The great Harold Ramis would have been 76 years old on 21 November 2020. He passed away in 2014 at the age of 69 from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.
To many he will always be Egon Spengler in the Ghostbusters movies but to others he was a damn fine writer/director, behind some of the most influential comedy films of the last 40-odd years. Ramis directed Groundhog Day (a film that has become a modern classic) and the massively underrated Multiplicity (with Michael Keaton), while also helming National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Ice Harvest (a quirky and little seen black comedy with John Cusack), Analyse This (and That) and Bedazzled.
Ramis had a great ear for comedy and he helped define a generation having written, starred-in and/or directed the likes of Ghostbusters (his work with Bill Murray is great), Stripes, Caddyshack, Meatballs and Animal House.
Ramis’ Multiplicity is one of the all-time great comedies. Michael Keaton is superb as Doug Kinney, the family man who is so busy in life that gets cloned three times in order to keep up with his demeaning existence. Based on a short story by Chris Miller which was published in National Lampoon magazine 1993, the high-concept comedy is steeped in rich characterisation.
Keaton brings nuance to each version of the character, playing up the subtle differences to deliver one of the greatest comedy performances of all time. He’s not just playing the same character – he’s playing four very distinct versions of the same man!
There’s a certain irony that Multiplicity is often seen as a pale imitation Ramis’ own 1993 film Groundhog Day, but this 1996 film is actually better than that Bill Murray starrer.
Jason Reitman’s forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife focuses on the grandchildren of Ramis’ Egon Spengler.