GHOST BUSTERS IIMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
It's 5 Years Later and we see some pink slime push its way through a crack in a New York sidewalk. The wheels of a baby stroller run through it. The baby stroller is pushed by Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver: ALIEN [all], GHOSTBUSTERS, AVATAR) and it's her baby, Oscar.
The baby carriage gets away from her and goes careening through traffic. While cars crash left and right, its clear the carriage moves with intent, turning and stopping just in time to keep any harm from coming to its occupant.
Dana catches up to it and grabs Oscar to the safety of her arms.
So begins GHOSTBUSTERS II.
All of the thrilling, amusing, fascinating elements that began the first five minutes of GHOSTBUSTERS are nowhere to be seen. I can only hope that since the sequel, like the original, is produced and directed by Ivan Reitman (THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, RABID, HEAVY METAL, GHOSTBUSTERS, EVOLUTION, THE UNINVITED), written and directed by Harold Ramis (HEAVY METAL, GHOSTBUSTERS) and Dan Ackroyd (GHOSTBUSTERS, EVOLUTION), with the same stars who, by now should know their characters and motivations - based on all of their flawed personalities. The only difference is that the suits behind the scenes changed. Bernie Brillstien's Black Rhino Productions was no longer in charge of that department as Columbia Pictures took over. Bernie was given Executive Producer status and presumably a cut of the profits.
So its five years later and the GHOSTBUSTERS are in disgrace. Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Acroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson: LEVIATHAN, GHOSTBUSTERS, THE CROW, HOOD OF HORROR) try to play a kid's birthday party but even the kids can't stand them, preferring someone dressed as HE-MAN. How did this come about?
It seems that the mayor and nearly all of the witnesses convinced themselves that the entire thing with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was all the hoax work of those guys who call themselves The Ghostbusters. On the one hand this isn't entirely mind-bogglingly absurd as we've witnessed for over a decade now, the rise of the 9/11 Truthers, who still have not a shred of evidence to back up any of their ridiculous charges, yet gleefully indulge in revisionist history.
Yet while conspiracy rumor mongers can exist on the fringes of irrational Kooksville, fabricating a world that exists in the cracks of what we didn't see, we're supposed to believe that all of New York have convinced themselves that the entire Supernatural episode that happened to the whole city of New York was the illusionary magic act of four guys?
In less than five years time?
Okay, GHOSTBUSTERS 2 was released in 1989 before people had the Internet. Even in 1989, New York City was the hub of news information beamed out to the world and the events leading up to the endboss was on all the TV news networks. The movie made sure we saw this. The grand climax was was not a surprise attack out of nowhere. All TV news networks cameras were trained on the massive event. Also, many people had home video cameras. And we know from the first GHOSTBUSTERS that these creatures could be caught on camera.
GHOSTBUSTERS 2 wants us to accept that out of all of the many news organizations, as well as the millions with still film cameras; hundreds of thousands of people with available video cameras; thousands with film movie cameras; all look at what they recorded and dismiss it? Everyone who captured the events of 1984 on film or video; events that were simply too extraordinary, and on such a massive scale, to even be perpetrated by a well funded super power nation, let alone four slobs, can chalk all that up (including a waste disposal clean-up that had to be epic!) to mass hypnosis and hysteria?
Even for a supernatural comedy and the willing suspension of disbelief, which I readily gave to the first GHOSTBUSTERS, the setting of the sequel is much too stupid to swallow.
Another thing about the actors is their characters. Ray Stantz, Winston, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS), and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts: GHOSTBUSTERS), are all still themselves. Any changes they've gone through: Stantz runs a Bookstore for the supernatural; Janine follows fashion trends, and Louis wants to be a Ghostbuster - are believably natural progressions of character.
But the shy and introverted Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) has become Venkman's character. Dr. Venkman (Bill Murray: GHOSTBUSTERS, ZOMBIELAND), is a sucked out shadow of his former self. His witty nastiness and sharp ripostes never rise above cutsey cloy and see-it-from-a-mile-away puns.
The only funny person in GHOSTERBUSTERS 2 is the new guy, Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol: DRAGON SLAYER). Peter's Janosz (pronounced Yanosh) is supremely confident in his profession but an awkward amatuer in his clunky attempts to woo members of the opposite sex. He has his sights set on Dana, who not only seems doomed to be a target of unwanted attentions by unwanted men, but is also attracted to men who will dump her the day after they sleep with her.
Consider: In GHOSTBUSTERS 2, the father of baby Oscar is not Peter Venkman. Somewhere during their dating, then relationship, Peter did a very Venkmann thing by introducing Dana to others as "The Old Ball & Chain". They broke up, went their separate ways, Dana eventually found this other guy, dated, courtship, fell in love, moved in together, she got pregnant, and he dropped her in some vague period between Dana being pregnant and Oscar being about 3 to 5 months old (he doesn't crawl yet).
The upshot of all that means Dana is no longer the strong woman beset by superhuman strong forces, but a doe-eyed (as much doe-eye as Sigourney Weaver could muster at any rate) damsel in distress still mooning over the burnt matchstick she carries for Venkmann. And Venkmann is a washed-up smart-ass without the wit, who does a local TV show on the Supernatural and conspiracy theorists. He carries his own burnt torch for Dana and recognizes his mistake in leaving her and how much it cost him when he murmurs to Oscar "I should have been your Daddy".
Okay, you want to play it that way? Fine. But can't you make any of it funny?
The monster of GHOSTBUSTERS 2, is an old Carpathian warlord named Vigo (visually Wilhelm von Homburg but voiced by an uncredited Max von Sydow) who is trapped in a painting. Despite the fact that he appears to be running rivers of pink slime throughout the entire underground of New York City: a slime that obeys his every will, he can't seem to find more than one baby out of hundreds of thousands from which he can be born again. And he needs a baby that has already been born, but isn't too old. And somehow, only Oscar fulfills all of Vigo's narrow requirements.
Moreoever, Vigo has the apparent power to also walk around as material as you or I. And he has enough power while doing that to be immune from The Ghostbuster's weapons. It's repeatedly shown that Vigo clearly doesn't need a baby to inhabit (then wait for 18 years or so to grow up) before he can establish his rule. He can get up and go about his business now. The movie keeps laying out its own logic then smashing it. In trying to find a middle ground to all of this, Vigo is both inhumanly strong and preposterously weak. The combination makes him altogether much weaker, less powerful, and nowhere near the threat of the varmints in the previous GHOSTBUSTERS.
As Dr. Poha, Peter MacNicol's painfully shy repartee brings a balletic grace to Janosz stumbling attempts of beguile and seduction - something Poha has perhaps seen but cannot imitate.
If you saw the movie trailer (or the menu screen of the Disc), then you quickly realize that Reitman, Ramis, and Ackroyd apparently put all of their success with GHOSTBUSTERS down to one point: a giant varmint must move through the heart of New York City.
The problem being that when the Statue of Liberty does just that (no spoiler, it was in the trailer - it's a given), that's all she does. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was funny because this big bloated mass of pillowy sugar was out to annihilate the city with his sweet destruction. Vehicles, buildings: he crushed all beneath the smothering weight of his powerful, spongy mayhem.
Reitman, Ramis, and Ackroyd didn't recognize what audiences found funny about the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
So the Statue of Liberty merely walks: It just walks. And we the audience are supposed to be wowed because we are watching a special effect Statue of Liberty walking (by 1989, it had already been done in TV commercials for years!). How are you supposed to keep us down on the farm when we've already seen the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?
The change from green slime to pink slime added nothing new to the story or entertainment value either.
Ramis and Ackroyd, two men who built their careers on great comedy, were incomprehensibly witless in this outing. Their inability to "Bring the Funny" gets GHOSTBUSTERS 2 one Shriek Girl.
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