Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Harold Ramis & Dan Aykroyd
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts & Peter MacNicol
GHOSTBUSTERS dominated the 1984 box office. The summer blockbuster’s popularity grew to a point where it spawned a line of toys, a cartoon series that ran for seven seasons, and even an Ecto-Cooler drink. Five years after the original film’s massive success, a sequel was unleashed upon the masses. Within three days, GHOSTBUSTERS II had broken a box office record…that was quickly stolen away by BATMAN. Though the original GHOSTBUSTERS was well-received by critics and made a huge impact upon audiences, this sequel never found that same success. Part of this might be attributed to far too much studio interference, but I’d argue that most of it feels like GHOSTBUSTERS II is simply repeating familiar beats from the first film with far less enthusiasm.
Set five years after the first film, the Ghostbusters have turned into washed up has-beens. For some reason, New Yorkers have forgotten about a giant marshmallow man and ghost exterminators saving the day. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) have become children’s party performers, while wise-cracking Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) hosts a psychic television show and sociopathic scientist Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) conducts social experiments. The Ghostbusters are pulled out of retirement when they discover a pink stream of paranormally charged ectoplasm in New York’s sewer system. With another apocalypse-level event on the horizon and Venkman’s love-interest Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) back in town, the Ghostbusters reunite to uncover a mystery and save the day!
GHOSTBUSTERS II had a slightly bigger budget than its predecessor and it’s clear that almost all of this extra cash went to the undeniably impressive special effects! There are many more apparitions this time around, besides a brief cameo from Slimer. Most of these ghosts are shown in a comedic montage that features the Ghostbusters doing what they do best and others are showcased around the massive stream of ectoplasm underneath the city. This sequel mostly opts for a more light-hearted atmosphere than the first film, featuring an over-the-top goofy Slimer, some brief comic relief spirits, and some cartoony prisoner ghosts. Still, it has a couple of creepy visuals in a famous ship finally arriving at port (probably my favorite scene in the film) and a floating nanny from hell.
Vigo the Carpathian (physically played by German wrestler Wilhelm von Homburg and voiced by Max von Sydow) serves as a solid antagonist…even if he’s defeated rather easily during an anti-climactic finale. His plans of world domination are quite similar to Gozer the Gozerian in the first film. In fact, GHOSTBUSTERS II seems to repeat a lot of beats from its predecessor to a slightly annoying degree. This is complete with the dumb plot hole of the Ghostbusters being forgotten at the beginning of the film and having to work their way back into the public eye once again. The plot plays out in a familiar fashion as they encounter a disbelieving dickhead official trying to stand in their way and there’s even a giant creature parading through the streets of New York City (though in this case, it’s eye-rolling and sappy).
Out of the returning cast members, nearly everyone seems dull or tired. Bill Murray is a comedic highlight, though he’s usually the highlight of any comedy. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis look bored, even though they wrote the screenplay. I’d be lying if I said that Ramis’s sociopathic scientist didn’t get a few giggles out of me though, especially in his introduction. Ernie Hudson also returns…to do absolutely nothing. Hudson’s character had more development in the predecessor, which is saying something because he hardly received any memorable moments the first time around. Sigourney Weaver seems to be appearing out of a contractual obligation and her chemistry with Murray is damn near non-existent in this second outing. Rick Moranis is still amusing as the nebbish accountant, but newcomer Peter MacNicol seems to be having a blast as villainous Vigo’s awkward assistant.
GHOSTBUSTERS II hits the typical pitfalls that plague many sequels. It simply repeats the formula that made the first film work and doesn’t add much new material to the mix. Even though the movie has a handful of solid moments and cool 80’s special effects, most of the cast looks bored and there aren’t as many laughs as one might hope. The energy that made the 1984 horror-comedy into a classic has noticeably decreased in this sequel. In only its second outing, the GHOSTBUSTERS franchise suffered from fatigue. As far as I’m concerned, this film is the biggest reason that GHOSTBUSTERS III was shelved.