Ghostbusters II

Ghostbusters IISynopsis: We’re Ready To Believe You.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis star in this supernatural comedy classic that will have you howling! When the University downsizes the para-psychology department, Doctors Venkman (Murray), Stantz (Aykroyd) and Spengler (Ramis) make the leap from scientists to Ghostbusters, investigators and exterminators of paranormal pests! The bewitching Dana Barett (Sigourney Weaver) discovers her refrigerator has become a portal into the spiritual dimension, our heroes then come face to face with an ancient evil with plans to raise hell in Manhattan!!

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Ghostbusters II 6.25

eyelights: its vaguely familiar.
eyesores: the blandness of the cast. its few laughs. its paint-by-number script. its crap special effects.

“Kitten, I think what I’m saying, is that sometimes, shit happens…”

I saw 1984’s ‘Ghostbusters‘ something like seven times at the cinema. I was a pre-teen then and, when I liked a movie, I really LIKED IT. I often stayed in the cinema for the afternoon, watching movies I liked twice in a row. And then went back the following weekend. Maybe even the one after that.

‘Ghostbusters’ remains one of my all-time favourite films to this day.

But time stretches on when you’re kid. And five years between movies is an eternity when you’re just 11 years old. So, by the time that ‘Ghostbusters II’ came out, I simply couldn’t be bothered to go see it; I had moved on. And, frankly, the trailers and TV spots I saw simply didn’t sell me on it.

(Forget the fact that the original film’s trailer also left me indifferent. Or the new one’s, for that matter)

So I only saw it on home video much later. And, frankly, I was glad that I hadn’t rushed out to see it. Seriously, it was pretty damned bland. The story wasn’t all that compelling, the cast lacked spark, the special effects were crap, and, most important of all, there were very few laughs in it.

I never did warm up to ‘Ghostbusters II’, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how often I saw it. This time, I watched it on its own, years since having seen the original (to prevent bias), after having seen the latest film’s trailers (which had not impressed me one bit), and STILL I found it dull.

The story takes us five years after the events of the original film, with the Ghostbusters having fallen on hard times: there are no ghosts left to bust. They’ve since been sued for damages, people believe that they were a hoax, and the best gig they can muster up is showing up at kids’ birthday parties.

Ouch.

Peter is now host of a public-access talk show called ‘World of the Psychic’, Ray runs a bookstore called ‘Ray’s Occult Books’, Egon has returned to research, Dana does art restoration at the Manhattan Museum of Art and, Winston, well, who knows what he’s up to these days – he’s but a sketch.

The Ghostbusters are forced to reunite when Dana’s baby carriage gets taken over by some sort of paranormal activity and goes rampaging through traffic. After doing a number of tests, they discover that there is a river of slime growing underneath New York City, soon reaching critical mass.

They discover it’s related to the museum’s painting of Vigo the Carpathian, which is a channel for Vigo himself. And, after being taken to court by the city for some of their shenanigans, and even sent to a psychiatric facility, they overcome all their obstacles and come back to save the day.

Of course they do.

Ahem…

Word has it that Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis were pressured into writing a sequel, even though they and director Ivan Reitman felt that the original film was a stand-alone movie. They eventually relented, but one can immediately feel a severe shortage of inspiration in the material.

Further to that, ‘Ghostbusters II’ was rushed out for a Christmas release, forcing Reitman to postpone other projects. You can tell just how slapped together the picture is by the trailers, which have incomplete special effects or scenes that were completely redone in the final product.

Because, let’s be honest, this was product, not a creative endeavour: The original movie made serious bank and the cartoon was extremely popular with kids, raking in tons of cash from toys and such. So everyone involved took a hefty paycheque and showed up on set – physically, at least.

Their spirit just wasn’t there. Maybe it was the lackluster script, which pandered to both fans of the original film as well as the cartoon (which had significant differences), but the delicious energy, that spark, between them in ‘Ghostbusters’ is utterly absent here. There is no magic. None.

Right from the start, ‘Ghostbusters II’ feels uninspired:

  • An opening title that appears to tells us that it’s “5 years later”. To start with, this doesn’t make any sense to fans of the cartoon, which had been playing this whole time, but it’s also accompanied by a loud music cue, as thought this were a dramatic moment or even a horror film. Which it’s not.
  • The first scene involves Dana pushing her young baby’s carriage through the streets of NYC. People are angry at each other everywhere she goes; it feels oppressive. As she’s talking to someone, inexplicably ignoring her carriage, it starts to roll off by itself. Then it goes wandering through traffic, and Dana has to chase it for an unusually long time. The problem is that we don’t know that some paranormal force is behind it until we see the pavement crack and the slime beneath it. So, since this is not properly established, it just look like crap slapstick. Ugh. And seriously, a crack in the pavement? The slime is pouring through the city well below the street. Lazy.
  • To bring us up to speed with the Ghostbusters, we are served up some awkward exposition: Ray and Winston do a terrible recap as they leave the birthday party, dejected, and Dana goes to see Egon and tells him all about her life and relationship with Peter – as though he didn’t already know. !@#$ me.
  • It’s bad enough that Dana now works in a museum (instead of being with the orchestra, as in the original) to tie Vigo into the picture, but her boss, who’s in league with the Carpathian supernatural entity, decides to use her baby to bring his master back from the dead. Any baby will do, but he picks hers. Of course he does. Even though he has a crush on her. It’s all so contrived that it hurts.
  • Dana’s boss, Dr. Janosz Poha, is an annoying hipster with a terrible pseudo-foreign accent. He’s not interesting, he’s not funny, he’s not mischievous or even scary. He’s just pathetic and grating. Every single scene he’s in deflates completely – and they aren’t especially engaging to start with.
  • When the Ghostbusters discover the river of slime under the city (in a forced scene that finds Bill Murray and Harold Ramis desperately trying to be funny), they accidentally knock a pipe, which somehow turns off all the power in the city. Of course it does. So they’re taken to court by the city, reintroducing Louis as their lawyer. Obviously, it all goes poorly, which is supposed to be funny. Except that none of the bits are amusing and they’re lazily edited together with wipes – as though the editor either didn’t have the time or didn’t care enough to work the beats.
  • Of course the court gets attacked by ghosts. Of course the Ghostbusters (minus Winston, who’s not even there) save the day. Of course everything instantly returns to how it was in ‘Ghostbusters’: They’re heroes again, there are ghosts everywhere, and, in a montage, we see them at work and in cheesy TV adverts – all to a new ‘Ghostbusters’ theme. Oh, and Slimer returns to gorge on food in the Ghostbusters office (And Slimer will return again later, coincidentally driving a bus that Louis boards. Snap. Can you say “fan service”?).
  • Ray and Egon discover that the slime is a “mood slime” that reacts to ambient energy. So, naturally, with all the bad vibes in NYC (then the most cantankerous city in the USA), the slime was growing and becoming dangerous. To prove their point, they put slime in a toaster, of all things, played music for it, and it danced. !@#$ me. It’s not just cheesy, but the filmmakers didn’t even conceal the little legs beneath it that moved to make it dance. They couldn’t even be bothered to try.
  • Winston has no real purpose in this picture. Couldn’t they at least try to give him something to do? The only time he matters here (if he’s even on screen) is when he saves Ray and Egon from a fire in their photo lab. And even then, they probably could have gotten out by themselves. But at least he mattered somewhat here, instead of being filler. Often, the others worked without him.
  • Peter and Dana go on a date together. Yes, a date. And, meanwhile, Janine and Louis babysit Dana’s kid. Booooooooring! The only value of this scene is that the others fall in a river of slime and come to tell Peter all about it while he’s trying to woo Dana (Give me a break: As if he’d told Ray where they’d gone!). Anyway, this is a rip-off scene from ‘The Blues Brothers‘ where the brothers go to a posh restaurant and embarrass the Maitre d’ until he agrees to return to the band – except not nearly as funny (without John Belushi, it’s hardly surprising). Again, lazy writing.
  • The Ghostbusters try to warn the Mayor, who can’t be bothered, so they end up in a psychiatric facility when the Mayor’s assistant tries to keep them out of his boss’ way. They’re there for, like, three seconds. It’s an utterly meaningless scene that exists perhaps -perhaps- to give the impression they’re in jeopardy. As if.
  • When Janosz comes for Dana’s baby, the baby somehow walks on the ledge outside his bedroom window. The kid is, what, 8 months old? HE CAN’T WALK – let alone climb out the window onto the ledge. WTF?!!!
  • The finale consists of the museum being covered in a wall of slime so hard that no one can get in. So what do the Ghostbusters do? They go get the Statue of Liberty. Yep, you read right. They cover it in slime, play some upbeat r&b, and walk it over to the museum using a Nintendo remote control. So we get to watch a poor facsimile of the statue walking through the streets, with the crew aboard just looking out. Nothing happens. And then they drop out of the statue and into the museum. Seriously. Guess who saves the day?

In effect, ‘Ghostbusters II’ isn’t a horrible movie. It’s just a really bland, lazy, blaséd one. Where the original had the zest of a bunch of goofs who can’t believe that they’re getting paid to make their silly movie, this one has the vibe of a cast in disbelief that they’re in this shit.

From a personal standpoint, I have no issue with a sequel (or a reboot, for that matter – especially with women). But it would have had to feel inspired to work; you don’t mess with a classic. You can’t write on a piece of paper all the bits that people like about the franchise and build a script.

Paint-by-numbers storytelling is a recipe for disaster. It really is.

Do you know what I would have liked to see?

Five years later: The Ghostbusters have competition. With their success came copycats, and they’re duking it out for clientèle with a younger, slicker crew of paranormal investigators. Further to that, some of the copycats are charlatans, so ghostbusting is getting a bad reputation.

However, their main rivals, though fiercely competitive (leading to all sorts of pranks between the two teams, as they jockey for gigs), are not unscrupulous. So eventually the ice thaws between them and they get beyond their rivalry and work together to save the city from a bigger threat.

“Who ya gonna call, too?”, would have been the tagline.

This would have given Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis and company a chance to be jack-@$$es, by getting into all sorts of competitive shenanigans, but it would also have brought in new blood and maybe given them a chance to pass on the baton. They wouldn’t have come off as pathetic, washed-up.

And it would have bested a river of slime and a walking Statue of Liberty.

(Not that it would have taken much.)

Oh well, one can always daydream. This is the ‘Ghostbusters II’ that we got. We have to live with it.

Date of viewing: June 8, 2016

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