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Ghostbusters by Theodore Shapiro (Review)

posted Jul 20, 2016, 4:48 PM by Kaya Savas

When you say “Ghostbusters music” usually only one thing pops up in people’s head, and that’s the famous song by Ray Parker Jr. What was great about the original was that it was scored very richly and intricately by Elmer Bernstein. While the film is usually billed as a comedy because of its comedic cast, the score always played it straight. And you’ll see Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman in interviews speak about how great Elmer’s approach was. Which brings us to this modern re-telling with a new cast of comedians.

I’ll briefly mention all the criticism surrounding this movie, but not dwell on it. Simply put, this is a good and very entertaining flick. All the sexist criticism of the all-female cast or the racist criticism being hurled at Leslie Jones right now is sickening. It’s fine to dislike a movie, nothing wrong with that but sometimes the stains of humanity shine through and show us what terrible people are actually out there. In the end, the film is a harmless crowd pleaser. Could it have used a better villain? Sure. Is the humor a little stale? Yeah. But hey, I laughed, I was engaged and I especially enjoyed the final act of the film which owes much of its success to Theodore Shapiro’s fantastic score. 

Shapiro and director Paul Feig worked together on Spy, and kept the collaboration going here on Ghostbusters. Shapiro is a fantastic thematic composer who knows how to handle emotional arcs very well. His scores always come to this fantastic fruition in the final act, and when everything swells and comes together you stand back and go wow, this score is really working tremendously. You can say that for something as easily dismissible as Dinner For Schmucks, something supremely action-orientated like Tropic Thunder or something character-focused like The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. His music manages to ignore genre expectations and focus on the story and character.

The same goes here. For Ghostbusters, the music stays true to Elmer Bernstein’s approach in that the music never plays the comedy. The lush orchestral approach is bold and exciting, there’s a real forceful energy to the score that all builds to one amazing climax. You can hear some nice textures like the organ to add a “ghostly” vibe, but it never takes over to become a genre parody. The score takes everything that is happening very seriously, and that allows the comedy from the acting to feel more natural. The original Ghostbusters was never a laugh out movie with punchlines and gags, and neither is this one. The comedy comes from the character interactions and reactions more than anything. Another thing Shapiro did very well was incorporate the famous Ghostbusters song into the score and used it sparingly almost like it was the group’s “James Bond theme”. It worked so well. When that recognizable melody pops up in "Battle Of Times Square", it will actually give you chills. There’s also some great choral work that adds to the scope and brings everything to a tidy conclusion.

Theodore Shapiro’s Ghostbusters score would make Elmer Bernstein proud, and should be something he should be proud of as well. It may lack a robust central theme, but it has enough recurring motifs to give the score an identity very much in the same way the original score did. The repurposing of the famous theme song into the score was a huge success, and it pops up just enough to not overstay its welcome while only taking center stage in the climax of the story. Shapiro has always been a personal favorite of mine, and the fact that he can transcend so many genres yet still add so much emotional scope to a narrative continues to be one of his shining qualities as a composer and storyteller.