I was thinking about this recently while watching Ghostbusters on TV. It’s hardly a masterpiece, yet it remains a terrific comedy and has held up well nearly 30 years after its debut. Still, despite a sharp, hilarious script, it contains a line toward the end that disappoints me to this day: “I love this town,” shouted by Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore after the ‘busters save New York City from a supernatural catastrophe.
Blah. Surely there was a funnier way to express triumph than a maudlin acknowledgement of Gotham’s greatness.
Of course, it’s not a movie-breaker, but it brings to mind other frustrating lines from the cinema’s greatest flicks. For instance: the immortal “leave me alone” in Lawrence of Arabia, spoken with great self-pity by Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence in a dialogue with Jack Hawkins’ General Allenby—who, as if in recognition of this pathetic order, notes that it’s a “feeble thing to say.” I guess it’s hard to count this in the annals of bad lines completely, as it’s followed up in an organic way, though it still rings overdone. So does a much-revered scene in the otherwise extraordinary film The Seven Samurai where Toshiro Mifune’s Kikuchiyo, charged by a dying woman with saving her baby, collapses into the stream surrounding the village and cries along with the infant, lamenting how the same thing happened to him. It’s just a bit too much in a movie noted for its tight script, though it does give some insight into the reckless character’s origins.
These are just a few examples. They don’t ruin the films overall. Yet it’s interesting to see how high our estimation is of them … if we can carp about lesser lines within. Further proof of the merits of these justly praised pictures.