Bill Murray, along with his fellow ghostbusters (Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also wrote the script) has been prowling the corridors of a swank hotel in search of a green spirit. Unfortunately, Murray finds it. We cut away before the ghost engulfs him, then follow Ayrkroyd as he runs to Murray’s aid. Murray, prone, is covered with goo. “He slimed me,” says Murray, as Aykroyd gives comfort. A moment later, Murray, still supine, rolls his head back, looks heavenward, and lets loose with an oddly satisfied sigh, “I feel sooo funky.”
I don’t know what this line means. I’m not sure I want to know. But I know that it made me laugh all through the next few scenes in Ghostbusters. There is something divine about Bill Murray, and I mean that adjective in the truest sense. Murray’s screen persona walks among men, but he is apart from them. He can’t really be called courageous, yet he faces danger, authority, and sexual aggression without the slightest trace of fear. As Newsweek‘s David Ansen put it, “His response stays the same, whether he is confronted by a green demon or an ordinary man in the street: nothing fazes his lunatic disengagement from reality.” We cannot imagine a life for Murray outside the running time of his films; he’s unreal, he couldn’t survive in the world of the flesh.
Murray is not yet on the same plane as the great Groucho Marx, but I thought about Groucho while watching Ghostbusters. Like Groucho, Murray’s anarchic insouciance is a liberating force; he gives gleeful life to all the comebacks that we would like to be able to make to authority figures and incompetents. Part of Murray’s popularity must stem from the fact that his humor is rarely laced with malice; rather, he floats his words on a breeze of laid-back cheer. This is, of course, the opposite of Groucho’s rapid patter. But Murray has a scene with Sigourney Weaver – who is both beautiful and funny in Ghostbusters – after she’s been possessed by the spirit of a ghost who’s been haunting her apartment refrigerator, during which the two of them achieve a comic dialogue the likes of which has not been seen (or heard) since Groucho parted ways with Margaret Dumont.
Weaver is writhing in heat on her bed (she is about to levitate above the bed, which prompts Murray to later remark, “I like her because she sleeps above her covers – four feet above her covers” – but still, no big deal), and she entices Murray hither. He’ll have none of it. The scene he sees before him is too fraught with possibilities for one-liners, and he is drunk on comic opportunity. It’s impossible to imagine Murray and Weaver actually bedding down after the movie ends just as it was impossible to imagine what Groucho might do if he actually convinced one of the objects of his desire to join him between the sheets full of cracker crumbs.
So what about the movie itself? Well, Ivan Reitman continues to be the worst comedy director at work today, but he seems to be Bill Murray’s guide, what with Meatballs and Stripes and all. And presumably he provides the improvisational atmosphere in which Murray thrives. Aykroyd and Ramis maintain second-banana status; there is also an inexplicable fourth ghostbuster, Ernie Hudson, who seems to be there to get the black vote.
And Rick Moranis is so good as Weaver’s geeky neighbor that it makes up for Streets of Fire. Well, almost. With these people hanging about, plus the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, Ghostbusters can’t miss being agreeable. As for Murray, he won’t have Reitman to fall back on for his next movie. He plays the seeker-of-the-infinite in The Razor’s Edge. It’s unfair, but you can’t help imagining him experiencing his moment of oneness with the Absolute, putting his head back against a tree trunk, watching the sun rise, and whispering softly, “I feel sooo funky….”
First published in The Informer, May/June 1984
At this point in my budding career I was writing reviews in a daily newspaper, The Herald, and also editing the Seattle Film Society’s newsletter, The Informer; I rarely wrote two reviews of the same movie (something I did a lot of when I later wrote for The Herald and Film.com at the same time), but I guess Ghostbusters was one of them. I posted the other review almost ten years ago – man, time flies. I suppose I would watch it again someday, but only for Murray.