Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: June 8, 1984
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis star in this supernatural comedy. When Columbia University downsizes their parapsychology department, Doctors Peter Venkman (Murray), Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd), and Egon Spengler (Ramis) make the leap from scientists to Ghostbusters – investigators and eliminators of paranormal pests. When the team’s first client Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) discovers her refrigerator has become a portal into the spiritual dimension, the Ghostbusters come face to face with an ancient evil force with plans to destroy Manhattan and the world along with it…
In 1984, a comedy like few others made waves at the box office. Ghostbusters, which boasted a solid comedy cast that includes Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, and Annie Potts, was crafted in a way where its sincere, dry humor relied mostly on witty dialog and delivery rather than sight gags. The film hit screens when I was barely four years old, but upon seeing its re-release a year or so later in the theaters, I’d been won over by its excitement and charm. Many kids my age aspired to “bust” ghosts, and when a successful cartoon series and decent (although under par) sequel followed, the Ghostbuster craze continued. Now twenty one years later, Ghostbusters is literally a comedy classic and still fun to watch despite its dated style and effects.
Ghostbusters was ahead of its time in the mid-80’s. While relying more on physical effects and stop-motion animation and puppets rather than today’s less imaginative CGI, the film succeeds at creating more tangible moments than it fails to. Sequences like eggs hopping out of their carton and frying on the kitchen counter or beastly arms ripping through an armchair are eerily realistic, while jerky shots of a stop-motion “terror dog” are more laughable today than anything. But the effects in Ghostbusters are intended to enhance the film, not make it. It’s the comedy, the acting, the writing, and the creativity behind the film that truly make it succeed. It’s not too common that you find a film that you loved as a child still holds up over two decades later for adults. But perhaps that’s where one of Ghostbusters‘ main faults lies… its target audience.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the content of Ghostbusters. I never really thought about the spiritual content of the film until I was older so I never took the film for more than what it was. Ghostbusters is a comedy about three guys who study ghosts and save New York City from an evil spirit intending to bring about the end of the world. There’s very little to take serious about the film, especially when it makes it clear that comedy is its main intent from beginning to end. Within the story, cultic references arise, even causing a lead character to refer to Christianity as merely an “ancient myth.” In that particular scene, however, another lead defends the faith and gives the other character some food for thought about the book of Revelation. The references to Christianity virtually stop there, with a central theme of good overcoming evil remaining. The spirituality of the ghosts and goblins and ancient myths and “gods” presented in the film aren’t done in a preachy or factual way, but merely are approached more so as fantasy (Heck, even Aykroyd’s character cites a chapter in Revelation wrong). And with comedy being what weaves the story together, it’s easy not to take the material too seriously. If the film didn’t sort of wink at the audience throughout its duration, then one might need to pass this one by altogether. Despite the lighthearted comedic nature of the film and its PG rating, Ghostbusters isn’t quite a family film. When released, the movie rating system only offered G, PG, and R, with the mid-range PG-13 rating not yet existing. With that said, I believe if this film were released in 2005 under today’s MPAA rating standards, it probably would score a PG-13 rating. Some of the film’s dialog, while it soared over my head as a youngster, is a little too adult for children, containing a handful of “s” words as well as other colorful phrases. Also, the horror aspect of the story is a bit intense in some scenes. From the opening scenes with the ghost in the library to the terror dogs and the frightening sequence where Dana is seized by the dogs in her apartment, the film has its fair share of creepy moments. It’s a shame, actually, considering that the film still contains so many memorable scenes like the cheerfully-grinning Stay Puft marshmallow man terrorizing New York City or the boys’ first experience with ghostbusting at the hotel and meeting Slimer.
Seeing the objectionable and questionable content listed above may cause some to write the film off entirely, and ultimately question why such a film would not only land on my top list of all-time favorite films, but quite possibly be my most favorite. The comedic genius of Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis, coupled with the intriguing and exciting idea of ghostbusting (those proton packs are almost as irresistably cool as a lightsaber from Star Wars), really make this one stand out. The guys play off each other like a modern day Marx Brothers team, lead by the ever-talented deadpan humor of Bill Murray. But the idea behind Ghostbusters feels as though it could have been adapted from a famous comic book. However, its completely original story and realistic portrayal set in New York City really adds a lot to the film. While many of today’s comedies probably would be more vulgar, more silly, and more campy (you can look at director Ivan Reitman’s abysmal 2001 mistake Evolution as such an example), the comedy in Ghostbusters just seems more honest and real. And considering that as Christians, we fight spiritual battles everyday, the concept of warring against supernatural evil really isn’t that foreign to us.
A review of this 1984 film probably isn’t necessary, but a recent revisit inspired some thoughts on it. I can’t recommend Ghostbusters as one for the family, however, the TV edit does improve upon many of its rough spots. Those who are older and just looking for a little funny, light entertainment should either watch an edited copy of Ghostbusters (i.e. from Clear Play) or catch it on TV sometime. Some content prunings would really have strengthened this film more, making it more accessible for the younger audiences, but it’s still a fun movie.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/18/05)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Not really sexual, but Dr. Venkman asks a frightened woman who’s seen a ghost if she is menstruating (which causes a person next to him to ask what that has anything to do with it); During a montage sequence, Ray has a dream that the ghost of a beautiful woman is floating above his bed. After she disappears, he watches his pants unbuckle and unzip by an unseen force (we see his briefs), and a shot of him outside of his dream falling out of bed; While Dana is possessed, she grabs Peter and throws him to the bed. She straddles him and tells him she wants him inside of her, but after briefly kissing, he gets away from her (mostly played for laughs); Following an earth tremor, we see Dana and Louis on a roof top (both possessed by evil spirits) with Louis’ belt buckle somewhat undone (implying they fooled around or slept together); While trying to decide how to fight the Stay Puft marshmallow man, Peter jokes that because he’s a sailor and from New York, all they have to do is get him “laid”
Vulgarity/Language: 5 “s” words, 1 “g*dd*mn,” 1 “J-sus,” 2 “d*ck,” 1 “a**hole,” 4 “a” words, 1 “b*tch,” 3 “h*ll,” 1 “oh my g-d”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Ray and Peter drinking from a flask; Ray and Peter are drinking beer while eating dinner at the Firehouse before their first call; Some people are drinking in a restaurant
Blood/Gore: We briefly see a skeletal ghost driving a taxi that seems to be in some kind of decomposing state.
Violence: (*Contains minor spoilers*) The ghost of a woman changes its form to look hideous to frighten Ray, Peter and Egon (who then run away); The Ghostbusters fire upon a cleaning lady’s cart in a hotel when startled; Peter is “slimed” by a ghost; The Ghostbusters trash a ballroom to capture a ghost; Eggs fry on a kitchen counter and Dana is frightened when seeing creature in her refrigerator; Hands rip through Dana’s armchair and pull it into the kitchen where a “terror dog” waits at the door; A “terror dog” tears through a bedroom door and chases Louis through the park, cornering him outside a restaurant (where the scene ends); Dana, possessed by a spirit, floats above her bed and growls at Peter; The containment unit at the firehouse explodes, and Dana’s apartment does so simultaneously; Gozer shoots the Ghostbusters with some kind of electricity; a large marshmallow man walks through NYC, stepping on buildings and cars; The Ghostbusters blow up part of a building; etc…