6 Random Thoughts On ‘Ghostbusters’

12May12

The 1984 comedy smash appeared on Netflix streaming, and like a good consumer, I watched it, and had some tenuously-related thoughts on the movie. If you don’t support these things, they’ll disappear, you know. 

1.) It’s Hard To Look At This Movie From a Screenwriting Standpoint. Meaning that I can’t see how it sold beyond  the fact that heavy-hitters wrote it to star in it and get their buddies to star in it is how or why it got made. And the fact that stars such as Bill Murray were going to play the leads takes off the pressure of making that character likable. There’s nothing to really put in there except for funny bits. And on that note. . .

2.) Venkman is Not a Character, He Just Looks Like One. This fact is only truly visible by watching the lackluster “Ghostbuster 2: The Squeakwell.” If memory serves, that movie opens with Venkman hosting a talk-show, but he was in a mental institution because, I guess, he’s a crazy person. Which sort of implies that he was a crazy person in the first movie*.

NOW… I’m not going to argue for Venkman’s behavior in the first movie. He tortures a poor nerd student for almost no apparent reason, he randomly starts singing to jail inmates, he perpetuates rumors about a man’s genitals (or lack thereof). But I never saw him as “literally” crazy. I always thought he was, you know, movie-comedy crazy. Which is to say that he’s doing funny things because the genre demands it. The “character” remains less Peter Venkman and more Bill Murray. The implication that he is a real character and more than just Bill Murray at maximum power implies that another actor could actually play Peter Venkman.

3.) Debate: Did Venkman Sleep With the Zule-inhabited Dana? I always thought the “please come down” moment when she’s hovering above the bed was more of a pleading, “don’t do this” moment and less of a “I’m going to lie on the bed, at which time, please literally come down on top of me so we may have intercourse” moment. But then the following scene in her apartment shows all the clothes strewn about the floor; standard “they just did it” film language. To go against my earlier point, that puts a weird spin on the Venkman “character.”

4.) There’s Surprisingly Little ‘Ghost Busting’ in “Ghostbusters.” In Blake-Snyder-ese, it primarily takes place during the “Fun and Games” section in early Act Two. Everyone remembers the “Slimer” Hotel sequence — their first gig. I’m not saying it’s not a great scene, because it is. That’s really the only “busting” scene that we get in the entire movie. After they nab the spud and take their check, the Ray Parker song carries most of the heavy lifting in the montage. The power of the craft at work in this movie is marvelous; all my memories of this movie come from the actual BUSTING of ghosts, but that happens in your imagination. This is a complement.

5.) The Ending Has Always Felt a Tad Bit. . . Off. To me, anyway. It’s not that it doesn’t work, but the crossing the streams strategy just doesn’t pay off quite 100% in an emotional way. Maybe it would’ve been better to have Venkman suggest it, since prior to this moment he’s voiced the most hesitation about the technology and the dangers therein. They could have also had the team be more separated at the finale for them to literally “come together” in this fashion to defeat Gozer. It might have taken much more set-up in prior acts, and to the film’s credit, it is very stream-lined. But this one part has always fallen just a little short. This might be me over-thinking, but it’s what I do.

6.) Live-Action-To-Cartoon Continuity. I’m not such a geek about this, but I have a distinct memory — and an excited feeling — about the episode of “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon where they addressed how the four Ghostbusters got their multi-colored jumpsuits. I want to say it was a flashback moment that was set almost immediately following the fight with Gozer, because they show up at the firehouse covered in white goop and Jeanenne says, “Good news! Your new uniforms are here!” This was comforting to me, because as a child I actually wondered why they weren’t dressed the same as they were in the movie. My mind was never put at ease as to why Egon suddenly had blonde hair.

*I had a similar revelation about the characters on “Seinfeld” being amoral, selfish jerks. Again, not that I ever thought I should behave like Jerry and George, but I never judged them for being bad people. They weren’t people at all. They were sitcom people. Of course they were selfish: they were doing their job, which was BEING FUNNY.

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