Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, Peter MacNicol
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Film length: 1hr 50 mins
Theatrical Release: 1989
Blu-ray release: 2016
Although I was only 12 at the time, I knew prior to my first viewing of Ghostbusters II how it was not going to be as good as the original. I over-prepared by reading every article I could get my hands on and watching all the segments on Entertainment Tonight about this upcoming film. I already knew the legit funny gag of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was being replaced with this kind of lame walking Statue of Liberty, the “no ghost” logo (which was soooo cool) was changed to a weird “2 ghost” that didn’t make sense for an extermination company to wear, and how were those silly “slime blowers” supposed to catch a ghost?
Despite the changes I didn’t approve of, there was a lot more that did look good to me and I begged my parents to let me see it. I could still count the number of lifetime visits I had to the movie theater on my hands by 1989: The Muppet Movie, Star Wars, The Never Ending Story, Back to The Future, The Great Mouse Detective, and Masters of the Universe. Going to the show was just something we didn’t do often but there was no way I was going to miss Ghostbusters II. Thankfully, the grown-ups caved even though, “it’s cheaper to rent the movie next year” and I got to see my boys in grey on the big screen for the first time. My foreboding feelings did hold true as it is not as good as the first, but I still loved it anyway.
The film (3/5)
Iggy! She’s twitching!
Five years following the events in Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) are still feeling the after-effects from their battle with Gozer. Destroying Gozer’s gateway into New York City caused a dramatic drop in paranormal events, and a successful lawsuit filed by the City for inadvertently conjuring the god of destruction forbid them from conducting any paranormal investigating or eliminating. This caused the Ghostbusters to disband and find employment elsewhere.
When their friend, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), has a paranormal experience involving her baby, Oscar, they decide to help her out on the DL. They discover a river of pink slime flowing under the city, which is a physical manifestation of negative emotions from the people living above ground. Unfortunately, the Ghostbusters are caught red-handed by the NYPD for disobeying their judicial restraining order and are arrested. Their trial is cut short, however, after it is interrupted by a couple of ghosts. The judge is then forced to remove the order so the Ghostbusters can do their thang, and they are quickly back in business.
The party doesn’t last long, however, when Dana’s colleague at the Museum of Modern Art, Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), kidnaps baby Oscar! Janosz is possessed by Viggo the Carpathian, a powerful 16th century expert in dark magic whose essence is trapped inside a painting of his likeness. Viggo wants to transfer himself from the painting into Oscar’s body where he could be free to continue his tyranny. It is now up to the Ghostbusters to rescue Oscar and free New York from the negative energy that is holding it back!
If the goal was to recapture the lightning in the bottle that the first film was, Ghostbusters II was a clumsy effort. I can follow the logic of putting the Ghostbusters back into a position where they are unsuccessful again. This would again place them as the underdogs and the audience could have a good time rooting for them a second time, but it feels like déjà vu all over again as they stick too close to the same direction as the first film. Overall, the story feels flat as it is simplified as “the Ghostbusters do it all over again”.
Also, in a “real” way, ABC’s successful Saturday morning cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters tamed Ghostbusters II. With two Saturday Night Live and two SCTV alumni in the main cast, the original film was aimed for an audience who would be willing to stay up late to hear some sharp humor with a shade of blue. By the time they got together for the sequel, the cartoon show and the Kenner toy line was what the Ghostbusters where mostly known for. So, I can see the desire to stick to a more light-hearted, family-friendly script, but it was at the cost of the edgy wit that was so strong in Ghostbusters.
With that said, Murray, Ramis, and Aykoryd are still in fine form and this film is pretty darn delightful for its first two acts. Yes, the scenes with the baby do have a Three Men and a Baby vibe, but the trio pull them off well. The chemistry between Murray and Weaver is as good as it was in the first film and it is nice to see the hint of the old SNL raunch during the “walking toaster” scene.
What stood out to me/Memorable moments
“World of the Psychic” should have been its own show
When we first see Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters II, he is still riding the local celebrity status he gained as a Ghostbuster and is hosting a cable show that interviews people who claim to have psychic abilities. The scene is short, but oh so memorable. Murray’s deadpan humor plays so well with the “sensitive guests” and allows his sarcasm to rage just as hard as it did in the first film. My personal favourite moment is when one of the guests checks the backdrop with Peter’s name on it before saying his name; she has no idea who he is. Love it!
Murray made the same mistake in the mediocre Larger Than Life where the film opens with a short scene of him as a motivational speaker selling a self-help book. The film then jumps off of a cliff from that point on by never attempting to approach another moment like that. Bill is at his best during those kind of scenes and I’m puzzled why he usually attempts to stay away from them. Thankfully Ramis got it right when directing Murray in Groundhog Day and made sure to work in enough scenes with him as a corny local weather man.
The walking Statue of Liberty is plain awful, and what did they do to Ecto-1?
I hate walking Liberty. The close up shots of the Ghostbusters in Liberty’s crown were obviously shot on a sound stage and special effects of the statue walking were never good. I’m lumping this in with the Ecto-1 remix, Ecto-1A, because they both exemplify how closely they stuck to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it rule.” They had a giant walking thing in part one, and we need to wedge one into part two. We had an outrageous looking car in the first one, let’s make it even MORE outrageous in part two. Doesn’t matter how much or how little it makes sense to do so.
Louis Tully had no business being here
Rick Moranis is uber-talented and it’s a shame they didn’t find a fit for Louis Tully. Like William Baldwin’s character in Backdraft, Louis Tully goes wherever it’s convent for the script. He is the Ghostbusters’ lawyer in his first scene, their accountant during the montage, their secretary, and then Janine Meltez’s (Annie Potts) love interest later on, before finally finishing up as a wannabe Ghostbuster whose attempt to help them is inconsequential.
Ghostbusters II is a clean-looking film with very little grain. The colours are dark and rich especially when compared to the original. No need to upgrade from here.
Another solid DTS-HD audio track. The subwoofer thumped along nicely to the walking Liberty and the proton packs charging up sounded beefy. Randy Edelman’s score is not as standout as Elmer Bernstein’s original but it is a competent one.
Special Features (1/5)
All of the special features are found on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. The interview with Dan Aykoryd and Ivan Reitman are from the 2014 Blu-ray; and the deleted scenes and Bobby Brown go as far back as the DVD. None of it is worth hunting down.
The critic in me can recognize how unimaginative Ghostbusters II is, but I will defend its first two acts as not perfect, but still enjoyable. I get goosebumps seeing Venkman putting on a proton pack for the first time in five years, Egon is very well written and expanded on a bit as Ramis gives himself a few more zingers, and the court room scene does have its moments. It’s like Rick Moranis’ role in this film. There isn’t much point to it, but it functions and the talent can make it funny at times.