A Look Back On Ghostbusters II
Director: Ivan Reitman
Cast: Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Wilhelm von Homburg, Peter MacNicol
There's no arguing that Ghostbusters II is an inferior film to its classic 1984 predecessor. The jokes aren't quite as funny here as before, the plot feels a little bit like a retread of the previous film (the climax is virtually identical to the original movie's, complete with a cheering crowd of bystanders standing outside the climactic set piece while our heroes are inside fighting evil), and some of the plot elements seem a bit murky when held under close scrutiny. But the chemistry that was so very well established in the original between the titular quartet of paranormal spirit fighters is still very solid in this outing, and there are more than a few good hearty laughs and entertaining special effects to keep you entertained, so I'm giving it a solid recommendation!
The movie opens up exactly five years later from where the original movie ended. Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) is now a divorced single mother of an adorable baby boy named Oscar, and is working at a Manhattan art museum restoring old paintings. The boys themselves are now doing their own thing. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) works in a lab conducting experiments in human emotions; Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) has his own television show called “World of the Psychic”; and Ray Stanz (Dan Akyroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) work together as less than popular children's entertainers.
They were sued by many state and city agencies for property damages after defeating Gozer in the original, and were eventually issued a restraining order by a judge prohibiting them from doing anymore paranormal investigating. However, after Oscar's carriage races down Manhattan traffic all by itself, Dana turns to them for help, which in turn brings the team back together again. Their investigation of the incident leads them to uncover a river of slime in an abandoned subway tunnel, as well as to a haunted painting of an evil sorcerer (Wilhelm von Homburg) at the art museum Dana works at.
The screenplay by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis is easily the weakest thing about Ghostbusters II. While it does have its share of witty one-liners and a couple of amusing subplots (the one involving Rick Moranis' Louis Tully and Annie Potts' Janine Melnitz babysitting little Oscar while Dana and Venkman go out on a date is good for some solid laughs), too many of the elements feel recycled here (Kurt Fuller as a sniveling assistant mayor is basically playing the same character as the one William Atherton played in the original) and some of the stuff about the pink ooze just doesn't make much sense. One of the characters later in the film calls it “pure concentrated evil,”(it does try to eat Dana and Oscar in one scene), but it also, for some reason, reacts positively to positive emotions, and will make a toaster dance and bring the Statue of Liberty to life for you if you play the tunes “Higher and Higher” for it (uh-huh). I also find it kind of contrived that the city doesn't suffer any paranormal events until a judge rescinds the restraining order preventing our heroes from doing any ghost busting. After that, we're treated to a montage of the guys taking out one ghost after another (I guess those spirits were too depressed to do any haunting with the boys out of business).
There are other structural problems in the film, and considering how many there are, it's amazing the movie works as well as it does. Yet the returning players are just as winningly charismatic as they were before (this is especially true of Moranis, who has a hilarious moment where he defends the ghostbusters in court after they inadvertently cause a city wide black out), and some of the newer members of the cast are surprisingly strong (von Homburg oozes with menace as the villain of the piece). Director Ivan Reitman imbues the movie with an agreeably light and frothy tone, and keeps the proceedings moving at a brisk clip. Special props must also go to Bo Welch for his top notch production design (this is a better looking movie than the first), as well as the special-effects team for creating such memorable moments as when the Titanic arrives in the New York City Harbor with its deceased passengers, a fur coat comes back to life and attacks its owner, and the Statue of Liberty takes a stroll through down town Manhattan, with the ghostbusters controlling her with a Nintendo controller (don't ask). Ghostbusters II might not be as good a continuation as one would hope, but it is an immensely entertaining and satisfying one, and I kind of loved it.
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)