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Remembering film director and producer Ivan Reitman

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

And now we mark a passing. "Ghostbusters" director Ivan Reitman, who made films that brought tears of laughter to movie audience for more than four decades, died in his sleep this weekend at his home in California. Reitman's sense of comedy tended towards raucous and rambunctiousness, as critic Bob Mondello remembers.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: As a declaration of intent, this, from "Animal House" in 1978, pretty well sums up what producer Ivan Reitman was going for.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE")

TIM MATHESON: (As Eric "Otter" Stratton) This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.

JOHN BELUSHI: (As John "Bluto" Blutarsky) We're just the guys to do it.

MONDELLO: The film made toga parties a thing...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) Toga, toga...

MONDELLO: ...Turned food fights cool in a way they hadn't been since silent comics were throwing pies, and made a huge star of comic John Belushi. Reitman had such fun, he later said he wished he'd directed "Animal House," not just produced it. And that's what he did for his next few films - the summer camp comedy "Meatballs" and the service comedy "Stripes," both starring Bill Murray. As big as those films were, they paled next to his special effects thrill ride about a team that offered a service most people hadn't realized they needed - ghost removal.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GHOSTBUSTERS")

BILL MURRAY: (As Peter Venkman) He slimed me.

DAN AYKROYD: (As Ray Stanz) That's great - actual, physical contact.

MONDELLO: "Ghostbusters'" combination of smart-aleck humor and increasingly gargantuan special effects - that huge marshmallow man destroying Manhattan - wasn't embraced by critics, but audiences went wild.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GHOSTBUSTERS")

RAY PARKER JR: (Singing) Who you going to call?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ghostbusters.

MONDELLO: And big kind of became Reitman's thing. As a director, he helped tough guy action star Arnold Schwarzenegger lighten his image in "Kindergarten Cop" and in "Twins," where he paired him with Danny DeVito.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TWINS")

DAVID EFRON: (As Morris Klane) Who are you?

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: (As Julius Benedict) I'm Vincent's brother.

DANNY DEVITO: (As Vincent Benedict) You tell your brother, he messes with me, he messes with my whole family.

MONDELLO: As a producer, Reitman unleashed the comic instincts of everyone from Michael Jordan in "Space Jam" to a slobbering St. Bernard in the family-friendly "Beethoven" movies. And in 2009, he even received an Oscar nomination for producing his son Jason's comedy, "Up In The Air." The Reitmans worked together again just last year on "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." And as of last week, the 75-year-old producer had eight projects in development, including one called "Triplets," in which Schwarzenegger and DeVito discover they have a third sibling. He was to be played by Eddie Murphy. Ivan Reitman, always improvising, moving the jokes forward. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GHOSTBUSTERS")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ghostbusters.

PARKER: (Singing) When there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you going to call?

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ghostbusters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.