Ghostbusters - 29th January 2011

Ah yes, Ghostbusters, is there any film that quite compares or comes close to all that is Ghostbusters.
Once one of the biggest summer blockbusters and now both a quintessential family favourite that also has an almost cult following of dedicated fans, some of whom even showed up in costume and with intricate props for the midnight screening that we attended of this classic motion picture.

I don't really need to go on about how funny this film is or how the cast are all exceptional because you've all seen it and you know this. Anyone reading this that hasn't seen it is either 4 years old and probably shouldn't be on the internet or needs to stop whatever they are doing, run home, watch the film however they can and realise that up until now they had been leading a hollow, pointless existence.
The things I did want to talk about is how the film, essentially rooted in the old Hollywood comedies like Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, takes a simple yet brilliant concept, which essentially boils down to the comedy A Team take down Casper, and just plays everything to its full potential.

There really wasn't much like it just before it came out and there hasn't been anything anywhere near as big, funny or with as many good special effects in it since. There have been action films that have comedy in and the odd comedy with a bit of action but Ghostbusters and its sequel (which is also good! all you naysayers and doom merchants!!) remain fairly unique in the realm of big budget, big star comedy, action, special effects, family friendly horror, rom-com movies and the film remains every bit as hilarious, thrilling, visually stimulating, emotionally satisfying and even scary as it was the first time we all saw it.
I would like to say that the effects have hardly dated because they are still, for the time, completely stunning but obviously against todays tedious, boring, unimaginative and flat CGI, they wouldn't stand up; also, on the big screen the matte painting work in the finale is a lot more obvious. Still the sets, the models and the physical effects are still genuinely impressive. The film is not afraid to be a little adult, and is all the better for it, it is a little racy and also has the odd frightening moment like the devil dogs and the zombie cab driver both of which I remember giving me shivers as a child.

As a love song to New York the film also succeeds on every level, utilising not just the classic locations (which now seemingly ever predictable rom-com film does) but also the vibe, the attitude, the smell, the sound and the spirit of the city. This is what modern film-makers sometimes forget to do and think that just by setting something in New York they are some how going to have the credibility of being a New York movie but that isn't the case. To be a New York movie you have to have all elements in place, not just the scenery but the people and the heart they give the place. Taxi Driver is a New York movie, The Fisher King is a New York movie and Ghostbusters is definitely a New York movie. This is all pure Dan Akyroyd, it maybe directed by Ivan Retiman but in Akyroyd's writing you get the details, the shape, the size, the sounds and the smell of things. You can see it, from the abandoned and iconic fire station that they set up shop in to the old beat up ambulance they adapt as their transport, from the cabs and street vendors to the grumpy mayor and all his subordinates, the film is just rich with authentic feeling detail.
All the gizmos, for example, while it's never fully explained how they build them or where the pieces and technology come from, feel perfectly real and by the time they start capturing ghosts as a living, you mind has already suspended disbelief and you are along for the ride.

The characters are all perfect too, not a bad or annoying one amongst them and like I said earlier, all played, by probably one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled, perfectly. For a film like this to work, with all its flights of fancy and ridiculous humour, there has to be this complete sense of reality and even broader characters like Louis Tully and the pantomime villain in Walter 'dickless' Peck feel just fine when put amongst everything that's going on.

The film is essentially an origin story and is more comparable to something like Spiderman than most other studio comedies, I don't imagine you could pitch an origin story of a gang like this these days without them being established and well liked characters elsewhere, either on TV or in print but then this was the 80s, the last time the major studios ever really took a chance (but that's a rant I have had before). Yet apart from certain bits of music in the film, or maybe the odd item of clothing the film does not feel dated, hardly at all in fact, which may account for some of its staying power.

The only weak moment the film has, at all, is the use of the montage to forward the story along once they capture their first ghost and especially the portion of the montage where there is a dream sequence with a weak ghostly blow job joke in it that should've been scrapped at script stage, when you look at the rest of the movie it's very very odd and out of place. However, is it the first time anyone used the dream sequence within the montage technique? I don't know but I am betting it was definitely the last.

Small quibbles aside though Ghostbusters is just one of those magically, almost perfect slices of cinema that will continue to entertain and amuse for generations onward. It has a place next to everything from Duck Soup onwards as one of the great ensemble comedy films of all time.
I have read, like everyone, that there is a script in the works for part 3 where they hand it over to another bunch of younger comedians and it isn't written by Dan Aykroyd and the sublimely wonderful Harold Ramis. Well, all I can say is don't do it, please please please don't do it and nothing against whoever they pick but the original group is iconic and should not be tampered with. Who wants to see Ghostbusters the next generation anyway? apart from some studio executive who wants to make more money for that swimming pool full of bank notes idea he's had. Leave it all alone, it is perfect as it is, even the second one has some simply amazing bits in it, if you disagree, you can beat it, we don't like your kind round here.

9.5 out of 10 big twinkies

True Grit - 4th February 2011

Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 - 28th January 2011