No. Seriously. Who You Gonna Call?
As a child of the 1980s I'm pretty sure I'm legally required to be a fan of Ghostbusters. It's a seminal classic, one of those foundational movies that ever kid that grew in that era watched over and over again. It helped that the movie was on constant rotation on HBO and Showtime for a while so if you have cable you saw Ghostbusters constantly. Were you born between 1975 and 1990? You must love Ghostbusters.
Naturally I was a big fan at the time. I saw the original, and it's sequel, in theaters (this despite being super young when the first one came out). I watched the cartoon (the one prefaced with "Real"), had the toys, played the video games, and I think I even had one of the board games from the cartoon as well (I vaguely remember it involved making ghosts out of clay). I wouldn't say I was a superfan of the franchise (the Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesOriginally dreamed up as a parody of Marvel's Daredevil comics (going so far as to basically reproduce to opening shots of that comic's hero gaining his powers), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not only launched a sudden boom of anthropomorphic fighting animal comics but have, themselves, starred in multiple comics series, TV shows, and movies. were my true love), but it was high up on my "must love" list.
Of course, as the years have ticked by I've watched the film less and less. I still think it's funny but my tastes have also changed over time. It's not the fault of the movie itself as it hasn't really aged poorly in any way -- sure, the characters don't use cellphones but they aren't, like, talking special brand names that are gone ("Ego, did you fly Pan-Am today?") or discussing the political situation in the U.S.S.R. It's a film designed to be (largely) timeless which gives it surprisingly solidi legs for a modern audience.
No, I just think that, over time, I've grown less and less amused by Peter Venkman. Don't get me wrong, Bill Murry is very funny and the role and Venkman is the character that drives the whole movie forward. It's his quips, his snark, his bite that gives the film its edge. And it's clearly obvious most of the role was ad libbed by Murray on the fly -- even if what's on the screen is what he said, it's the way he said it, the performance he gave, the little asides that made it his own. Murray is the heart and soul of Ghostbusters; he carries the film.
And yet it's a dark and tainted soul because Venkman is such a creep. It was the humor of the era, to be sure, but watching Venkman macking on his student early in the film was pretty sketchy. Then Dana Barrett (the fabulous Signourney Weaver) rolls into the Ghostbusters garage is all up in her grille, hitting on her in a not very subtle way. Even after she's taken over by a ghost he's still half-way willing to go along with it. Yes, he eventually says no, which I guess shows some kind of growth. Still, in the era we're in now a character like this seems too slimy, to gross to be the lead character that carries the film.
Of course, the whole movie has its mind in the gutter. Lest we try and argue that it's a film meant for kids (like its reputation would have us believe), this is the film where Dan Aykroyd's Ray gets a blow job from a ghost (during the mid-movie montage). It's a kind of bachelor hang-out movie with just a bit of wish fulfillment mixed in (Dana is so very out of Venkman's league and yet she ends up with him by the end of the film). It is funny, and silly, but I can't really see it as harmless fun all the time at this point, not with things like #MeToo at this point.
Without Venkman there is still a lot to enjoy about the movie. Ramis's Egon is hilarious in his dry, deadpan delivery. "I collect fungus, molds, and spores," is a silly habit, but the way Egon says it makes it seem 100% believable (and even more ridiculous). Ernie Hudson's Winston also gets a couple of solid lines (one of the most famous, of course, being, "if someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes!"), although I do wish he was in more of the movie instead of a late-story ad in for the sake of, what, diversity? And the fact that he's the only one that doesn't have a PhD? That's not exactly the best look, either.
I mean, yes, this movie is just dumb fun. I get it. It's not supposed to be take seriously at all. Hell, it barely has a plot, acting more like a series of SNL sketches that are tied loosely together as the "rise of the Ghostbusters". Delving deep into the politics of the movie that seemingly has no politics, is just about three guys (four eventually) who happen to open a ghost fighting business right at the time when New York needed them most, might seem silly. Why would I harsh on this film?
Because it's a foundational classic. Because it spoke to an entire generation of young boys. It has some pretty sketch opinions on women coming from the leading male character, Venkman, and the movie never actually punishes him for his macho bullshit. Remember, despite hitting on his student he's not fired because of that but just because he's not a real, serious professor. He's pretty sleazy around Dana and yet at the end of the film (and again in the sequel) he gets the girl in the end. The film vindicates him without ever once saying, "hey, maybe pull it back about twenty percent there, you lech."
And then you have to look at the way the fans of this film savaged the 2016 reboot, Answer the Call. The MRA dicks were all over that movie, ranting and raving about how it killed their childhoods, that it was the worst thing to happen to the world since World War II and communism all rolled into one. It was the clearly the worst movie ever even though they didn't watch it and were already saying that before the film had even come out. And why? Because the film had a cast primarily made up of women, not men.
That's the takeaway I got going back to the original Ghostbusters. Venkman wasn't exactly great to women and then, 22 years later, women came along and thought they could be their own Ghostbusters. No, said the fans, that's clearly not what the original movie was all about. Sure, yes, maybe it did kill their childhoods because it forced them to think of women in lead roles (instead of as the object of affection for Venkman). I think I can see where they were coming from, I just also think they're absolute turds and should have just shut the hell up.
So, yes, Ghostbusters is a movie that, in some respects, seems ageless while, at the very same time, has not aged at all well. The film has very funny characters, solid special effects, and a climax that feels earned. And yet, at the same time, when I watch it I find myself laughing less than I used to, displeased with how some characters and situations look 35-plus years later. It's a film that, honestly, needed a solid reboot that reevaluated the original film and tried to fix some of the issues with it. Maybe that film wasn't Answer the Call but I'm glad someone had the sense to try.