Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thank you Mr. Murray

Ever since I watched Zombieland, I've had an insatiable craving for Bill Murray movies, so the Roman Polanski posts have been put on the back burner for the time being.

Caddyshack is easily one of the most quotable movies ever. It's also a sports movie that doesn't require you be the least bit knowledgeable or interested in the sport. All you have to do is enjoy the unbridled goofy awesome-ness that is Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield.

Danny is a blue collar kid from a huge family who's working at the local country club trying to scrape together enough money to pay for college. Chevy Chase is the resident eccentric golf ace, Bill Murray the eccentric groundskeeper, and Rodney Dangerfield plays a visiting rich, eccentric developer whose money has bought him the ability to do whatever the hell he pleases.

In fact, Chase and Murray's characters also seem to do whatever the hell they please and that's what makes them so funny. Yeah, there's a plot, but it's of little consequence. The real point of this movie is to bask in the comedic genius of these three performers. I feel it's Dangerfield's best performance in a movie. This is mostly because he's not required to act, he's only required to deliver lines in his signature style. His scenes are so delightfully absurd that they never fail to make me laugh out loud, even though I've seen this movie about 100 times.

The visual style is classic Lampoon. Bright colors, and the camera is always playing into every sight gag.

If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out on an important cultural touchstone. It's almost always available on TV, so the next time it's on, just sit and watch it. Although I heavily recommend you see it unedited for time and content.

Murray's character doesn't have a lot of screen-time, but he steals this movie.

Ghostbusters is such a well-written movie that it puts most modern comedies to shame. Also just as quotable as Caddyshack. The characters and plot are so well-developed and truly unique that it's no wonder that it was so wildly successful. Visually, it's a little dated, but for a comedy as old as I am, it's jokes are still just as fresh.

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also star, bring us the story of three scientists who start a ghost extermination business just as New York City begins to experience bizarre supernatural events.

This is my favorite Bill Murray movie. He plays the (comparably) straight man to the goofy science nerds played by Ramis and Aykroyd. He comes off as so suave and clever, it's just incredibly. He's a magnetic charmer, and it's impossible to not like his character.

The entire cast is very strong. Ramis and Aykroyd's mix of genius and geek is spot-on. Rick Morranis is able to give us a super-dork without going over-the-top. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as well. She shifts from damsel in distress to possessed temptress effortlessly and the transformation is amazing. Her entire body moves differently. Her chemistry with Murray is very good, and that's an important part of the movie.

The effects look cheesy now, but they were pretty cutting-edge at the time. Still, I wouldn't trade those claymation demon dogs for all the CGI in the world. They are an integral part of the movie's charm.

The theme song to end all theme songs. Whenever anyone anywhere says "Who you gonna call?" there is only one answer.

And to top it all off, this is an excellent family movie. The kids will like the more obvious jokes and the action, adults love the clever dialogue and nostalgia.

Then came Ghostbusters II. With a bigger budget and the entire cast returning and Ramis and Aykroyd writing the script, the sequel does not disappoint. We pick up with our poltergeist poaching heroes a few years after the events of the first movie. The paranormal activity has plummeted and their legal expenses soaring, they're forced to play at kids' parties and work other jobs for cash. Except for Venkman (Murray) who hosts an unpopular TV show about psychics. That is until poor Dana Barrett (Weaver) again begins having spooky experiences, this time centered mysteriously around her infant son, Oscar.

Hilarity and sci-fi ensues. Watching Venkman, Egon and Ray interact with the slime, and the city straights, is simply priceless. The climax, involving a famous NYC landmark, gets me every time. It's just such a fantastic concept that I don't care if it's plausible. I'm having such a good time that my disbelief is completely suspended.

Visually, this film is more sophisticated than the first and the effects are much better. Few sequels can live up to the potential of the first movie, but this one does.

This one's a little scarier, so kids might cover their eyes or shy away from parts. Adults being possessed and a killer marshmallow are less terrifying than evil slime and a demonic sorcerer trapped in a painting that wants to kidnap a baby.

I could go on and write about all Bill Murray's wonderful movies, but three's the magic number, so I'll stop here and cover the rest after I finish what I started with Polanksi.

So thank you, Mr. Murray. Thank you for being you.

I just watched Kick-Ass last night, so I'll be writing about that in a day or two.


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