Bustin' makes me feel good

Ghostbusters (1984)
Written and directed by Ivan Reitman

Ghostbusters is a movie most people seem to enjoy but few bother watching anymore. Think about it: when was the last time you curled up with a can of Diet Dr. Pepper and a copy of Ghostbusters? Or bothered to watch the whole thing through if it happened to be on television? Chances are you watched a scene or two, then moved on to something far more timely, for instance reruns of ALF on the local affiliate. As popular as it was, it now has the feel of a dated 80s movie, more hype than substance.

Perhaps that will change with the release of Ghostbusters on DVD, billed as a "Collector's Series" and boasting a full day's worth of extra material to plow through. Most likely, it'll change long enough for you to get completely sick of the hideous Ray Parker,Jr. theme song and the cloying, bullshit kiddie pandering of Slimer. Then you'll carefully slide the DVD into its alphabetical slot in your collection and forget about it until your next DVD Goodwill purge. By then of course we'll all be living in giant bubble domes floating on the ocean with our flying pod cars and android manservants, so none of this will matter anyway. But that's getting ahead of myself—first there's the neutron war with Pluto and the melting of the polar ice caps and my own rapid ascension to President of the World.

If you're shaking your head wondering when I'll actually get around to reviewing the DVD, well here it is. You all know the film, right? Three bumbling parapsychologists (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis) go into business catching ghosts. Then all hell breaks loose. Ghostbusters is mostly not a laugh out loud movie, but it is rather clever. A lot of scenes are true comedy classics—often the result of great chemistry between the three leads. Yet in many ways it's a terribly sloppy film—several weak montages set to some of the worst 80s music you could imagine—and nearly two hours is not exactly a breakneck pace. By now, though, the flaws somehow work in its favor. No longer such a hugely hyped movie, it feels comfortably quaint, and even the cheesier details are amusing simply for being so blatantly cheesy. It's still a lot of fun to watch, especially if you're as sad as I am and can recite most of the lines along with the actors.

Taken on its own, you might think Ghostbusters isn't worth the $28.00. But the *pant* extras. So many *sweat, pant, pant* outstanding extras.

First off, the film looks great – much crisper and brighter than any video print you've seen since its 1984 release. There's a great feature-length audio commentary from director Ivan Reitman, writer/actor Ramis, and an associate producer whose name I won't bother to mention since he's not famous (previous statement to be read with a bitchy sneer). The commentary is informative and funny, which is a bonus, and there are lots of interesting stories about the production. In addition to the audio track, you can choose a video commentary which has the same audio but adds the three silhouettes a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Highly recommended as a subtle comic touch, plus sometimes they point at things on the screen.

There's even a text commentary option called "Tricks and Trivia" that runs along the bottom of the screen. This commentary focuses more on technical details, as opposed to the more anecdotal audio/video choice. Compulsive multi-taskers and/or OCD sufferers can run both sets of commentary at the same time.

The "Scene Cemetery" offers several deleted scenes and/or alternate takes, most of which you quickly realize were best left on the cutting room floor. There's also hundreds of production photos, storyboards, conceptual art, and before/after special effects shots—all of which would be better suited to a bigger screen than I can either a) afford or b) easily steal.

But that's not even everything. View a split-screen comparison of storyboards to finished scenes and see how storyboards help shape the film. Then use the angle button on your remote to switch between a rough cut of several scenes without FX and the final cut with FX. (I'm starting to sound like the marketing director at www.ghostbusters_on_dvd.com.)

Plus, there's not one, but three roughly 15-minute featurettes. One is an original 1984 promo trailer/mini-documentary showing film clips, cast and crew interviews, and some making-of footage. The second offers some of the same footage with several new interviews—including a truly bizarre chat with Dan Aykroyd. And the third is a recent interview with the original FX team, edited together with some production stills. This one is great, especially considering how awkward these "regular people" are on camera.

And, lest I forget, the DVD also has trailers for three other Bill Murray films—Groundhog Day, Stripes, and Ghostbusters II. Remember when trailers didn't give away the entire movie? Ah, the "good" "old" early-mid "90s."

99% of the extras are great, especially the commentaries. The big downside is that even with this ridiculous bounty, in your greedy little mind you're left still wanting more. Maybe there's a few more outtakes they could have used, or funnier alternates (I recall hearing that Bill Murray would do upwards of five takes per shot, each one with a different joke). Maybe the featurettes could have been longer or had a bit more substance (especially the FX team interview). Or maybe your hand hurts from navigating all the still images at once (mine did).

The Collector's Series Ghostbusters DVD is a serious treasure trove whether you loved the movie or just thought it was "ehhh." Like a good old-fashioned everlasting gobstopper, it may take all day to get through, but it's definitely worth the effort. My rating reflects the rough average of the film itself (say, four cute l'il puppies) and the smashing DVD package (seven). We'll call it a six, because as the poet says, "Bustin' makes me feel good."

Review by Crimedog