LOS ANGELES - You could argue Hollywood's sequel mania really began in earnest in 1989, when the box-office grosses started piling up for both "Ghostbusters 2" and "Lethal Weapon 2," proving there was no good reason - from the business end of the equation - why you had to come up with an original idea for a blockbuster movie when you could just milk something that had already worked. "Lethal Weapon" went on to a long and happy sequel life.
But Sony has never been able to mount a third installment in the "Ghostbusters" franchise - although you can't say it hasn't been for lack of trying. It feels as if every time I turn around, I read a story about how sequel efforts are moving ahead with another round of screenwriters at work, trying to figure out how to spin something off from the landmark 1984 comedy that ushered in an entire era of "Men in Black"-style comic special-effects films.
If there's always one fly in the ointment, it's Bill Murray. Even though pretty much everyone else involved with the project seems to have a vested interest in making a "Ghostbusters 3," Murray, who is nothing if not an iconoclastic free spirit, keeps saying "no way, Jose."
That doesn't mean Sony couldn't just write him out of the movie, although some recent stories have argued that Murray, along with his fellow original stars, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, have veto power over any new project moving ahead.
But everyone seems to want his blessing. Bless his heart, Murray seems to feel the same way about sequels that I do: that with rare exception (and yes, I'm willing to admit "The Dark Knight" is a worthy exception), studio sequels are almost always more dutiful than inspired. In New York, promoting his new film, "Get Low," Murray laid it on the line. Asked if "Ghostbusters 3" was ever going to happen, he replied:
"No, it's ridiculous. That's an absolutely - that's just a horrible rumor. It's like illegitimate children in Antarctica, it's ridiculous .... Mind you, we only made two, and the first one was still the better one, so another one wouldn't seem to be any better. The studio wants to make it because they can re-create the franchise and put new Ghostbusters in it. That's what it's about."
If you're laying odds, I'd say the odds of Murray giving his blessing to a new "Ghostbusters" sequel are about as good as the odds of Sandra Bullock getting back together with Jesse James.