POLL: Will You See 'Ghostbusters 3' Without Bill Murray?

After a long, protracted negotiation period in which Bill Murray has essentially held "Ghostbusters 3" hostage as a flurry of creatives attempted to cater to his desire not to make a bad movie, series creator/former comic genius Dan Aykroyd has buried the idea that Murray would return as the sardonic Peter Venkman… but marches onward through the desert in his quixotic attempt to make this threequel.

"No, I can tell you he won't be involved," said Aykroyd. "It's sad, but we're passing it on to a new generation. 'Ghostbusters 3' can be a successful movie without Bill. My preference would be to have him involved, but at this point he doesn't seem to be coming and we have to move on. It's time to make the third one."

Okay, hang on a second: "'Ghostbusters 3' can be a successful movie without Bill." Let that sink in for a second…

Let it simmer…

Egon, Ray and Winston just standing there with no one to ground them, be their mouth and hit on the ladies? It's like trying to imagine the Millennium Falcon with only Chewie at the helm, "Men in Black" without Will Smith, or a Big Mac on a lettuce leaf bun.

If Venkman isn't there, it's safe to say this is not a "Ghostbusters" movie, but rather a branding opportunity run amok.

GhostbustersWhat's a little unfair about putting the onus on Murray is that his fellow 'busters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis should know better than he does why this whole enterprise is a hornet's nest. Aside from the disappointment of 1989's "Ghostbusters 2," Ramis co-wrote the disastrous "Caddyshack II," while Aykroyd was directly responsible for "Blues Brothers 2000," the number "2000" being the number of times he needed to flagellate himself with a microphone chord for that monstrosity.

What happened to "Fool me once, shame on you…"???

Last year the National Enquirer ran the (supposedly) apocryphal story that Murray had shredded the "GB3" screenplay, packed it in a wooden box, and sent it off to Dan and Harold with the note, "No one wants to pay money to see fat, old men chasing ghosts!"

Whether that's true or not, there's a good bit of logic in it. In the '70s, these three guys were at the pinnacle of new American comedy through the success of "Saturday Night Live," "SCTV" and "Animal House." By the '80s, if somebody asked if they were gods, they said yes... and they were right, churning out classics left and right like "Blues Brothers," "Stripes," "Spies Like Us," "Vacation," "Scrooged" and, of course, the original "Ghostbusters." Nowadays it seems like Murray is the last man standing, with John Belushi long gone, Chevy Chase resigned to television, and Ramis and Aykroyd clinging (one might say even wallowing) in their past glory.

Murray went MIA in the mid-80s, followed with a brief fallow period in the mid-90s, but, in the last decade has prospered artistically by proving he's more than the smirking guy who busts ghosts and sings the "Star Wars" themesong. His "blue period" streak has included work with Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Sophia Coppola and others who are keen to play up the age, wisdom and laconic world weariness Murray has amassed during his four-decade run.

We'd love to say the same about Aykroyd and Ramis, but the former seems content to voice Yogi Bear and shill Crystal Head Vodka or House of Blues, while the latter basks in the adoration of the Apatow crew while directing for TV or the disappointing "Year One."

Danny Boy should have at least one more unique, original screenplay in him, perhaps one that incorporates his commitment to legitimize UFO sightings. Ramis needs to put his arm around "Groundhog Day" pal Murray's shoulder and say, "You were right, ghosts are for the young. Let's do that biopic of our comedy guru Del Close we've talked about for ages."

Whether they go through with the Murray-lite "Ghostbusters Trois" is up to them, but there will likely be another integral entity missing from the proceedings: the audience. Do us all a favor and stop trying to resurrect a dead franchise. Keep it in the containment system at the old firehouse where it belongs, stop the snotty EPA guy from unleashing it on New York City, and let "Ghostbusters 3" rest in peace.