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Movie Review Fail: The New York Times on Ghostbusters

Categories: Media, Movies
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www.thisweekontheinternet.com
Any writer who's ever had the sweet, sweet assignment of reviewing a movie will tell you that the job ain't as easy as it would seem. It requires a pretty substantial background in film history, technique, and style as well as uncanny ability to gauge what the mainstream audience is expecting when they pay $10 to plop down in a cushy seat with a bucket of popcorn.

Then, even the most balanced criticism can be construed as bitter grousing by an overweight and balding failed screenwriter. It's unfair, even if the stereotype in this instance is often spot-on (and that's coming from someone who just attended a press screening earlier this week.)

All that said, sometimes even the best critic just flat-out f**ks up.

In honor of Halloween, let us examine one of the spectacular misjudgments in the history of movie reviews: The New York Times' scathing take on Ghostbusters, as published in 1984.

Today, the movie is perhaps the most beloved horror/comedy of all-time. Chances are, someone will be sporting a proton pack at whatever Halloween party you attend.

In hindsight, however, it's a rare success in a genre that's lends itself to stinkers (see recent suckfests like Scary Movie  and Club Dread for examples) and this is the basic premise with which the author* begins her review:
The systematic pursuit and apprehension of any spooks, vapors or phantasms to be found in a metropolitan area - seems a perfect profession for Bill Murray. It requires a cool head, which Mr. Murray most assuredly has, as well as the ability to remain unruffled by bizarre apparitions - the sight, say, of a fat green ghost in a hotel corridor, gobbling the scraps off somebody's room-service tray.
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blogtown.portlandmercury.com
However, where millions of viewers absolutely loved this idea, the critic just doesn't quite get it. She continues:
This kind of work calls for the kind of sang-froid that, coming from Mr. Murray, amounts to facetiousness of the highest order.

Ready and able as he is to take on the ordinary chores that come his way in ''Ghostbusters'' (like carrying around a sample of suspicious slime, or investigating a haunted refrigerator), Mr. Murray also seems game for the full-fledged horror parody that ''Ghostbusters'' could have been. But, however good an idea it may have been to unleash Mr. Murray in an ''Exorcist''-like setting, this film hasn't gotten very far past the idea stage. Its jokes, characters and story line are as wispy as the ghosts themselves, and a good deal less substantial.
Ok, ok. She doesn't like Bill Murray. It's crazy but a forgiveable bias, perhaps, since he is a smarmy bastard. But what about Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis? They slay with lines like "Back off man, I'm a scientist," and that bit about the twinkie, don't they?
The screenplay is by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who play Mr. Murray's partners in parascience; Mr. Ramis plays the egghead type, and Mr. Aykroyd is more of a blank, since there's barely a role here for him at all.
So, to recap, the plot sucks, Bill Murray is out of his league and Dan Aykroyd doesn't have any good lines. How about the spooks and special effects? Isn't it badass when Sigourney Weaver turns into a demonic dog? Or laugh-out-loud absurd when Mr. Stay-Puft starts stomping NYC?
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