Ghostbusters ★★★½

I rewatched Ghostbusters for the first time in decades in preparation for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and while I'm sure I loved it as much as anyone else when I was a kid, tonight I thought it was...fine? Maybe it's because I was tired and frustrated after a long day. Maybe it's because people have been shitting on Ghostbusters: Afterlife for months. Maybe it's because people have been shitting on Ghostbusters (2016) for years. But is our great Culture War really about...this movie? It's weird because on the surface, I should have totally been into this movie even as an adult, but also even though I'd already seen it, it could be one of those instances where I don't like an influential, iconic classic as much as all the films it inspired. I just recently revisited The Frighteners and loved it, for instance! Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis's script definitely has its share of quotable lines, and I do love how fucking unusual this movie is in a "How the hell did this get made and how was it so popular?" way. Half the dialogue is technobabble, and it commits to a very silly vision of ghosts and develops a completely nonsensical mythology in order to have the barest bones of a plot. There's some shaggy charm in watching this weirdo business develop. The special effects hold up surprisingly well as they're largely practical, but even the digital effects from forty years ago look better than shitty CGI from twenty years ago. Apparently this was the first big effects-driven comedy, so it's good that the effects are good. The comedy...less so. I just was not vibing with this movie, and I don't think I ever really laughed, though there were some bits that made me chuckle. And as much I love Bill Murray—my favorite movie is Groundhog Day!—I don't think I actually like early Bill Murray that much. His much-lauded "deadpan" just feels low energy and sleepy, and I prefer him more deliberate and pointed. Every single actor in this movie gives a different level of performance, and director Ivan Reitman doesn't get them to mesh all that well. Where Murray goes low, Aykroyd goes high (but Rick Moranis goes even higher), and I couldn't figure out the tone of this thing. The most consistently funny actors are definitely Ramis and Ernie Hudson. The second act meanders a bit before remembering there's a whole Zuul thing to take care of, but I was surprised at how short the climax was. They barely fight the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at all! They just destroy the Destroyer and...that's it. Marvel movies have ruined me, I need my climaxes to last at least twenty minutes. Sigourney Weaver is great, the theme song is great, there's actually a whole other song about ghostbusting in this movie that is not nearly as great, but this not great. I can appreciate its influence, and I enjoyed it well enough. It's neat that something this weird became a phenomenon—a cult blockbuster, as it were—but I didn't like it nearly as much as a film as I thought I would. (I liked Ghostbusters (2016) more than this, it was funnier, women are funnier than men, it's science.)

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