Ivan Reitman’s death was a crushing blow. The 75-year old director, writer, and producer was one of the names attached to many of the films that millions grew up with and to see him pass away so suddenly was quite shocking.
As a kid, my family watched Ghostbusters and Dave practically on repeat every Friday night. We quote both movies endlessly. In fact, I could probably close my eyes and watch either film in my mind without missing a beat. I don’t remember seeing Ghostbusters for the first time — I was far too young — but my parents saw it after overhearing a couple of guys talking about this “funny ghost movie” a few weeks after it released. I watched it endlessly throughout my youth. When I stayed home sick from school, I would hook up our tiny TV and VCR in my room, kick back and watch Bill Murray and the gang bust some ghost. It’s still one of my all-time faves.
Dave, on the other hand, was one of those movies my family stumbled upon mostly because we were fans of Sigourney Weaver. To this day, everyone in the cast — including Kevin Kline, Kevin Dunn, Frank Langella, Charles Grodin, and Ving Rhames — carry the moniker “that person from Dave” in my eyes — except for Ben Kingsley, who will forever be Cosmo from Sneakers. I swear I’ve seen that movie a thousand times… even thinking about brings a wave of ’90s nostalgia — a mid-summer Friday night hanging out with the fam, a bucket of popcorn, and Dave.
Thank you Ivan Reitman for all the joy you brought to me and my family over the years. You will be missed. In case you’re looking for some of the man’s best works, here are my five favorite films directed by Ivan Reitman.
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
I missed out on Kindergarten Cop when it was released in 1990, but I saw the pic plenty of times in school. For whatever reason, for a good four or five years, the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy was the go-to movie for my elementary school teachers when they needed to fill some time before a holiday or on a lazy Friday. Naturally, the film’s decidedly intense action and suggestive content — it did receive a PG-13 rating — wouldn’t fly in today’s market, but no one seemed too bothered back then.
At any rate, I’ve always enjoyed the goofy comedy for its overtly silly manner. Outside of James Cameron, Reitman probably had the most overall success in tapping into Arnold’s endless charisma as seen in Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and the underappreciated Junior.
If you haven’t seen Kindergarten Cop in a while and really want to feel old — well, at least those of you who grew up with the film — pop it in and watch with the knowledge that the youngsters in the flick are all nearly 40 today. Yikes!
Now, I do recall seeing Twins in theaters with my parents, sister and Grandma. I remember all too vividly every scene with Kelly Preston capturing my very young attention. I’ve only returned to the comedy sporadically over the years, including a recent viewing a few months ago where I was surprised to discover just how much of the film had stuck to my subconscious. I could recall any number of scenes in painstaking detail, including the bit where Danny DeVito crawls towards Chloe Webb amidst a bunch of flowers.
Surprisingly, Twins holds up really well today. Arnold and DeVito make for a perfect comedy combo; and the story, while a little silly in the way it tries to shoehorn in some action to give its big star a reason to flex his muscles, remains surprisingly heartwarming.
Now, as a side, I actually think Junior is the better movie of the three Arnold-Reitman team ups, but for nostalgia’s sake, Kindergarten Cop and Twins deserve the nod.
Stripes is a lot like Caddyshack in that it doesn’t always work, particularly in its second half, but when it hits … man, it hits hard. Featuring a game cast that includes Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Warrant Oats, Sean Young, John Larroquette, Judge Reinhold and, apparently, Bill Paxton (no, really!), Stripes is one of those movies that have many bits (including this one) that you end up quoting long after the credits roll. It’s not always perfect, but as a carefree comedy exercise, you can’t do much better.
I’ve already shared my thoughts on Reitman’s classic romantic/political comedy, but in case you’ve never seen the flick let me reiterate: Dave is an absolute classic that works as a breezy comedy, a smart political satire, and a surprisingly thoughtful drama. Kevin Kline is brilliant as Dave, an ordinary man tasked with masquerading as the President of the United States, while Sigourney Weaver, fresh off Alien 3 and Ridley Scott’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise, is pitch-perfect as the embittered First Lady, who slowly begins to admire this bizarre clone of her husband. Ving Rhames damn near runs away with the film as Dave’s lovable security guard, while Charles Grodin, Kevin Dunn, and Frank Langella are stellar in supporting roles.
On top of that, you get a sharp script by Gary Ross and a James Newton Howard score that offers just the right note of whimsy to the proceedings.
For whatever reason, we don’t talk about Dave nearly enough. Outside of Ghostbusters, it’s easily Reitman’s strongest film and one of the better high-concept comedies you’ll ever see.
After all these years, Ghostbusters remains perhaps the greatest example of a successful big-budget comedy. Somehow, Reitman turned a silly idea from Dan Aykroyd into one of the most entertaining motion pictures of our time, replete with stunning VFX that still hold up to this day, wicked humor, a solid concept that’s fantastical enough to dazzle, but grounded enough to relate to; and an amazing ensemble of young, up-and-coming stars — Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Dan Aykroyd — who each fit their roles to perfection.
Reitman keeps the film flowing at a steady pace, and builds towards an impressive climax that’s as scary as it is hilarious. Seriously, nothing tops Ghostbusters.
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