The word “review” is going to get stretched (and pretty much abandoned entirely) here. I’m not interested in reviewing a man’s career on the day of his death. Besides, even if I did there would only be positive things to say. Instead I just want to take a moment to appreciate Mr. Ramis for all of his amazing contributions to the comedic film community – and comedy in general.
Harold Ramis was a part of my childhood from a very young age, in the form of Ghostbusters II‘s Egon Spengler, Ph. D. That’s right – my earliest Ghostbusters experience wasn’t even the original film. I think we recorded the sequel off the TV, so it was always readily available. It was all-Vigo-the-Carpathian, all-the-time. Everyone wants to think they are a Venkman (Bill Murray) – unless you’re black, in which case you are a Louis (Rick Moranis) of course – but I’m sure a disproportionately large number of us were actually Spenglers. Especially those of us with a scientific mind.
Ramis portrayed a lot of nerdy everyman types. A lot has been and will be written about Ramis’ contributions as a writer and director, and rightly so: Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day and the many, many others are amazing, and heavily influential on the the next 20 to 30 years of comedy. The Judd Apatows and Seth Rogens of today certainly owe Ramis a debt. But his presence as an actor will be missed as well.
Ramis did not act often, and few would call his style groundbreaking, but he brought a quiet realism to all of his roles. From the aforementioned Dr. Spengler to Orange County‘s Director of Admissions to Ben’s Dad in Knocked Up. In that last role especially you can see the depth Ramis brought to a project. With maybe five minutes of screen time Ramis shows seemingly honest emotion, making you believe he really cares about Seth Rogen’s Ben, which is a feat all its own. It is the most poignant and heartwarming scene in a movie with a few strong contenders for that title.
The last several months have been tragic ones in the greater film community. It is an odd phenomenon for the general public to deeply mourn the losses of figures such as Paul Walker and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It is perhaps even selfish to regret the roles we may never see. But the mere fact that their deaths evoke such a response is indicative of the effect they had on the world. It is sad to see Harold Ramis’ name added to that ever-growing list of gone-too-soons. Fortunately we will always have that superior body of work by which to remember him.