Director Tribute: Ivan Reitman


In tribute to Mr. Reitman (this February marks the anniversary of his passing), I'll post brief opinions here regarding his films as I go through them. Frankly I'd seen 2-3 of his films prior to this (I've doubts on how much I saw of Legal Eagles). It should be interesting to explore the work of this now gone director.

Reitman's debut is pretty much impossible to find, so I started with Cannibal Girls, his sophomore effort. It reminds me of Cameron/Assonitis's Piranha 2: The Spawning, in that it has a similar B-movie feel. I won't say that it's well made; nevertheless, some people might find it entertaining in a schloky way. I gave it 6/10 on Imdb. Not one I'd recommend to the casual viewer, but people who want to dig deeper into Reitman's work might find something of interest here.

Next up is Meatballs, his 3rd film. Interestingly enough, it started a franchise (though I dunno if I'll ever see the sequels). Definitely more entertaining than the previous film, I still think this had writing issues, particularly when it came to some of the humor and subplot management. I won't spoil the ending, as the final stretch of the film is among its best parts. Murray's performance is impressive, and he pretty much carries this film. 7/10 on Imdb.

Now we get to Stripes, his 4th film. Interesting note: this is a politically aware film, as the subject of the Cold War is brought up (take as you will the fact it ended decades ago). In my view, this film at least has a tighter and more integrated story than the previous film. It's also great to see John Candy here (RIP), and Murray has great chemistry with Harold Ramis (RIP). Like in the previous film, I thought the humor had some inconsistency, and also had some issue with Ramis's character (his motivation in particular). However, in general this is an entertaining film. 8/10 on Imdb.

Alas, we've reached what is possibly Mr. Reitman's most iconic film: Ghostbusters. While his previous attempts at comedy (in my view, ofc) had inconsistencies and the content just didn't quite reach full entertainment potential, this (mostly) changed with Reitman's 4th film. The writing here is much tighter, and the comedy feels much more spontaneous and natural.

My one issue lies with the character of Peter Venkman, and his core, ethics and motivation. However, this aside, the movie mostly works as a comedy blast. 9/10 on Imdb.

So I skipped to Mr. Reitman's 8th film, Ghostbusters II (and don't worry, I shall cover Legal Eagles and Twins later). In a sense, this film reminds me of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Since this isn't neither a Spielberg nor a Jurassic Park thread, I won't go into detail (or spoilers) regarding the Jurassic Park sequel. I'll just make some basic points of comparison but with a focus on GB II.
(I also haven't seen the Jurassic World films, so please don't bring those up here).

It seems most people agree that the 1st Jurassic Park is a classic in the sci-fi genre (much like the first Ghostbusters in the comedy realm). To this day it is one of Spielberg's most beloved films, a fair number of quotes from it are popular, and simply put, it is a film that still hits you even after multiple viewings (I've seen it at least 4 times, and can attest to this). In comparison, The Lost World: Jurassic Park doesn't seem to have aged as well. From what I've seen, it seems much less popular than the first. Personally, while I remember loving it on first viewing, I've seen it at least twice since and it seems to get worse with each viewing. Again, I won't spoil it here, but the point is, where the first film (mostly) got the right mix of ingredients, the second pales in comparison to some extent.

Interestingly enough, both Lost World and Ghostbusters II had returning directors. Both also had returning screenwriters (D. Koepp in The Lost World; Ramis and Aykroyd in GBII). And yet (in my opinion and that of others to widely varying degrees), these sequels feel at least somewhat underwhelming in contrast to their predecessors.

Here I'll stop the comparison, but I thought it useful in order to present my thoughts on this film in a clear way.

So Ghostbusters II has our heroes out of business, trouble arises, and eventually they're back on a mission to save NYC once again. Therein my basic summary of what the film's about.

While I give GB II credit for at least attempting to continue the story in an interesting direction, comedy-wise the film feels like soda going flat. The spontaneity that made the first film so funny seems largely absent here. I will say that I chuckled from time to time watching this. But that was it; where the first one made me laugh my a** off, the 2nd one wasn't even close. There are good things, mostly story-wise, but without that comedic knack of the first, it simply manages to just be okay enough. A 7/10 from me on Imdb.

And now we get to Legal Eagles, Reitman's 6th film. This is an interesting one, since Rotten Tomatoes has it below 50%. There aren't many I. Reitman rankings on YouTube, but Jay Vaters hates it and Jacob Martin isn't a fan. I have to say I strongly disagree with them, and with the RT score. I f****ng love this film: it might not be as funny as GB1, but for my money, it makes up for that with plot and excellent banter. Robert Redford is great and highly convincing. Debra Winger is also excellent. I also have no real issues with Daryl Hannah, and think she does her job well enough. Again, not as funny as GB1, however there's enough humor to keep you entertained. As far as I'm concerned, one of the cleverest films I've seen (together with another that I'll mention later). 10/10 on Imdb (yes, I like it better than GB1, sue me).

Legal Eagles isn't a great movie and it certainly isn't an ambitious one, but as a star vehicle for Redford and Winger it works fine. As a mystery it isn't especially tricky to figure out as there are only a couple of characters who could be the culprit. But the supporting cast is full of good actors and, again, the only reason to really watch it is for Redford and Winger. Kind of a throwback in that sense. It could almost have been made in the 1950s. Which is cute if you're in the mood for a very light, non consequential bit of fluff, but is also what makes it seem so slight and unambitious, which is I am sure where a lot of the film's criticisms come from. If you compare it to any three episodes of the hit series "Moonlighting", which was on the air the same time this movie was released, you can see that Glenn Gordon Caron and company were having a heck of a lot of fun playing with and against some of the same old fashioned tropes that Ivan Reitman and Legal Eagles were playing straight. If Legal Eagles had some inventiveness to go along with Redford & Winger's chemistry it would be a much better remembered and beloved flick.

I think, anyway.

"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Next up is Meatballs, his 3rd film. Interestingly enough, it started a franchise (though I dunno if I'll ever see the sequels)...
Do NOT waste your time. They are "sequels" in name, only. Meatballs II has a space alien in the mix and Meatballs III has a ghost helping the main character lose his virginity. There are a couple recognizable names in both movies (Richard Mulligan, John Larroquette, Paul Reubens, Sally Kellerman, Patrick Dempsey) but they are beyond awful and make the original look like a masterpiece by comparison.

And now we've reached Twins, Reitman's 7th film, and his first collaboration with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie might not be one of the most fluid actors, however he's one of my personal favorites in spite of his limits. I personally feel that in various films I've seen him in, he's one of the strongest components for some reason. Ofc, that's all artistic perception ultimately.

Regardless, setting him up with De Vito was a brilliant choice. They play off each other nicely, each giving an amusing representation of different sides of the human experience. This is doubtless one of Reitman's most mature works; and while not my personal favorite, it is so far the only film of his I would call a must-see, for its profound subject matter and how it's presented. 9/10 on Imdb.

And now we've reached is so far the only film of his I would call a must-see, for its profound subject matter and how it's presented.
We must have very different definitions of the word "profound".

Twins is cute, if dated, has some laughs, and well cast with DeVito and Arnold. But profound? Oh-kee-doh-kee.

We've reached Reitman's 9th film, Kindergarten Cop. Here Arnold returns for the 2nd of 3 collaborations with Mr. Reitman. An interesting aspect of this and Twins is how they feel adapted to Arnold's action star status. It manages to be entertaining, even if awkward in certain points and dragging slightly in the 2nd half. For me, not as strong as Twins, but still an enjoyable film. 8/10 on Imdb.

We've reached Dave, Reitman's 10th film. While I've no problem watching a film about politics and the government, I thought Dave had significant tonal issues. Not saying this is a bad film, but I struggled to figure out if this was a comedy or a political drama.
WARNING: spoilers below
Also, the romance seemed a bit awkward for me

In short, while I liked Dave, I can't say I was highly entertained by it, or that I loved it in any other sense. Just my 2 cents. 7/10 on Imdb.

We've reached Junior, Reitman's 11th film and one of his most hated. However, these reviews are simply my takes and not those of Imdb or any other film rating site.
I will admit that this film does have a tonal issue, as it doesn't always know whether it's a comedy or something else (but I'd argue many of I. Reitman's films have this problem to one degree or another; while a talented director, his sense of humor was often mixed).

Notwithstanding, I mostly enjoyed the film, as I thought Arnie, De Vito and Thompson worked fine together. The premise might be a turn-off for some, but since I'm no embryologist or anything of the sort, I just see it as entertainment. Each to their own. 8/10 on Imdb.

I forgot to post my review (I try to do these a short time after viewing). But here goes.

We're now at #12: Father's Day. I grew up watching films with Robin Williams in them (Aladdin being my most watched, however growing up I recall seeing this or that film with him). His passing, for some reason, still hits me particularly hard. This, his only collaboration with Reitman, I thought worked impressively. He had great chemistry with Crystal (whom I hear speak and quickly associate with Mike Wazowski). The film might not be interesting for some, but I generally enjoyed it. 9/10 for me.

#13: Six Days, Seven Nights

First off, I have to say that watching this film helped consolidate Harrison Ford as one of my favorite actors. Not saying this was an Oscar worthy performance, but I thought he did a fine job in this film. I found this film entertaining, and the score was pretty impressive. Certainly not for everyone, but I loved it. 9/10 on Imdb.

#14: Evolution:

Took me a while after watching to post this, but I was entertained by this one. I've heard comparisons with Ghostbusters,
WARNING: spoilers below
but I found this film more similar to Jurassic Park

In simple terms, I thought this film did it's job in terms of being a fun ride. It's not my favorite Reitman film, but I wouldn't mind rewatching it sometime. 8/10 on Imdb.

Fell asleep on this, so I'll just do one post for the remaining films:

#15: My Super Ex-Girlfriend: 5/10 (lost me in the 2nd half)

#16: No Strings Attached: 9/10 (I'm aware it's not for everyone, but I was taken emotionally with this one)

#17: Draft Day: 8/10 Doesn't really feel like an I. Reitman film (it reminded me of The Big Short) but nevertheless entertained me.

I'll post my ranking later.