A confession: until this week I’d never seen Ghostbusters (1984, dir. Ivan Reitman). I grew up in the late ’80s; I was well acquainted with the theme song and drank “Ecto Cooler” juice boxes with pictures of Slimer on them in elementary school. But I wasn’t familiar with the film itself. It’s a strange thing, watching for the first time something that has already become a kind of cultural touchstone for your generation. And I hate to say that without the nostalgia factor films like Ghostbusters seem a bit underwhelming. Would those who grew up with this film love it as fondly if they suddenly saw it now, as adults, for the first time? Perhaps not. I certainly wouldn’t feel the impact of a film like Return to Oz the same way now that I did watching it on video as a kid, when it fascinated and terrified me.
I know that many people my age cherish this movie, so I’m loath to beat up on it too badly. It’s a fun movie; Bill Murray is, as always, irresistibly funny and rather sad (in his hangdog expression and drooping eyes here you can see the seeds of the roles he would play so beautifully in later films like Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers). Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, seemed more or less wasted in a part that gives her almost nothing interesting to do. But there are plenty of charming touches here—Annie Potts as a comic-strip secretary with big glasses and a Brooklyn accent thick enough to make a sandwich out of. I was less charmed, though, by the dumb sex gags—Dan Aykroyd dreaming about a beautiful ghost pulling open his pants, or Sigourney Weaver possessed by a demon that makes her horny, etc. They didn’t seem to sit well with the rest of the film, which seemed to me unsure of the tone it wanted to strike, as if it hadn’t made up it’s mind whether to be an innocent, good-natured family-friendly cartoon or a hip comedy for the SNL age. (Murray’s deadpan comic timing, an example of the latter, seems to be coming out of a different movie than the kinds of broad caricature that we find in, say, Potts’ receptionist, or Rick Moranis’ nebbishy accountant.)
So: do folks think this is a legitimately great film? Is it simply an okay movie that gets rounded up to classic status for reasons of nostalgia? Is there something I’m missing? Or is it that I’m missing having seen this as a kid with everybody else?