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Klavan On The Culture

Harold Ramis, RIP

February 25th, 2014 - 6:02 am
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Sad to hear about the death of Harold Ramis at 69. Ghostbusters, which he acted in and had a script credit on, and Groundhog Day, which he directed and had a script credit on, are, I think, genuinely classic movies. And while Stripes is probably of its time (I haven’t seen it in a while), in its time, it was pretty hysterical. Likewise National Lampoon’s Vacation and Caddyshack. There was also the just-miss Ice Harvest, an adaptation of one of the really fine crime novels of a second golden age of American crime novels in the ’80s and ’90s. I admired Ramis for seeing the dark humor of the book, even though he didn’t quite bring it off.

His best films weren’t just amusing, they also had heart — and better yet, heart without sentimentality. It’s not easy to get to heart coming out of a hyper-ironic generation of comedians — Bill Murray, Ramis’s frequent collaborator, is one of the chief among them. I’ve noticed that a lot of American comedians start out as oddball ironic outsiders and then end up making soppy “family” trash where they have to get all misty-eyed and sincere in the final scenes. Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy all come to mind. Even Murray’s done a few.

But Ramis’s great movies — Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day — are both deeply felt and even moving without ever losing their goofy, hip, ironic style. That’s very cool. I was a reader at Columbia Pictures when Ghostbusters came out. I saw it in a pre-release screening and I remember being blown away by the fact that it was scary, exciting and funny all at once. (Obviously director Ivan Reitman gets credit for that too.) Since the picture hadn’t opened yet, I wondered if anyone else would appreciate it! Apparently they did.

And as for Groundhog Day — the well-read conservative will of course have seen Jonah Goldberg’s excellent appreciation, re-posted over and over like Groundhog Day at NRO:

In the years since its release the film has been taken up by Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement. Meanwhile, the Internet brims with weighty philosophical treatises on the deep Platonist, Aristotelian, and existentialist themes providing the skin and bones beneath the film’s clown makeup. On National Review Online’s group blog, The Corner, I asked readers to send in their views on the film. Over 200 e-mails later I had learned that countless professors use it to teach ethics and a host of philosophical approaches. Several pastors sent me excerpts from sermons in which Groundhog Day was the central metaphor. And dozens of committed Christians of all denominations related that it was one of their most cherished movies.

It really is a terrific movie.

So a great career making films that not only made you laugh but touched you. Nicely done. Sorry to see him go.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ghostbusters and his role as Spengler, Groundhog Day, yes Caddyshack but also Meatballs, a sweet little move the likes of which Bill Murray has still not successfully duplicated. Those were funny movies for happy times. Today, nothing much like them. RIP Spengler, see you on the other side.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm 35. I was born in 1979. Do I really need to say more? Ghostbusters holds a place in my childhood memories right next to Goonies and Gremlins. Also, I watched Stripes with my wife recently and it's still funny.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Personally, I'm a fan of Ramis's "Bedazzled" remake in 2000. It, like Groundhog day, deals with weighty issues in a funny and warmhearted way. In his commentary, Ramis tries to tap dance around the "religious" aspects of the movie which apparently upset some of those of a secular persuasion while also annoying Christians with a non-condemnatory take on the Devil. The ethical basis of the film is well grounded however and every entertaining.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
RE: dylanmmcfarland and Broomon......guess it's Groundhog's Day again!
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Giving others a laugh at the end of the day is an extremely honorable way to make a living.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Groundhog Day has been compared to "It's A Wonderful Life" for durability and wise commentary on the human condition.

Thanks for your work, Harold, especially Groundhog Day.

May the memory of Harold Ramis be a blessing.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Comedy in movies is one of the hardest things to do and do right.

Ramis had the knack of making an entire movie funny, rather than just stringing together a few gags with a weak plot.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
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