Ivan Reitman Retrospective
Editor’s Notes: Draft Day opens in wide release this Friday, April 11th.
Ivan Reitman could easily be described as a “sneaky good” director. With a long and prolific career in comedy filmmaking, there are a number of times a film has come along that I never realized Reitman directed. Such is the case with Draft Day, his upcoming NFL picture that I only discovered Reitman directed by chance. Ivan Reitman’s films aren’t all classics by any means, there are many of his efforts which are mediocre to say the least, but there is no doubt he had his share of comedy classics early in his career. There is a trifecta early in his time as a director, which would make any comedic director envious. Reitman’s career may have grown stagnant in recent years, however, they can never take away what made him a “sneaky” legend.
Ivan Reitman’s films aren’t all classics by any means, there are many of his efforts which are mediocre to say the least, but there is no doubt he had his share of comedy classics early in his career.
Born in October of 1946, Ivan Reitman got his start as a producer in the late seventies producing a little comedy classic, Animal House. It wasn’t long before Reitman’s success as a producer parlayed into his opportunity to direct. After slogging through several B-grade pictures to perfect his craft, Reitman hit a trifecta of classic films, all featuring the great Bill Murray. First up was the raunchy comedy Meatballs in 1979, which bridged the gap between Reitman’s campy films and his newfound comedic groove. In an attempt to lighten the negative post-Vietnam disposition towards the military, Reitman teamed up with Murray and his peer, the late Harold Ramis, and directed Stripes, a charming comedy that has since been recognized as one of the defining “new-wave” comedies to come along during the turn of the decade.
Following the success of Meatballs and Stripes, Reitman would cement his place in history with Ghostbusters. Not only is Ghostbusters one of the finest comedies in Reitman’s career, it is one of the best films of the decade and the pinnacle of Reitman’s and Murray’s career. The Ghostbusters team would reconvene for a sequel five years later in 1989, and while it is nowhere near as indelible as the original it is nevertheless a solid follow up. In between Ghostbusters pictures, Reitman directed Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in the massive crowd-pleasing hit, Twins. Reitman was able to define his style and add pathos to his comedies that Ramis was able to do alongside him.
Reitman’s success continued into the nineties, where he would turn in another successful Schwarzenegger comedy (my personal favorite of the Arnie comedies), Kindergarten Cop. In 1993, Reitman found even more success with Dave, starring the great Kevin Kline as a man who bears a striking resemblance to the President and soon finds himself filling in. Dave was a massive hit and another charming comedy for Reitman, who dominated a decade of American comedy classics. But then, however, things began to slow in the success department.
Reitman has slowed his career in recent years, directing films that are head scratchers. Pictures like Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and No Strings Attached never seemed to work just right.
It’s difficult to tell what turns audiences off, but Reitman’s films seemed to lose their connection. In 1994, another Schwarzenegger collaboration, Junior, couldn’t find a strong audience. Perhaps it was the strange subject matter, about a man bearing a child, that turned off the masses. Reitman’s follow up seemed tailor-made for success, as Father’s Day starred box-office monsters Billy Crystal and Robin Williams who were in the peak of their career. Alas, the picture failed, and isn’t as funny as it should have been. In the late nineties Reitman found moderate success with the Harrison Ford/Anne Heche adventure comedy, Six Days Seven Nights, which was fashioned after Romancing the Stone and was a middling draw for audiences.
Reitman has slowed his career in recent years, directing films that are head scratchers. Pictures like Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and No Strings Attached never seemed to work just right. And they were films I was surprised to learn Reitman directed This recent career dip doesn’t bode well for Draft Day, which doesn’t look solid either way. These days, the Reitman who has the arrow pointing upeward is Ivan’s directing son, Jason. That being said, Jason has a way to go before he builds a career as prolific and legendary as what Reitman did in a fourteen-year span.