Blockbuster Movie Month: "Ghostbusters II" Review

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

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Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: June 16, 1989
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Genre: Action / Adventure / Comedy

After the massive success of "Ghostbusters" in 1984, director Ivan Reitman and his cast of comedians came back for another round of supernatural hijinks with "Ghostbusters II" in 1989. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, "Ghostbusters II" rounds out the fate of the four ghost-hunting pals. For fans of the original film, the sequel is a pleasant, entertaining form of closure.

"Ghostbusters II" picks up five years after the first film's events. The Ghostbusters have faded into obscurity after their 15 minutes of fame. Plagued by bankruptcy and rumors that they are frauds, the team has all but given up on its paranormal policing. Endless lawsuits have sapped the men of their original fervor and taken down the once-successful business.

After the Ghostbusters' initial triumph, city officials billed the men for the damage to the buildings and roads. Unable to sustain their ghost-busting business, the four have retreated into various careers. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) is the host of a psychic television show, and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) is back in the lab. Most humiliating of all, Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) are comic guests at kids' parties.

Fortunately for moviegoers, the peace between the paranormal and the living cannot last. The spirit of an ancient sorcerer is after Dana Barrett's (Sigourney Weaver) son, and a massive river of pink slime is threatening to take over the residents of New York. Once again, it's Ghostbusters to the rescue.

"Ghostbusters II" had a tough act to follow, as the original film rocketed to unexpected success, and the comic script held its own against the spectacular (for 1984) special effects. Initially, the cast and crew were resistant to the idea of a second movie but caved under pressure from the studio. After all, the money-making potential was too great to ignore.

The sequel performed admirably, offering more witty one-liners and eye-catching ghosts. Written in part by Aykroyd and Ramis, the script integrates fewer pseudo-intellectual moments than the first film. Instead, it opts for easier, more obvious jokes in an attempt to reach out to a broader audience. The film gently pokes fun at the psychics and paranormal experts who take themselves too seriously, adding an extra level of fun for adult viewers.

The ghosts in "Ghostbusters II" aren't as malicious or frightening as those in the first film. In fact, the entire movie seems to be directed toward a younger audience. The bright pink slime is more entertaining than terrifying, and the poltergeists are best classified as pesky. Hard-core Ghostbusters fans welcome the slime, which made multiple appearances in the animated series that sprung up after the first movie. The special effects in "Ghostbusters II" are visually pleasing, and the interactions between the Ghostbusters and the ghosts are as hilarious as ever.

One of the surprises of "Ghostbusters II" is the character development. Bill Murray's character, in particular, takes an unexpected course. He is once again in pursuit of the now-estranged Dana. As a result, he is absent from a significant portion of the action. Instead of falling back on his old, juvenile ways, Venkman is trying to change. For viewers, there is a certain level of humor in watching the self-centered character try to build new, warm relationships. And of course, Murray brings his signature sly wit to the screen, adding depth and hilarity to every line.

The supporting cast of characters enhances the comedy. Rick Moranis, in particular, lights up the screen with Annie Potts as geeks in love. The two have remarkable, and hilarious, chemistry, which adds another dimension that pleases viewers who are less science fiction-minded. Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol) is another standout. His over-the-top, ridiculous accent is responsible for many of the funniest moments in the film. The accent, compounded with his effeminate mannerisms and wild eyes, makes Poha one of the funniest additions to the "Ghostbusters" franchise. He performs remarkably well when paired with Murray, whose awkwardness plays well against MacNicol's wild-eyed, manic craziness. Together, the two are laugh-out-loud funny. Though MacNicol's villain is more comedic than anything, he is believable as a force of evil.

Overall, "Ghostbusters II" is a fitting continuation of "Ghostbusters" and an effortlessly enjoyable film. It mimics the structure of the first movie but brings a different sense of humor to the table. Given that the franchise was co-opted by America's youth after the success of the first film, this lighter take is understandable and acceptable. For fans of the cast, "Ghostbusters II" is certain to be an enjoyable experience.