Why the Hate: Ghostbusters II
In honor of the new Blu-ray release of “Ghostbusters” and its 30th Anniversary, I felt it would be fitting to look at its sequel and where it stands. Not just with myself but even today as well. The general consensus is that more regard it as a waste of time while others are a bit more forgiving. Honestly, I was brought up more on the first film than the second one and there were times when the sequel did play on television but I only saw bits and pieces. When I finally saw it for the first time, I was probably 8 or 9 and just thought it was ok. Well, know that I’m older and my passion for films is expanding, I might as well get this one off my chest.
But let me start off by saying the first “Ghostbusters” movie was a tough act to follow up with. It was so well-done and everything seemed to wrap itself up nicely at the end. Even the finale which has a giant monster made out of marshmallows was so iconic that there was no way to top it. Well, they tried and I admit, there are some nice things about it but there are points when it feels too close to the first film. Instead of spirits plaguing Manhattan, its a giant river of pink slime. Worse of all, it feels off everyone’s emotions so the more aggressive the slime feels, the more damage it does. And it doesn’t help that New York is the angriest city on Earth to emit such a negative amount of energy.
So far a silly idea but maybe the old gang will be able to figure this out. Well, that would be the case if they didn’t go their separate ways. This is probably one of the problems I have with this movie. In the end of the first film, there’s a hinting impression they are hailed as heroes. Now, they are banned from continuing any Ghostbusting activity all because of the damage that was made. So all that supernatural Gozer stuff is now their fault? I guess you could argue the fighting with Gozer might have done something but if four guys take down an all-powerful being in the form of a tasty snack, you have to give them some leeway.
So now, the gang is split and doing different things. Peter (Bill Murry) has a short lived TV shows about the paranormal, Ego (the late but great Harold Ramis) is doing work on a university while Ray and Winston (Dan Ayrkroyd and Ernie Hudson) try to make a living with a bookstore and being child party entertainers. Its nice to see the group try to make it out in the real world and it does lead to some funny gags. But I still question how these guys who just saved the world can sink so low. The continuity of this movie which is set five years after the first one is a bit frustrating to comprehend. A good example is Dana (Sigourney Weaver) and her subplot as its revealed her interest as a cellist dropped when her ex-husband left her with a kid in her hands. It doesn’t help either they hint that Dana and Peter were once dating and you can see it considering the chemistry between Bill and Sigourney in the last movie. But to dump him and marry a violinist? I can’t picture that happening.
Dana works with an eccentric art preservationist (Peter MacNicol) at an art museum who are cleaning up the painting of a sixteenth century tyrant named Vigo the Carpathian. As it turns out the painting is possessed with the spirit of Vigo and plans to move his spirit into the body of Dana’s baby son. Its the typical exorcism route and I guess they wanted to step it up with having a kid in the mix. So the Ghostbusters have to come back to not only deal with the ghost of a magician but also a massive river of pink slime that keeps feeding off the negative energy New York’s civilians expel.
Its a wonder to see how two different ideas for a Ghostbusters movie could be molded into one. These are two interesting ideas but it feels weird to how they are connected. The first movie was a straight forward narrative that kept building and building while throwing in a few things that mattered to the storyline. Here, it feels like they looked at the elements that made the first one work and see if anything could be expanded on. Most notable is the ecto-plasma slime which becomes more of a plot element that part of the ghosts. Its interesting to see something small expanded on and it does lead to some creative gags and effects. But having connect to the Vigo storyline feels uneven to me. Its hard to explain but Vigo feels like a last minute seeing so much time is spent trying get the Ghostbusters back together and examining mood slime.
Even at times, it feels there is much material that is being “borrowed” too heavily. Its almost like taking the first draft, erasing out the dialogue and story and re-writing it with something similar but with different concepts. On one hand, Rick Moranis returns as the nerdy Louis Tully who tries to be a lawyer/financial adviser to the team with some great laughs but on the other hand you have Kurt Fuller playing Jack Hardemeyer, a slimy assistant to the mayor who feels like a clone of the Walter Peck character from the first film and he just wants to see the spirit fighting team out of business. Its obvious they knew the surprise and excitement of the first movie couldn’t be topped but I can’t say the effort was wasted. Like I said, there’s a nice gag once in a while and I can’t remember a time when I felt like the Ghostbusters were out of it or too aged. The chemistry is there with Ray and Ego spouting more science jargon while Peter has to deal with a kid he thinks is “ugly with a short nose and a bellybutton that sticks out.” And there is some great set piece moments I didn’t even talk about like a brief joke where the Titanic arrives or the gang using the Statue of Liberty at one point through matters of possession.
There’s even talk of some missing scenes that could improved the movie or at least strengthen it. The new Blu-ray release contains roughly eight minutes of material that didn’t make it in but fans might be disappointed to see its not all of the material. Not available is Eugene Levy’s cameo as Louis Tully’s brother and additional effects scenes like a deleted subway frog ghost are unknown to be existing or lost. But I can say the material that was placed on the new release is interesting to look at. There’s more banter between the gang that is amusing and a few Bill Murray moments I wish they kept in. The biggest highlight I’m sure everyone will talk about is a cut scene included on the Blu-ray where Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) tries to capture Slimer and tells Jannie his dream to a be a Ghostbuster. It enhances a big plot hole in the final act and does something different enhancing some character development.
So this movie has a lot of problems that go against it, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. It follows in the view of sequels that at the time where more low-brow and less “let’s try and overdo what we did.” I did manage to see this on the big-screen as part of a Midnight Screening ordeal at a local theater and I did have some fun with it. Its not as good as the first film but there is a nice charm to it. They knew there is only one “Ghostbusters” and did what they could. Once in a while, there is a nice gag and an impressive special effect but its recycled status is questionable. I saw in an interview once that script writer Dan Aykroyd (who also was the brain child of the first film) wanted to reflect the depressing times of the Reagan era. Hence the idea of the mood slime. Well for a movie to come out at the end of the 1980’s, it certainly reflects that but I wish there was more social commentary and subtext to it. Overall, not as bad as many make out to be but it could have been better and it could have been worse. A decent follow-up that deserves a good re-watch.
Posted on September 21, 2014, in Why the Hate? and tagged 1989, Bill Murray, Blu ray, Dan Ayrkrody, Deleted scenes, Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters II, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, lackluster, Peter Venkman, Rick Moranis, Sequel, Slimer, Vigo The Carpathian. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.