Monday, June 8, 2009

Movie Quote of the Day (Bill Murray to Sigourney Weaver in “Ghostbusters”)

Dr. Peter Venkman (played by Bill Murray, wagging a finger admonishingly): “I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people.”

[Dana, played by Sigourney Weaver, embraces him even more passionately than before, the way that only someone possessed by a demon dog can do.]

Peter (his resistance weakening by the millisecond): “Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule...”—Ghostbusters (1984), written by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and an uncredited Rick Moranis, directed by Ivan Reitman

The giddily hilarious Ghostbusters, premiering on this date in 1984, was one of a trio of comedies opening that year which now have the feel of classics. All three starred actors formally associated with Saturday Night Live: cast regulars Murray and Eddie Murphy (in Beverly Hills Cop) and frequent and popular guest host Steve Martin (in All of Me).

I’m not that much of a fan of Murray’s earlier Caddyshack—a film in which the initial plot, concerning Michael O’Keefe and Scott Columby, is dropped like a too-heavy bag of golf clubs so that Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield could do their own thing. You could almost see Harold Ramis, here making his directorial debut, making it up as he goes along, just managing to salvage a group of disparate skits.

In contrast, with Ghostbusters, the focus is on this group of paranormal investigators, and even more on their wiseguy chief, Murray—who comes across less like a scientist, as the wary Dana notices immediately, than “like a game-show host.”

Though Murray provides the film’s comic fizz, it’s the willowy Weaver who serves as its plot fulcrum, the object of desire for Murray, Moranis’ nerdy accountant Louis, and, in the sequence here, “The Gatekeeper.”

Murray, hoping for some action with this woman he’s been making the moves on from the beginning, is mystified by her strange appearance and questions: “Is this still a date?” The ante is upped with the follow-up question that the demon transmits through Dana: “Do you want this body?” (Is this a trick question?” Peter wonders.)

Then, the sequence quoted above, followed by Murray’s definitive summary of this close call for Dana and himself: “I think we can get her a guest shot on Wild Kingdom.”

A couple of weeks ago, the announcement was made that Weaver, the last holdout among the original cast members, had committed to Ghostbusters 3. Though her presence will go a long way toward redeeming this sequel for me, I still wish none of the principals had gone near it.

Murray made Ghostbusters 2 for an obscene amount of money and the chance to get his more serious projects green-lighted. If you were in his position, considering the interesting work he’s done in the past decade in more serious films (The Royal Tenenbaums, Broken Flowers, and his Oscar-nominated turn in Lost in Translation), I’m sure you’d feel it was worth it.

I, however, disagree, for this reason: You not only can’t improve on perfection, but you shouldn’t even try. Intoxicants aren’t as fun the second time around.

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