This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I chose “Ghostbusters II.”
The Movie: “Ghostbusters II” (1989)
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver
Director: Ivan Reitman
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) The discovery of a massive river of ectoplasm and a resurgence of spectral activity allows the staff of Ghostbusters to revive the business.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50 percent
Froemming: OK, this week I decided to go with the somewhat divisive sequel to the 1984 classic, “Ghostbusters.” I say divisive because, to this day, the fanbase seems pretty cut down the middle of either loving this film, or hating it. This was one of the first sequels I ever saw in the theater as a little kid, and I remember hating it. Just couldn’t stand it. Over the years, I have grown to enjoy more and more. But before we delve too deep here, where does this film stand for you, Brown?
Brown: I don’t recall much of when I saw “Ghostbusters” as a kid. I’m sure my older brother watched it and I was busy playing with Ninja Turtle action figures or something. But I love the first movie. Heck, I have a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man Funko figurine at my work desk.
As far as the sequel goes, it’s not the first movie. But it doesn’t need to be. It just falls into all the pitfalls that sequels have to endure because, well, it’s a sequel to one of the 80s most prominent films.
Froemming: OK, so this film picks up five years after the events of the first movie. What sort of baffled me was how New Yorkers still don’t believe in ghosts and zombie taxi drivers — I mean, the city was under siege by a 100-foot marshmallow man dressed like a sailor, and when he blew up, the city was looked like a dirty s’more.
Brown: The point the people make is that it’s the Ghostbusters’ fault, because none of these strange things happened until they arrived. And for five years later, they really, really seem down on their luck. Did the Ghostbusters really have that much staying power in this fictional New York?
Froemming: Well, it is pretty depressing to see Ray and Winston doing kids’ birthday parties, singing and dancing to the song that got the first film sued by Huey Lewis and the News.
Brown: Was the “Ghostbusters” theme ruined for you like it was for me because of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”?
Froemming: You mean made more awesome? Yeah, “It’s Always Sunny” makes everything better.
Now, the villain this time is not Gozer, but Vigo the Carpathian — a man whose evil spirit is still alive in a painting at the Manhattan Museum of Art. And he is so horrible, he needs the help of a goofy, Euro-trash goon named Janosz. When I saw Janosz, I realized why I didn’t like the movie as a kid — he is more annoying than Fernando from “Fuller House.”
Brown: He’s Borat without the charm. Janosz is an unlikable character, which is what you want your villainous pawn to be.
Along with Ray and Winston hitting rock bottom, we also have Egon doing cruel studies as a Columbia University professor, and Peter is hosting a psychic television show that looks straight out of public access.
But, there’s trouble afoot, all because of a runaway baby carriage.
Froemming: Yes, Dana Barrett’s child, Oscar, is the target of ghosts and pink slime throughout the film. Now, the carriage flies through downtown Manhattan, and because New Yorkers are angry people apparently, they do nothing to help a child in danger.
If the first film taught me to distrust the Environmental Protection Agency (through its shill, Walter Peck), the sequel taught me to distrust European art restorers and crabby New Yorkers.
Brown: I wish I could find a video of it, but the whole thing with the baby carriage (which yeah, Oscar should have been killed several times over but he doesn’t, because the plot demands it) reminded me of the empty baby carriage chase from the forgotten 90s sitcom “Get A Life.” Raise your hand if you watched “Get A Life.” No one? OK.
And here’s where we see some of the sequel shoehorning come in as Dana goes to Egon to help because there was something suspicious about the carriage taking off on its own. BUT, she doesn’t want her old flame Peter there, because they dated and it ended badly. It’s not that it hurts the movie too badly, it’s just problematic because this movie plot can’t quite stand on its own.
Froemming: “Get A Life” was a fantastic show, so I’m glad at least two people have seen it.
Now, Dana going to Egon makes sense because the way that baby carriage was zipping along, it seemed supernatural. He is the logical choice, because of all the Ghostbusters, he is the only one who seems like a real scientist. The relationship with Peter, and the fallout, I really didn’t care for. And the romance between the two in this film just felt forced.
Brown: It feels forced, and I feel like this is blasphemy, because of the performance you have to expect from Bill Murray. I love him in this movie. I’m convinced that in all his movies he doesn’t have lines and the script says “Ad-lib here.” But that doesn’t help make a romantic plotline because nothing he says can be taken seriously.
Froemming: I re-watched this and the first one in a two-day span. I will say this: Bill Murray looks and acts more involved in the second “Ghostbusters” film than the first. In the first one, he just looks like he doesn’t want to be in the film at all and couldn’t get away from the project fast enough. Here, in the sequel, he looks like he is having fun with the role.
Brown: We also learn that Bill Murray also must have kung-fu grip, because he gets the info out of Ray that they’re helping Dana by pinching his ears. Confirmed: Dan Aykroyd has weak ears.
After cruising the Manhattan streets with their EKG toys (yes, we all bought the “Ghostbusters” toys), they dig through the streets and find a river of slime in the old Pneumatic Transit Line. In a panic, they knock out the power in New York and now they’re jail-bound.
Froemming: I had the toys as well. The Proton Pack was my favorite. Anyway, they appear in court with a judge who basically guarantees them a new trial down the road for bias, because he is a crotchety old bastard who wants no funny business about ghosts or the paranormal in his courtroom — until the pink slime in evidence brings back the Scoleri Brothers, who wreak havoc during the trial.
Brown: The courtroom does have one of my favorite scenes in the movie when the Ghostbusters’ woefully incompetent lawyer and old friend Louis Tully (played by nerd extraordinaire Rick Moranis) has Peter on the stand and does his apology to New York for him. An engaged Bill Murray is a great Bill Murray.
Froemming: In the first film, Louis was an accountant. Now he is also an attorney. And a crappy one at that. But Moranis plays the role perfectly, especially when he mumbles to the judge about how they rescued him after turning into a dog in the first film.
Brown: There are times where I think Louis gets overexposed in this movie because hey, Rick Moranis was starting to really become a household name in this time. But I don’t think Louis has strong legs to stand on.
But never mind Louis, the judge needs to save his skin and the Ghostbusters are (legally) back! With one of the best part of any “Ghostbusters” movie: “Do-Re-EGON.”
Froemming: Yup, they are indeed back. And for some reason, they change their logo to the “Ghostbusters 2” one, with the ghost holding up two fingers — I have no idea why they did this, and I remember that really bothering me when I was a kid. It still bothers me to this day. But hey, they have their old jobs again.
And because of a pink slime attack on Oscar in a bathtub, Dana decides to flee her apartment with her child. Does she go to a good friend? The Ghostbusters HQ? Nope, she goes to Peter, the most irresponsible of the gang.
Brown: Something that’s bugged me more than the Ghostbuster logo giving the peace sign AND Dana taking off her shirt because reasons (?) is this: The rich are the only ones who can hire the Ghostbusters, right? The equipment they use is not cheap. The first movie says proton packs are unlicensed nuclear accelerators, so unless they’re getting good deals on nuclear material from Doc Brown from “Back to the Future,” they need to spend a fortune. Then, you have to deal with the collateral damage the Ghostbusters will do because, again, they are using nuclear energy. And it’s not like an insurance company will cover you and hire the Ghostbusters… an insurance company would probably put hauntings under “Act of God” and make you pay out of pocket.
Froemming: It was the 80s, of course they only helped the rich. And they probably ripped off Libyan terrorists like Doc Brown did for the materials. Win-win.
Brown: Confirmed: The Ghostbusters were fans of Reganomics.
Froemming: OK, so Janosz is being manipulated by the painting of Vigo, and Vigo wants a baby to put his soul into and reign terror upon the world once again. Which is pretty badass, and Vigo does look like something from an 80s heavy metal album. But placing all his cards into creepy Janosz will ultimately be his downfall.
Also, we find out Ray and Egon have been sleeping with the pink slime in their experiments on it. A joke I didn’t pick up on until I was an adult.
Brown: Yeah… I want to keep my job so we shall move on from that joke… But the pink slime is activated by negativity, and it can also be used by positivity. And we see this because of a dancing toaster and the song “Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson.
One quick aside: When Janosz is talking to Vigo, you can hear Janosz talking back to Vigo during his intro. I like that they allowed to have this character have self-awareness instead of having Janosz be a mindless drone for Vigo.
Froemming: Nope, there is no redeeming quality to Janosz. He is the Kimmy Gibbler of this film.
Now, the Ghostbusters are investigating the sewers of New York, and find out the pink slime is flowing to the museum. And it is the negative attitude of New Yorkers giving it its power. But like the mayor says, it is their right to be pissed off citizens.
Brown: Must be an election year, because the mayor needs to make sure the people get what they want. And yes, that sound you just heard was me hitting my head with my palm because we got a cliched character.
After a date night with Peter, we see Dana return home to Oscar (and Louis and Janine, the secretary, making out on the couch while babysitting). But, Oscar gets on the ledge of the building and a ghost Janosz abducting the child. Wait, that would make Janosz a poltergeist, right? Yeah… they lost me here.
Froemming: That made absolutely no sense at all. He is still a human, but he can turn into a Mary Poppins-esque ghost? I just had to try and forget that to move on. So he takes Oscar to Vigo, and Dana chases after (Vigo has promised her to Janosz, in one of the creepiest forced-marriages ever). Meanwhile, the mayor’s lackey has locked up the Ghostbusters in a mental ward, because bureaucrats have that kind of pull regarding things of that nature.
Brown: The doctor basically gets told the plot up to this point and tells the Ghostbusters that they sound nutty. Yes, Doctor, this plot is nutty. And while they’re getting examined, the museum where the Vigo painting is at is getting jammed like the satellite in “Spaceballs” and ghosts are popping up anywhere. We even get cameos from the Titanic and Cheech Marin as one of the dock workers.
Froemming: And the now-free Ghostbusters try to unjam the museum with their nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t work. There is too much negativity powering the slime. They need a symbol of hope, of positivity. So, they spray down the Statue of Liberty with pink slime and with the power of an NES Advantage controller and a walkman, they are able to control the statue and bring about positive feelings in New Yorkers. Only the latter part seems unbelievable to me. New Yorkers are angry people.
Brown: Between wanting to give New Yorkers the power to be pissed off and the Statue of Liberty being the thing that moves this plot forward, this world has the weirdest sense of patriotism.
But hey, the positive vibes of the Statue of Liberty helps give the Ghostbusters a chance to break into the museum, subdue Janosz (which I’m sure you were cheering for) and help Dana and Oscar. Then, our Highlander ripoff Vigo breaks out of his painting prison.
Froemming: Yup, he breaks out. Which, looking back on it, makes Janosz completely not needed here. I mean, Vigo could have left anytime he wanted and I wouldn’t have had to sit through Janosz being a creepy stalker this whole time.
Brown: But what’s a bad guy without some drone doing all the actual work? What kind of Carpathian ruler would he be if he was doing everything himself? … Yeah, that’s all the justification I can come up with. I didn’t find Janosz quite as grating as you, but I see your point.
Froemming: And through the power of Bill Murray’s snark and ghost bustin’, they defeat Vigo. It really is not a great climax here, but nothing they did could have topped the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Brown: Hey, let’s not forget, Winston was there, too! I bring this up because they use Ernie Hudson so infrequently that you lose track that he’s even here. Like midway through the script writing, they remembered, “Oh crap, there was a fourth Ghostbuster, wasn’t there? Well, put him here, here and here.” Poor, poor Winston.
Froemming: One little aside. I met Ernie Hudson at a Comic Con a few years ago. He was a really nice guy. He got the short end of this franchise’s stick. He auditioned to do the voice of Winston in the cartoon, and didn’t get the job.
Brown: Well, for a job well done in saving New York again, the NYC faithful give the Ghostbusters a standing ovation and a chant. And by the way the Internet has reacted, I sincerely doubt movie execs got a “Ghostbusters” chant for the upcoming reboot.
Froemming: Well, it is a franchise that many don’t consider needs a reboot. But, we will have to see how that film turns out before judging it I guess. With Ramis dead, and Murray having no interest in returning to the role of Peter (he has a cameo in the reboot), this was inevitable. But hey, we have the “Ghostbusters” video game that brought them back together one last time.
Brown: And that video game was great. Also, I loaned it to you and I’d like it back at some point…
Froemming: I’m still on the training part at the hotel, so it will be a while.
Brown: Well, unlike your ability to beat a video game, let’s actually finish this.
Would You Recommend?:
Froemming: For years, I disliked this movie for random reasons, mostly stemming from my critiques as an 8-year-old. As an adult, I find it much more enjoyable. And it has a much more concrete plot than many give it credit for. The jokes land, Murray is brilliant in it and it is a fun watch. It still remains a divisive film among fans, and proof of that is its 50 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is one of those movies that has gotten better to me with age.
Brown: Yes, this movie isn’t quite as good as the first one. But considering how much sequel baggage it had to deal with, I still have a good time watching “Ghostbusters 2.” There’s been much, much worse sequels. I think on its own, this movie holds up decently. So yeah, give it a watch.