Ghostbusters II (1989) / Comedy-Horror
aka Ghostbusters 2
MPAA Rated: PG for some scary images and language
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Peter MacNicol, Ernie Hudson, Wilhelm von Hornberg, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, David Margulies, Kurt Fuller, Harris Yulin, Will Deutshendorf, Hank Deutschendorf, Jason Reitman (cameo), Bobby Brown (cameo), Cheech Marin (cameo), Brian Doyle-Murray (cameo), Ben Stein (cameo), Philip Baker Hall (cameo), Chloe Webb (cameo)
Director: Ivan Reitman
Screenplay: Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd
Review published April 24, 2004
Five years after the phenomenally successful Ghostbusters, this sequel would prove to be a much lesser event at the box office, taking in only about half of what its predecessor made. It didn't help much that Batman, one of the most successful box office bonanzas of all time, would be released the following week (in addition to Honey I Shrunk the Kids, which ate heavily into the "family film" crowd this movie aimed for), the hype of which had all but completely drowned out any fervor for any other project for months prior to its release. However, whether it struggled for publicity or not, the film proved to be a dud for die-hard fans as well.
The most difficult aspect to fathom regarding the film's failure is that it does so, even though it retains every major contributor to the success of Ghostbusters. You have all of the cast return, Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Kindergarten Cop) is still in as director, Ramis (Caddyshack, Animal House) and Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Blues Brothers 2000) script, it has an even more impressive lineup of performers on the soundtrack, and the budget is markedly better for special effects. This should have been an easy slam dunk. Unfortunately, most of the creative minds behind it only begrudgingly consented to do this sequel, pressured more by repeated studio insistence on putting forth another entry (a fat paycheck waiting to be cashed, as it were). There's some truth to the notion that when people don't invest their heart and soul into a project, it often will result in a half-hearted effort; Ghostbusters II is a prime example.
In this sequel, the four Ghostbusters have been run out of the ghost busting business (indeed, they are legally banned from paranormal meddling) due to being misunderstood as charlatans who exploited the fears of the people for profit. They end up reuniting when they are approached by Peter's (Murray, Tootsie) old flame, Dana (Weaver, Working Girl), who reports a strange occurrence involving her newborn baby traveling hundreds of feet in his carriage which seemed to be running with a mind of its own. Clues lead to a discovery that rivers of ectoplasm slime are running beneath the city, apparently converging on the museum that Dana works in that has been restoring old paintings, including a life-size portrait of the evil warlord, Vigo (von Hornberg Stroszek). Unbeknownst to the team, Vigo's painting has come to life, and to enter into the realm of the living, he needs a baby to be his vessel, which his new assistant, Dr. Janosz Poha (MacNicol, Dracula Dead and Loving It), has determined to be Dana's baby, Oscar.
One major quibble of mine is the notion that the city has determined that the Ghostbusters are hucksters who made up a bunch of phony ghost attacks out of thin air in order to play the public. Anyone who has seen the first film will be all too aware that there is no possible way they could have wreaked the havoc that occurred all on their own. I mean, the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, anyone? How can you fake that?
Even if one were to overlook how dumb the developments of the "in-between" years of these characters are, what one can't overlook is that they no longer seem to be having as much fun as they had in the first film. Part of this may have to do with more of an emphasis on a "family friendly" movie than these actors have been accustomed to. The reasons probably stem from trying to inject some of the tone and style of the animated television cartoon that had proved popular among kids for the interim years, "The Real Ghostbusters" (evidence of this comes from the forced injection of Slimer). Gone are scary ghosts in favor of more cartoonish ones. Gone are the gags like a ghost unzipping a man's pants in the middle of the night or the ugly, horrific creatures that were actually nightmare-worthy. In their place are cute baby moments, dancing toasters, oddball characters with funny accents, and the normally-womanizing Peter only having eyes for one gal.
Perhaps worst of all, the witty banter and camaraderie that had seemed so effortless in Ghostbusters now feels scripted and forced. You can almost hear Reitman yelling at the cast, "We need more witty banter here -- everyone act witty and start bantering! OK -- Take 29, and roll!"
Thought it isn't the worst sequel I've ever seen, not by a long shot, from a personal standpoint, Ghostbusters II will forever be one of the most disappointing I will probably ever see in my lifetime. The reason is that I consider Ghostbusters to rank among my favorite comedies of all time, and given the fact that there is probably not a scene in Ghostbusters I don't find funny or character I don't love, the fact that I laughed so little and thought these same characters a great deal less appealing is testament to how weak this sequel truly is. As much as the fans wanted to see Ghostbusters II come to life, hardly anyone involved in it gave a damn, and it definitely shows.
Ghostbusters II is very much like one of the creepy apparitions featured in the film -- just a faded, decrepit resemblance of its former self. It's so uninvolving, that if movie theaters showing this had a lake of "mood slime" flowing beneath it, the emotions of disinterested audiences wouldn't even have effected a ripple. The lack of effect of the movie, especially on the youth market it is targeting, is best exemplified in the scene where Ray and Winston try to entertain a bunch of children at a birthday party, but these kids clearly aren't having it. I can't blame them -- I'd also rather see "He-Man" than a cuddly, watered-down version of the REAL Ghostbusters that came, saw and kicked ass in the fantastic first film.
©2007 Vince Leo