Saturday, June 07, 2014

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd): I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!

Peter Venkman (Bill Murray): Nice thinkin', Ray.

Stantz: We used to roast Stay Puft Marshmallows on the fire at Camp Waconda ...

Venkman: Ray has gone bye–bye, Egon. What you got?

Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis): Sorry, Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

I was saddened by the news about three months ago that Harold Ramis had died at the age of 69.

And I was dismayed by the rumors that a "Ghostbusters 3" was in the works.

Because I am one of those people who believes that a "Ghostbusters" movie without Ramis wouldn't be — couldn't possibly be — as good as either of the first two.

The first one made its debut 30 years ago — on June 7, 1984.

I don't know how reliable those rumors are, but it just wouldn't be right to try to recapture the magic — even if Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray return.

It really wasn't a matter of Ramis being so integral to the story. He wasn't my favorite Ghostbuster.

But the key is that the three of them were a team. In his review of the movie, Roger Ebert described them as "smart graduate students who are in on the joke."

They made it possible for "Ghostbusters" to achieve something special, Ebert wrote — a successful "head–on collision between two comic approaches that have rarely worked together ... (1) a special–effects blockbuster, and (2) a sly dialogue movie."

It was that style of rapid–fire dialogue that I found so appealing in The West Wing TV series.

I don't think the TV series' creator, Aaron Sorkin, was involved in "Ghostbusters," and I don't know if he was influenced by it. In fact, that really isn't something I thought about until The West Wing went off the air.

There may, in fact, be no connection at all. Probably isn't. But it was the smart, witty style of dialogue that I found appealing — not unlike many of the screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s.

Come to think of it, screwball might be just the right word to describe "Ghostbusters." But that isn't a bad thing. Quite often, the best things — and people — in life are at least a little bit screwball.

It always helps to have a great supporting cast, preferably one that isn't there just to fill the time between costume and scene changes, and "Ghostbusters" had an excellent supporting cast.

Sigourney Weaver played Dana/The Gatekeeper and Rick Moranis (in one of his first movies) was Louis/The Keymaster. Dana wanted nothing to do with Louis, but, when she was possessed by a demon named Zuul, she was drawn to Louis, who was possessed by another demon named Vinz Clortho.

And thus the subtext of the story ...

The fictional Mr. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (who resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Tire Man) was a stroke of pure genius. He looked so much like the kind of character that would be dreamed up on Madison Avenue that I'm sure many folks left theaters in the summer of '84 scratching their heads trying to place him and his product from their own childhoods.

It was a clever movie and a lot of fun to watch.