The long-awaited Ghostbusters: Afterlife arrives in theaters this week, and the critics have been less than kind.
“This is spirit-of-’84 blockbuster cosplay — a cinematic equivalent of dressing up as Venkman and trying to get every last detail of your costume and D.I.Y. proton pack right, parading your loyalty for the benefit of your peers,” reads a review by Rolling Stone‘s David Fear. “And yet Ghostbusters: Afterlife somehow leaves out the magic that made that Bill Murray-fueled, big-budget genre mash-up so wonderful in the first place.”
This is far from the first time that something shoddy has attached itself to the Ghostbusters name. Fans can debate the merits of Ghostbusters II, cartoon shows The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters, and the 2016 all-female reboot, but it’s hard to argue that any of them lived up to the 1984 original. The first movie created a rich universe that could have led to an enduring franchise, but it just didn’t quite happen.
The original Ghostbusters was such a pop-culture juggernaut that even Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song became a Number One hit, knocking Prince’s “When Doves Cry” out of the top spot. That song earned him both a lawsuit from Huey Lewis for ripping off “I Want a New Drug” and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. This was during a weird era for the Oscars when every Original Song nominee didn’t get the chance to perform their works at the show, which meant that Phil Collins had to sit in the audience that night in 1985 and watch Ann Reinking sing “Against All Odds.”
But not only did Ray Parker Jr. sing “Ghostbusters” himself, he got to star in a six-minute sketch where he delivered the song as a forklift operator battling ballet-dancing ghosts in a warehouse. Midway through, three men who were supposedly the Ghostbusters burst through the wall, but they were wearing bright blue outfits and firing guns as opposed to proton packs. For no clear reason, the sequence wraps up with a capped Dom DeLuise appearing in the middle of the melee to ham for the cameras. The people behind this madness probably saw at least part of Ghostbusters, but it’s also possible they based this off nothing but their vague impressions of the movie and a particularly deranged fever dream.
Stevie Wonder took home the Best Original Song Oscar that night for “I Just called to Say I Love You” from the Woman in Red soundtrack. Wonder was in the house to accept the award, but Diana Ross sang the song instead of him.
It’s often said that the Oscars reached peaked Eighties weirdness in 1989 when Rob Lowe danced with Snow White for 11 agonizing minutes, and that was pretty damn bizarre, but it didn’t have dancing ghosts, a flying forklift, off-brand Ghostbusters, or even Dom DeLuise. In our minds, the DeLuise factor alone makes this one the winner.