Sunday, August 14, 2016

GHOSTBUSTERS II (1989) - **


Rated PG
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: June 16, 1989



Ghostbusters was a critical and box office success upon its release in 1984. Many moviegoers rank it near the top of their personal favorite list. With that kind of success, it was inevitable that a sequel would be produced. Ivan Reitman returns to produce and direct Ghostbusters II, bringing back the original cast in hopes of recapturing the magic that made the original film such a hit. However, there is something missing in Ghostbusters II and the end result is a movie that has its moments but can't duplicate the energy and sense of fun that the original had.

The movie opens by letting us know that the setting is "five years later". The Ghostbusters crew have been sued by every local and state agency due to the damage wrought during the first film. A restraining order has prevented them from their paranormal investigations, splitting the crew apart. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) have been reduced to appearing at kids' birthday parties, but the kids would rather see He-Man. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) has returned to the academic world studying the effects of human emotions on the environment; Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) is the host of the television series "The World of Psychics", where it appears that he would not-so-subtlely choose to mock psychics rather than celebrate them. We also catch up with Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who in five year's time, has split with Venkman, gotten married, had a child, and divorced. She happens to be pushing her child in a carriage at the same time that a glob of pink ooze comes up from a crack in the sidewalk. Before she knows it, her child's carriage is running away on its own, weaving in and out of traffic while she chases after it. Once that excitement ends with the baby safely back in her arms, she knows who she's gonna call.

Dana works in a museum as a restorer, fending off advances from her boss, Janosz Poha (Peter McNicol). There is a painting brought to the museum that somehow holds the key to the plot. The painting is a portrait of 16th-century figure Vigo the Carpathian of Moldavia (Wilhelm von Homburg). It is a creepy and menacing painting, indeed. Janosz falls under the spell of the portrait, which reveals itself as containing the evil spirit of Vigo, who needs a child in order to be reborn into this world. Of course, Janosz recruits Dana's child for the ritual. Meanwhile, Dana has found the Ghostbusters back in her life as she seeks their help to investigate the runaway carriage incident. She is reunited with Peter and they begin to rekindle their prior relationship.

The investigation leads the team to an underground tunnel that contains a flowing river of the pink ooze. The team figures out that the stuff feeds off the negativity of New Yorkers, after a scene where Stantz and Spengler say really mean things to it, watching it bubble angrily. They also discover that it really likes the musical stylings of Jackie Wilson. The Ghostbusters end up, once again, on the wrong side of the law and during a court scene, the judge unknowingly sets off a chain of events that sees the Ghostbusters having to rescue the courtroom, as they get their restraining order lifter and are able to ghostbust once again. Meanwhile, Dana and her baby are attacked by a bathtub full of "mood slime" and run to Peter for a place to stay. The team make the connection between the slime and the painting of Vigo, and determine to put a stop to whatever plans Vigo has for reincarnation. This leads to a finale that includes bringing the Statue of Liberty to life, which seems like an ill-conceived attempt at replicating the marshmallow man scene from the original.

From a technical standpoint, the special effects are on par with the original film, with plenty of ghosts and slime, but it's nothing that we haven't seen before. The story lacks the sizzle that the first film had, and it's only through the comedic sheer force of will on the part of the cast that there are short bursts of energy. Bill Murray almost holds the thing together on his own, but at the same time, some of his scenes come off as showing off rather than being truly funny. Rick Moranis also returns as Louis Tully, as that character has grown and developed more than the main characters. The villain, Vigo, is much weaker than Gozer or even the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, perhaps because he's confined to being a painting or a disembodied head for most of the film. Peter McNicol as Janosz was over-the-top and provided some of the laughs for the film just by using his horrible accent.

Overall, the film is not terrible but it's like going from a steak dinner to a vegetarian meal. There is no meat to the movie, and the sense of fun and wonder that made the first film resonate with audiences is definitely lacking here in the sequel. The Statue of Liberty coming to life felt desperate and most of the story felt like a rehash of the first film's plot. If you're going to make a sequel to one of the most popular films of all time, you better make it sizzle or it's just not worth the effort.




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