Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts

When I was a kid, the Ghostbusters were just about as cool as anything else in popular culture. You had the 1984 classic movie, the cartoon series, and you had the line of toys which were connected with said cartoon. (I had just about all the toys, which have since been passed on to the next generation.) The trouble with all of that is that it creates high demand for “More! More! More!” regardless of whether or not anyone involved actually wanted to return to the project. Now, I was at the age where I was still unaware of all the behind-the-scenes crap that goes on. Probably wouldn’t have cared one way or the other. All I knew was that, in the summer of 1989, I was getting another “Ghostbusters” movie.  This news had me very excited.

Five years have passed since the events of “Ghostbusters.” In that time, the team has gone out of business, having been sued by the city for the property damage caused in the act of saving the day, and have become something of a joke to fellow New Yorkers. What a bunch of ingrates! In any event, the foursome have gone their separate ways. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), ever the shameless shyster, has his own talk show specializing in pseudo-psychology. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) runs an occult book store, while he and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) use their former jobs as a gimmick for extra cash at children’s birthday parties. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) appears to be the only one enjoying life as an ex-Ghostbuster, using his time to run emotion-based experiments. It’s his work that the team will need to rely on when the slime hits the fan.

Venkman’s ex-girlfriend Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) has an infant son named Oscar from a recent marriage that didn’t work out. Though things between Dana and Venkman went sour due mainly to his being an immature jerk (surprise, surprise), it is clear that Venkman regrets the fact that he did not wind up as Oscar’s father. Though still a cello player at heart, being a mother comes first for Dana, and so she has taken a job restoring artwork at the Manhattan Museum of Art. You know that feeling we sometimes get about portraits whose eyes seem to be tracking us? Well, Dana actually has that problem, coming from a painting of an ancient, malevolent sorcerer/dictator known as Vigo the Carpathian (Wilhelm von Homburg). Through investigation, the Ghostbusters are able to connect the dots between the painting, an incident on the busy New York streets which put Oscar in danger, and a horrifyingly massive river of slime flowing underneath the city.

Oscar is placed in further peril when Vigo places a spell upon Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), charging Janosz with the mission of finding a child to serve as a vessel for Vigo’s resurrection, an event which Vigo has scheduled to take place at the start of the new year. Meanwhile, the Ghostbusters make a breakthrough in their analysis of the sample they collected from the slime river. It seems this stuff reacts differently depending on the emotions it channels from the living. This “mood slime” has been building up underneath the city due to all the bad vibes put out by the citizens of New York. When you get doused in the slime, it causes you to react violently. The opposite is also true. The slime can also react to positive reinforcement and to certain forms of good music, and can therefore be used by the Ghostbusters as another weapon in their arsenal against Vigo. When the evil overlord enacts his final plan, he encases the museum in a seemingly impenetrable slime mold. To get through the roof, the Ghostbusters use positively-charged slime to bring the Statue of Liberty to life (which sounds ridiculous, but looks awesome) and open a hole with the good vibes that Lady Liberty inherently provides. You’d think the sight of this would create a city-wide panic… but I guess that, once you’ve seen a 100-foot tall Marshmallow Man, a mobile Statue of Liberty is nothing to be overly concerned about.

Considering the mortal danger that the guys put themselves in last time against Gozer, which included “crossing the streams,” their battle with Vigo is stunningly anti-climactic. That’s the main problem with “Ghostbusters 2”: It’s one of those been there, done that type of sequels. Because the main cast is unchanged, you know that the laughs will come when and where they should. Because there is a baby involved in the danger, there is a level of terror that the first film didn’t go for. The story that puts all these pieces together, however, is a little too familiar. The music this time is also a bit lacking. A lot of the apparent lack of creativity can be blamed on a studio pressuring director Ivan Reitman and actors Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and Hudson into committing to a sequel they never actually wanted to do. Not even an amusing set of cameos from the likes of Cheech Marin, Ben Stein, and Bobby Brown (who also contributed the song “On Our Own”) can change that.

Although “Ghostbusters 2” clearly has not held up the way that its predecessor has and always will, I find that I still enjoy it almost as much. Part of it is seeing the talented cast gathered together for a second time (and Peter MacNicol is a welcome, hilarious addition). But I think some of it is due to the memory of having seen it as a kid in the theater. If you weren’t that young in 1989 (or hadn’t even been born yet), I could understand your having much different feelings from my own. I won’t deny that “Ghostbusters 2” deserves much of the criticism it gets but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I maintain that, as in the context of the story it tells, the good vibes FAR outweigh the bad.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    That’s right! It’s just plain fun, and we all enjoyed it at the time and still do. It’s worth showing your grandkids!

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