Friday, May 21, 2010

Nerd Confessional

I have a nerd confession I have to make and, perhaps, an apology to Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

Over the past few weeks, there's been a lot of talk in nerd news circles and even in straight up regular media about the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3, a potential film possibly starring all the original cast. Don't know if it will happen, but there's a big part of me that would LOVE to see a really good Ghostbusters movie again, because Ghostbusters 2 just didn't cut it for me, despite and maybe even because of Peter McNichol's best efforts. Reading the various stories about it, along with Murray's appearance talking about it on Letterman, got me thinking about the original. It's a film I loved as a kid, saw at least four times in the theater and watched our VHS copy of it countless times over the years following. I think it may have even been the second VHS movie we ever bought, following Michael Keaton's Batman. Thinking back on the film, though, from my perspective 26 years later, I decided I'd found a flaw in the storytelling that stuck in my craw.

In my memory--having not seen the film as a whole in probably 10 years, at this point--the first time we ever see or hear about the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in the film was when he turns up at the end and stomps through the city. While the 400 foot marshmallow man is trashing his way to Central Park West, Aykroyd's character Ray Stantz tells the other Ghostbusters that he remembers the character from roasting that brand of marshmallows at Camp Cucamonga and knew it could never ever harm them. To me, though, this seemed like a plot point that should have been set up earlier. If I'd made the film, I reasoned, I would have had Stay Puft Marshmallows prominently product-placed throughout the movie and might have even included a Stay Puft TV commercial cut to the Ghostbuster's TV commercial, just to build up the product and character in the audience's collective mind.

Cut to last weekend. We were watching the 10-year-old son of some friends of ours and were grasping for something to entertain him with other than 8 solid hours of playing the Arkham Asylum game for his Playstation 3. (Don't get me wrong, I loved watching and playing that, too, but the kid beat it, so what are ya gonna do?) Flipping through the channels, I spied Ghostbusters on AMC, instantly realized it was going to be the edited-for-television version and thought nothing more about it.

"Hey, that was Ghostbusters," the kids said.

"Yeah?" I asked. "You want to watch that?"


"Have you seen it before?"

"Some of it," he said. "I've never seen the end of it. There's a lot of talking and I fall asleep and all I want to see is the ghosts," he added.

"Okay. Sure," I said.

So we flipped it on and, being 10 at night, I hit record on the DVR, cause I know he's never gonna make it through. Sure enough, we get to the talky part, shortly after the Ghostbusters have established themselves and the first half of the movie's special effects budget has been exhausted, and he's asleep. But before all that, not too long into the film, the kid spotted something I'd never EVER noticed before in all my viewings of Ghostbusters, which true Ghostbusters fans reading this will likely already know and be insulted that someone who claims to be brethren is only picking up on it now, which is: in the scene where Sigourney Weaver's Dana comes home to her apartment, but just before shit starts going nutty, she walks into her kitchen, sets down her groceries, unpacks a carton of eggs and some other random baggy looking thing and she turns to fiddle with something in the background scenery, leaving the egg carton to pop open and start spattering eggs that instantly fry on the countertop, when the kid pipes up with "Hey, there's the Staypuft Marshmallow Man."

"Where?" I asked.

"Right there," he said. And, a second look later, I realized with equal parts dawning horror and respect that the random baggy thing beyond the eggs, that I've heretofore been too distracted by the eggs and the creepy music to notice, is a bag of Stay Puft Marshmallows complete with a marshmallow man logo. This was when I told the kid how I'd only recently been thinking that the movie needed more of that kind of product placement and here it was in front of me the whole time.

This was all the challenge the kid needed. His eagle eyes spotted another Stay Puft logo appearance, painted on the side of a building during the sequence following the grid shutdown at Ghostbusters' Central. I wouldn't doubt there are other such placements in the film, but those two were enough to qualify for setting up the character--although I still argue there were too many distracting elements in each scene for anyone but the most eagle-eyed spotters to notice on the first viewing, but they're there.

So, to Mssrs Aykroyd and Ramis, writers of the film, an apology for doubting you. Now, if the both of you would kindly rewatch Ghostbusters 2 and then go somewhere and think about what you did and start concentrating very hard on ways to ensure you never ever do THAT again, especially in any third installments, we can call it even.

1 comment:

crsunlimited said...

I'd like to say that I knew about the Marshmallow man's product placement before today too, but sadly I have never seen either of the ones you mentioned. You're right about the scenes being too distracting, that and the movie itself is so dark without high definition TV,s or sharpened images from a DVD I probably would have never noticed.

I do like Ghostbusters 2 though. Not in a way that equals the original, but I thought it had a decent story, with the warlock coming back from the painting. True Peter McNichol plays a character that rivals the annoyance factor of Rick Moranis, but that's not what made this movie low on my list of "want to watch".

The main problem I had with 2 is that it seems no ghosts ever come out except right before some major supernatural occurrence. They preceded Gozer, and now preceded Vigo, but aside from that they seem to be non-existent. So basically any time ghosts start showing up everyone should know that something BIG is about to happen.

The other major thing that throws this movie off for me is that Everyone in NYC should know about ghosts at this point from events that happened in the first film. So why would anyone lock up the ghostbusters in an asylum when they have encountered this kind of activity before? You would think by now people in general wouldn't think seeing ghosts or talking about them meant you where crazy.

I'm not going to cover "Mood slime". It speaks for itself.