One should never neglect the obvious; Ivan Reitman’s 1984 comedy was the biggest of all-time on release, and feels like it’s never been away. Despite Bill Murray’s lack of enthusiasm for running the ghost-busting theme into the ground, there have been official sequels, reboots, animations, video-games and yet another revamp in the works circa 2020. The original film is a fluke, an accident of unrepeatable proportions; the right star, the right scale, the right politics, and just the right sense of humour. So much, in fact, that Ghostbusters is well worth a look for adults as well as kids.
Class seems to be the central issue here; the ghost-buster crew are introduced meddling about with psychic research at Columbia University, before Raymond Stantz (Dan Ackroyd) indicates that ‘the private sector’ would be a better home for them. Yes, there’s nothing children or family audiences enjoy more than a film that debates the merits of private vs public sector, but that’s just the tip of the agenda here. Almost everyone the ghost-busters meet are moneyed beyond belief; Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver play the residents in a well-upholstered Central Park West apartment building, and the wide-corridors and fresh decoration indicate that they’re above most earthly problems. Similarly, encounters with snooty librarians, officious doormen and dismissive politicians await Stantz, Venkman (Bill Murray) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) as they work their NYC beat; the film’s biggest laugh, at least in the unedited version, remains Murray’s ad-libbed and amusing dismissive comment about uptight jobs-worth William Atherton ‘… this man has no dick.’
Such take-downs are the real meat of Ghostbusters, which artfully positions the heroes as blue-collar workers who the crowds identify with as if they’re rock stars. Why? Because Ghostbusters is a celebration of the ordinary overcoming the extra-ordinary, with a humble, uniformed squad cutting a swathe through all manner of special-effects creatures. The explanation, that a group of Satanists previously used the Central Park West building for sacrificial rituals, is another crowd-pleaser for kids, as it the scene where Stantz is fellated by a ghost. In short, nothing in Ghostbusters suggests comedy or box-office gold; it’s success is the happiest of accidents, a triple rebound that somehow punches the ball through the hoop.