With the much-buzzed about release of the new Ghostbusters, movie lovers are probably finding themselves either revisiting the original classics for the fantastic masterpieces they both remain to this day or discovering them for the first time. Regardless of how anyone feels about the new installment in the franchise, Ghostbusters fever is gloriously everywhere. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray may be forever linked with the characters they helped bring to life, in spite of the long and storied careers each has enjoyed since, which have included journeys on the other side of the camera. In celebration of the resurgence in the Ghostbusters series, I thought I would take a look at the times in which the original four actors parlayed their on-screen popularity into behind-the-camera turns for passion projects which were wildly diverse, yet completely unforgettable.
Everything’s Jake – Hudson served as producer and took a rare leading role in this mystifyingly unheard of drama. Everything’s Jake sees Hudson playing the titular character, a homeless man living in New York who is as happy as they come, running around proclaiming the city streets to be his home. Things change when he meets Cameron (Graeme Malcom), another homeless man whom Jake adopts as his friend despite ulterior motives. Everything’s Jake is the kind of film that’s totally easy to fall in love with. The writing is both sharp and sensitive and the film’s themes of optimism, embracing life and the simple joy of waking up every day ring more than true. The film’s comment on friendship may help to anchor the film, but ultimately it’s Hudson’s career-defining work as Jake which gives Everything’s Jake its true soul.
Stuart Saves His Family – The Ghostbuster with the most extensive resume behind the camera, Ramis could count such classics as Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Vacation on his director resume before he even caught his first ghost. While his career never had the same punch post-Ghostbusters, Ramis the director was still able to offer up a number of solid comedies. For me, one of the most beloved of 90s Ramis offerings remains Stuart Saves His Family. Based on the SNL character by Al Franken, Stuart Saves His Family sees the title character try to become a self-help guru and live a healthy, normal life despite his dysfunctional, yet hilarious, family. It may have been misjudged popularity with regards to the character, or the fact that Ramis offered up moments of raw pathos alongside truly hilarious scenes that was the cause of the movie’s failure. However Stuart Saves His Family’s playing up on themes of self-help and self-destruction still makes this one of the funniest films of Ramis’s career.
Nothing But Trouble – Aykroyd’s lone directing effort just so happens to be one of the strangest cult classics of the 90s. In Nothing But Trouble, Aykroyd directs himself, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore and John Candy (hilarious, in a dual role) in this darkly comic tale about a group of trendy New Yorkers who must face a demented, grotesque backwoods judge (Aykroyd) after running a stop sign. With a cast like this and Aykroyd’s own script, Nothing But Trouble never falls short of the kinds of laughs these pros have been known to provide (save for Moore who manages to be a pretty decent straight man). Beyond the general laughs, there’s a great macabre sense to the whole experience, including an elaborate old mansion with trapdoors and slides and machines such as the “bone chiller,” which awaits special kinds of criminals. Nothing But Trouble’s deliciously twisted humor was NOT for everyone when it first released, yet today there are PLENTY of people who get it from the start… and would really love a mint candy.
Quick Change – Murray (along with co-director Howard Franklin) brought one of the most vibrant heist comedies of the 90s with the eternally-hilarious Quick Change. The film stars Murray, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid as a trio of thieves who have just successfully robbed one of New York’s top banks. The problem facing the three of them now is just how to get out of the city as they are faced with virtually every setback possible from more than one near miss with a police chief (Jason Robards) hot on their trail and their inability to find means of transportation which is actually able to take them to the airport. There’s great fun witnessing the many maddening predicaments facing the loveable gang and seeing how the film’s humor rubs off on non-comedic actors such as Davis and Robards is joy. It’s a movie which may only be a curio in Murray’s career, but watching Quick Change today, it’s easy to see the actor turned director’s skilled comedic hand at its absolute finest.