Keymaster), especially when she gets to play Dana Barrett as possessed by Zuul.

And let’s not forget Ernie Hudson as Winston, the blue-collar, rational Ghostbuster who takes the gig because he needs work, and more-or-less becomes the “us” character, in that he’s the one who needs Ray and Egon to cut-out the scientific pseudo-babble and makes things real (don’t forget the Twinkie). Composer Elmer Bernstein’s contribution is also too-often overlooked, with him doing a brilliant job scoring the film as if it’s a hardcore horror film, so that no matter how goofy anyone acts, the music stays serious and gives the film gravitas. Bernstein’s absence is really felt in the second film. The same can be said of the pop-songs sprinkled throughout. Sure, some of them are dated, but that adds to the eighties charm – although no one can argue Ray Parker Jr’s “Ghostbusters” owes a whole lot to Huey Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug” (so much so that it resulted in a messy court case). Truly, all the elements work.

Telling everyone who reads the site to go see GHOSTBUSTERS on the big screen is probably like preaching to the choir, as I assume most of you won’t be able to pass up the opportunity. But, if you’re on the fence and wondering how it could possibly be better than watching the Blu-ray, you really should experience the film with an audience as there’s something really special about the experience. I’ll be the first to admit that not all films need to be experienced on the big screen, but this is one that absolutely does.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.