Retro Review - Ghostbusters II (1989)
Since the new Ghostbusters is coming out in about a week I saw it fit to watch the old ones again. The original 1984 film is obviously a classic but the second has drawn a much more mixed response. I watched the second one first so as not to be tainted by the first one…Actually the download code to the Ghostbusters blu-ray turned out to be a digital copy for the second one. Needless to say, laziness prevailed, I shrugged and pressed play.
In Ivan Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters II’ the team is struggling to make ends meet and have pretty much become hired party clowns for kids’ birthdays instead of doing any real ghostbusting. I find this hard to believe considering the manner in which they saved the city in the previous one, but I’ll roll with it. A new threat in the form of emotion slime and a painting with a seriously angry looking man named Vigo are the villains of the week.
I get some of the criticism for this movie and it is warranted, but I just don’t think this film is nearly as bad as people recall. You have to remember that following up something like the original Ghostbusters is a hard thing to do. Surprise! It’s not as good as the near-perfect original! What this film does admirably though is maintain the spirit of the original. I felt like this film was a natural continuation of the story and that the characters were all still intact. Which is what is most important to me when crafting a sequel with characters you love.
There are people out there who say the film isn’t scary or adult enough. I beg to differ. I watched this as a child and was always disturbed by Dr. Janosz’s ghost form creeping across the night sky towards Dana’s baby (I still find that creepy today). Also the slime animating the bathtub is a great and startling effect. I even found the life-like painting of Vigo spooky in its own right, even though it was subject to a hilarious photography session by Venkmann.
There’s also some criticism about this movie being too effects-heavy. Maybe I’m jaded by today’s movies, in fact I’m positive I am. I didn’t feel like there was an overload of these effects-driven sequences. There might have been more of them than the first, but it wasn’t enough to distract me from the performances. Anyhow, said effects still hold up today for the most part. I love the sequence in the courtroom where the slime releases two cackling ghosts, both strapped into electric chairs. The slime effects are enjoyable. Lady Liberty still looks damn good walking through the streets of New York. However, the transition effect when Vigo’s face is being transposed upon the baby’s is one of THE worst things I’ve ever seen. I also don’t like that they made Slimer a bus driver.
Most of the humor is also still very funny. Bill Murray, though he claims he did not enjoy his experience filming this, is still a bright spot. Venkmann’s banter with Dana is spot-on and as I mentioned, his photography session with the Vigo painting was comedy gold in my honest opinion. All of the other Ghostbusters are maybe a tad less lively in this outing, but I still love Stantz’s dumbfounded stare as he is captivated by the painting along with Zeddemore’s screaming as a ghost train barrels through him.
I’m not going to say I love this movie, because I don’t. If I’m to be critical of it I would say it rehashes a bunch of the story-beats from the first one, but for that same reason I also find it extremely inoffensive. While I would have liked something a little more innovative, they played it safe and gave us another entertaining Ghostbusters movie. Sure, it’s weird that Dana (well, her baby) is the main target again. Plus, the Ghostbusters team goes through basically the same arch of being unpopular in the public eye at the beginning to being popular once again by the end. But hey, it’s all still enjoyable, and I would take a rehash (Force Awakens) to something…else (Phantom Menace).
Capping off my criticisms, my main problem with the movie is the finale. The end of this film is (even by comedy-horror standards) stupid. I know the idea of bringing Lady Liberty to life sounds amazing and spectacular on paper, but there’s not logical way to shoe-horn that in here in a way that seems natural. It was cool to see it walking through the streets and the effects were on-point…But it just didn’t work as a plot device for me.
‘Ghostbusters II’ is a film that takes the torch from the first, runs through some rain, drops it a few times, but makes it to the end with the flame still burning, albeit noticeably dimmer. I find this sequel unnecessary, but I’d also be sad if it didn’t exist. As a kid and even today I’ve had fun watching it and still will years from now.
Written by Rhys Paine on 07/07/2016