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Ghostbusters II (1989)

by on 2013/08/12

Ghostbusters II (1989)

“Let’s see what happens when we take away the puppy.”

* *

Risk can go at least a couple of ways. When I recently watched Ghostbusters, I expected to feel as ambivalent about it as I had with each previous viewing. Instead I finally woke up and noticed its charms.

Sadly the same could not be said of its sequel.

The thing is, I used to like part two a bit more than the original. In the spirit of such great expectations, I was hopeful early on. I regarded the opening “baby carriage” scene as a wonky new interpretation of Battleship Potemkin.

I guess with such an erudite comparison, there’s no place to go but down. And, obligingly, down it went.

Set five years after the titular group saved New York from a marshmallow man, we find Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), and Egon (Harold Ramis) in less than thrilling roles: hosting a cable access show for dizzy spiritualists, managing an occult bookstore, and conducting routine experiments. Oh and clowning around for children’s birthday parties.

Then when the toxic embodiment of New York negativity builds up and threatens to revive a long-dead monster . . . nobody really cares. They’re busy with their Christmas and New Year celebrations. The boys are locked in an institution, victims of short-term memory, ingratitude, and politics.

This story supplies what the first one did not: a conventional narrative arc. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit very well. Dana (Sigourney Weaver) returns to enlist the boys’ assistance then later becomes more involved in romancing Peter. She seems to resent his impulse to help his friends address the very concern she raised.

For his part, Peter’s shift from funny to seductive represents a serious blow to the tone of the piece. We’re not watching Murray (here) for his lover-boy arc. We want to laugh or, at least, revisit old friends. Instead the humour is anemic or absent, and nearly Grey Owl levels of cute-sploitation are added via Dana’s young child.

The visual effects remain similar, with little apparent progress in five years’ time. In fact, if anything, they may be even worse. Misaligned fades suggest an evil force taking possession, obvious compositing mars too many scenes, and the prior movie’s breakout, Slimer, has suddenly become a cameo star, a bus driver and, inexplicably, well-intentioned.

I realize most were not happy with this follow-up, and yet I found it even more deeply disappointing than is suggested by the middling passes from most critics and audiences. The initial glow in seeing familiar faces soon fades away. Marred by too much plotting, too little fun, and production lapses . . . there’s not a lot worth revisiting when the best part is the old theme song.

In overstaying its welcome, Ghostbusters II turns “Boo!” into “Booooooooo!”

* *

Rated PG

108 minutes

  1. Daniel permalink

    A sequel that is inferior to the original Movie, but still manages to bring us some great moments. The last half-hour is, (while dumbed down) exiting and well-made.

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