The Set of 400: #19 – My Favorite Mass Hysteria

Today! Because that was the whole plan, “Get her!” –

Ghostbusters (1984)

Directed by Ivan Reitman (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x12), Dan Aykroyd (x7), Sigourney Weaver (x7), Harold Ramis (x3), Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis (x4), Annie Potts (x3), William Atherton (x2), David Margulies (x2), Alice Drummond, Larry King (x2), Slavitza Jovan, Jordan Charney (x3), Jennifer Runyon, Casey Kasem, Joe Franklin (x2), Jean Kasem, Reginald VelJohnson (x2)

Show of hands – who hasn’t seen Ghostbusters a thousand times? Even if you didn’t grow up with it, that movie airs on television what, every week? Every few days? I solidly feel like this was the gateway to film comedy for virtually everyone around my age. I don’t distinctly remember when it first came out – as I was just pushing five at the time – but once it was on video, it was a solid household staple from that point forward. I can’t even guess how many times I watched Ghostbusters, but I’d say it’s probably among my top five or six films, along with the Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones, Young Frankenstein, and Monday’s film. Stay tuned!

Because what is there not to like about Ghostbusters? It’s just scary enough, just cool enough, and just funny enough to appeal to a wide variety of audience members. You don’t like horror? The scary ghost stuff is pretty fleeting. You don’t like ’80s action flicks? This doesn’t have all that much derring do! You don’t like comedies? What are you, a monster? Everybody likes comedies! Plus, while this movie is funny, has a lot of funny lines, has a lot of funny characters, it isn’t swinging for home run laughs on every beat. It is the quintessential action comedy from an era loaded with them, and the added bonus is that there happen to be ghosts. Fun!

And some of those ghosts are only around for prurient thrills!

Seriously, what is there to say about Ghostbusters that hasn’t been said? It’s not a complicated or dense film, no matter what Aykroyd’s later pontificating would have you believe. Sure, it spawned a pretty pointless sequel, but while it didn’t make the list, I still sort of enjoyed 1989’s II, for what it was. That dancing toaster! The 2016 all female Ghostbusters is probably a legitimately funnier movie, while still not really working. So the franchise is basically this movie and the very solid TV cartoon. As of this writing, whatever the 2020 Jason Reitman Ghostbusters is hasn’t clarified, so I can’t comment much on that. Feels like an unnecessary cash-in, to keep driving this thing onward, where the original movie was almost a lightning-in-a-bottle miracle, but hey, Ivan’s son has made some pretty solid movies (Juno, Thank You For Smoking, Up in the Air) so I’ll give it a chance.

Besides having watched it to death and no longer holding anything near perspective regarding it, I’ve also written at some length about the movie’s unsung hero, Rick Moranis’s Louis Tully, in this space. Louis Tully: An Appreciation, check it out! I’ve seen three of the four Ghostbusters in person during my time in Chicago – Bill Murray appeared at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra singing songs promoting his album with cellist Jan Vogler in 2017, Ernie Hudson did a quick personal appearance tour during the 30th anniversary in 2014, and Harold Ramis brought his film Year One to the Music Box as part of Just For Laughs in 2009. Just waiting on the next time Aykroyd shows up at Binny’s to push his vodka and I’ll have completed the set!

But we only could wrangle a picture with Winston

But as I stated above, this movie was as important to me and my generation as any comedy made in the ’80s. It’s just adult enough that you felt cool being let in on the joke, while not managing to confuse and alienate young audiences. Like, I didn’t realize what half the jokes in Airplane! meant until I was much older – Ghostbusters is largely on the surface the whole way across. This was also the gateway for the other great love of my life – Saturday Night Live – so that by the time Nick at Nite started airing the classic repeats, I was inclined toward them thanks to Murray and Aykroyd here. So, does every minute of Ghostbusters still work? Probably not. It’s not really as funny as you remember – again, because a lot of time is spent on the non-comedic elements – but it is wholly entertaining and one of the great iconic cultural touchstones of the ’80s.

When it finished its initial box office run, Ghostbusters was the sixth highest grossing movie ever, only behind E.T., Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It remained in the top ten for the next decade, and adjusted for inflation is the 36th top grossing film to this day. It is also still considered the highest grossing horror comedy ever, even if not a ton of movies qualify for this designation. It’s not my favorite comedy (as you’ll see in the handful of weeks remaining) or my favorite Bill Murray movie (as you’ll discover in the next five posts), but it almost certainly is the most important one. God bless you, Reitman/Aykroyd/Ramis/Murray/Moranis/Weaver/Slimer!

This is Ivan Reitman’s second list film, following #287 Stripes, while Sigourney Weaver pulls up one behind the actress lead to the Sevens, and Bill Murray ties Samuel L. Jackson a top the guilds, joining the Twelve-Timers! Who has the remaining movies to conquer this mountain of flicks?? Stay tuned!

Coming Monday! Never rub another man’s rhubarb!

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