Given its status as one of the best comedy movies ever made, it's probably not too surprising that people still want to pick through Ghostbusters decades after the initial release. Everything about Ivan Reitman's 1984 classic came together perfectly, leading to one of those times when a film becomes transcendent. I vividly recall the feeling of euphoria that went through my body when I saw it on opening weekend. How many times do we feel that in our lives? Not too many, for sure. Anyone who understands that emotion will find sufficient pleasure in the documentary Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters. Originally released on the Crackle streaming service, it's now hitting theaters in a cut that runs 25 minutes longer.
Director Anthony Bueno interviews cast and crew members to get the inside scoop on the making of Ghostbusters. The mercurial Bill Murray and the hermit-like Rick Moranis are, of course, nowhere to be found, but just about everyone else associated with the picture is. Among the topics covered: how Harold Ramis helped Dan Aykroyd pare down his complex original screenplay; key casting decisions; the writing of Ray Parker, Jr.'s iconic theme song; the creation of special effects, including Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; and how test audiences went through the roof at the first screening. Those are just a sampling of the subjects.
Anyone with a passion for Ghostbusters will pay rapt attention to these behind-the-scenes stories, which illuminate all the creative decisions that went into making the film what it eventually became. The back half of the documentary gives way more time to the special effects people than to the stars or to Reitman, which is slightly disappointing. Then again, these folks don't hold back, recounting often hilarious difficulties they faced in trying to pull off visuals that had never been accomplished onscreen before. Hearing the hellish torture the guy in the Stay Puft costume endured, for instance, is undeniably amusing.
The best sections, unsurprisingly, feature Ramis, who elegantly speaks to both the challenges of bringing the movie to the screen and the lasting legacy Ghostbusters has achieved. The late actor/writer has a strong sense of perspective on the experience, so listening to his recollections is priceless. He doesn't mince words either, openly stating that John Candy “priced himself out of being in the movie” by demanding too much money to play Louis Tully. But really, it's the pride in his voice that's touching. Helping to create a comedy that has brought so much lasting joy to so many people clearly meant a great deal to him.
Cleanin' Up the Town would have been better with improved organization. The doc is very sloppy in its assembly, jumping randomly from one thing to the next. It needed someone to provide some shape so that it would flow naturally. For that reason, it plays more like a really long DVD bonus feature than a professionally-made documentary. Nevertheless, you get 128 minutes of Ghostbusters-related anecdotes from the folks who made it, and that's a guarantee of entertainment. I can't imagine any devotee not finding the movie worth their time, despite the flaws.
out of four
Cleanin' Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters is unrated, but contains a few instances of rough language. The running time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.