Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

Ghostbusters was a great film and a classic of cinema. But it wasn’t just a classic. It was the film that defined a generation. It was a movie about a bunch of working class schmucks starting up a business at their lowest point and succeeding. Never mind the fact that it was a goofy, hilarious ghost-romp - it also had heart to it and a lot of wit, and the people of the 80s were probably attracted as much to the working class, blue-collar American entrepreneurial spark as they were to the supernaturally charged antics.

And then the sequel came out.

Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd

A lot of people really didn’t like this movie for whatever reason. I dunno - I didn’t see this as a kid; in fact I only saw it as a young adult for the first time, but I always thought it was good. While the original had more classic lines and iconoclastic scenes, this one I always thought was a good movie anyway and plenty funny and enjoyable on its own. As this year marks the 25th anniversary of this film, I thought I’d take a look and see what it was, from a more critical eye, that people didn’t like about this flick. Let’s turn on the proton packs, don our grey janitor suits and try not to cross the streams.

This one starts off immediately with a text card saying Five Years Later - and as the film was made five years in real life after the first one, I think the movie deserves an accolade for truth in advertising. Take that Guardians of the Galaxy - you should’ve waited that 26 years after the opening scene to make the rest of your movie!

We then see that this was at the very edge of that time in movies where things like this could happen and not cause an infuriated outrage immediately:

I'm never having kids.

Sheesh. If that happened in a movie these days, you’d get five Facebook pages the night after it was released crying for the beheading of the director in the middle of a crowded city street. Also, shouldn’t Sigourney Weaver be a bit better at looking after a baby when she’s fought off aliens in the past? Just saying, movie.

We then see where a ghostbusting pedigree gets you - birthday parties where little kids scream about wanting He Man instead. Most parents didn’t want a 75% naked guy with hair like Fabio at their 10 year old boy’s birthday party, so I guess the Ghostbusters were option #2. I guess getting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (i.e. real turtles with voice boxes Krazy Glued to their shells) was option #3.

That's Jason Reitman as the little boy, who would later grow up to make movies like Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. Call this scene a "passing of the torch" between father and son, if you will.

We also see them dancing to their own theme song at the party. Wait a second; who the FUCK recorded that song in-universe? I thought it was just a theme song! So they’ve actually gotten a real song IN THE MOVIE’S UNIVERSE to dance along to? Huh. Go figure.

This is like watching your childhood heroes get drunk and fall on their asses while trying to reclaim their former glory. Painful - going down in flames, guys...

This scene is just proof of one of the movie’s flaws … it’s a debilitating condition I like to call sequel-itis, where a follow-up to a well-acclaimed film doesn’t further the story of the original so much as deconstruct it, leaving its characters in a run-down place in life and having the first film’s accomplishments serve as a yellow brick road to the unemployment line.

Characters will do silly and demeaning things that mostly just make them look, well, silly. Instead of a continued story, sequel-itis knocks the franchise over with the proverbial flu, forcing it to lose ground and have to pick itself back up again. It takes a lot more guts and talent to write a sequel where the characters don’t fall down and regress to where they were before the first movie started again - it takes talent to write characters that continually progress. Unfortunately Ghostbusters 2 does tend to fall into this trap.

We also get Bill Murray as a TV show host on a show about weird psychic phenomena - his guests include a guy who wrote a book about the end of the world, claiming it will end on New Year’s Eve, and a lady who says an alien took her to his hotel room and told her the world will end on Valentine’s Day in 2016. Well, all I have to say about THAT is, at least we won’t have to sit through another presidential election that’s actually just a big media circus.

Also I thought aliens would have better taste in hotels than the Hilton. I mean at least go to the Marriott instead, guys. That’s the real hub for supernatural vacationing.

The guys all meet up again to help out Dana Barrett with a problem involving her infant son, who she fears is in danger from some kind of supernatural force. But we see the only danger the baby is in comes from Peter Venkman, who likes to pick up the baby and insult it for not being his child. I sure hope he doesn’t remember any of these diatribes when he gets older. Those are the sorts of things that mess a kid up.

Don't shake his hand, kid. That'll open up doors you never expected - like bursting randomly into comedic jokes...

We also get this line from Egon: "I had part of a slinky as a kid. But I straightened it."

Wow. That's got to be the saddest fucking thing I've ever heard. Good job - up there with Million Dollar Baby and pictures of starving children for sure.

They end up discovering there’s actually a giant river of pink slime under the streets of New York City - wait, this is news to people? I always knew that.

I don’t fucking know. I’m just wondering where the hell they got that construction equipment. Was it just in the trunk of the Ghostbusters car the whole time?

I guess they all somehow became masters of using that construction equipment too. Guess ghostbusting involves a lot of different skills.

They get arrested and are in court the next day with a judge that is perhaps the most extreme I’ve ever seen in my life - he screams like a Looney Tunes character and says he wants to burn them at the stake for being frauds. Geez. Either this guy was having a really bad day and just needed some Quaaludes to calm down, or he’s never judged anything more serious than a parking violation before this.

" life is an unending ruinous smoldering pile of rubble. Why do they let me be a judge again?"

Then again, these days you can shoot an unarmed black kid and get off because “you were defending yourself”...maybe judges in the 80s were just more innocuous.

Dana’s troubles aren’t over either, as she is attacked by Ditto from Pokemon:


That isn’t the only thing she’s attacked by though - she’s also under constant siege from Venkman, who she shares possibly one of the weirdest relationships ever with. He didn’t want a baby when they were together years ago and constantly avoided the subject, yet now acts jealous that she has a kid.

She constantly warns him not to try anything funny and acts like she doesn’t want to be together, but then walks around in his house wearing nothing but a towel.

"We can have sex, but it doesn't mean you can try any funny business."

Not to say either one of them is at fault - THEY’RE BOTH WEIRD AS FUCK. Being a relationship counselor for these two must be fucking fun, huh? Probably requires a person with a will strong enough not to bang your head against a wall with your eyes bleeding and your brain aneurysm screaming after twenty minutes.

Not to mention the crowning achievement of complete insanity these two characters have - after learning that a bloodthirsty centuries-old immortal tyrant is the cause behind the slime in the sewers (just go with it), what is Venkman and Dana’s plan of action? Well, the logical one of course: go on a date while the other Ghostbusters go down in the sewers and mess around with the slime.

Actually, on second thought this is some brilliant entrepreneurial work. Smooth-talk the other guys into doing the dirty work while you go eat at a high class establishment with a beautiful woman. That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to do nothing else after this movie but Wes Anderson films and become a fodder for Internet memes.

They also discover that the pink Ditto slime can light on fire when you get too close to figuring out why it exists. But luckily Ernie Hudson with a fire extinguisher is right there to save their asses, like the boss he is:

They just keep him locked in a closet with a fire extinguisher until they need him.

Down in the sewers, Winston discovers the genesis of one of the great Halloween haunted house scares - the good ole “train coming at you then disappearing” thing:

So after that stunt, the Mayor gets them into his office and they try and explain exactly what the fuck was going on. The Mayor’s aide, who hates them for no reason, ends up getting them locked up in an insane asylum, unbeknownst to the Mayor:

That's Bill Murray's brother Brian Doyle-Murray playing the doctor here. Guess that was fun at family reunions. "You didn't really want to lock me up in an insane asylum, did you, Brian? Brian? Uh...why are you so quiet right now?!"

This is another of the film’s worst moments - why are they in an insane asylum? Did nobody remember the giant fucking Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the first one? Was everyone in this movie just passed out drunk on cough syrup when the Ghostbusters were fighting Gozer in the first movie? How does nobody believe them? In terms of half-crazy TV paranormal investigators with a slightly worrisome obsession with marketing, THESE GUYS are probably some of the more believable!

Fortunately there’s a Statue of Liberty cameo to save us all:

Man that's a lot of people waaaay too happy about seeing the Statue of Liberty marching toward them. How do they know it isn't the bad guy here? They can't see the Ghostbusters from way down on the ground!
That's several thousand dollars in property damage, good job!

I wonder if they’ll use this as a promotional campaign for the city - hey, if you want to experience NYC the right way, take a ride in the Statue of Liberty! It may destroy the city’s streets and sidewalks, but it’ll drive our tourism industry through the roof faster than shiiiiiit. Then go gorge yourself on hotdogs.

So they all save the day, even Louis Tully, who dons a Ghostbusters outfit in a clear case of "nobody needed to see this ever":

I'd say this is jumping the shark, but frankly I'm still traumatized by the word 'shark' after seeing Creature.

So that’s Ghostbusters 2. I still like it. While I won’t say it’s as good as the original by a long shot, I also wouldn’t say it’s bad either. I don’t really know how any sequel they made to Ghostbusters would have been satisfying to fans - after all, most of the cast and even director Ivan Reitman didn’t want to do this at first and only changed their minds later. The genius behind the first Ghostbusters was, in part, because the guys were nobodies; they had no reputation and they just sort of came out of nowhere and captured the worlds’ hearts.

In the second one, not only do people know about them in the movie’s universe, the WORLD knows the Ghostbusters exists in real life. They had huge reputations. For a movie about a bunch of down on their luck schmoes, it doesn’t really work so well when your losers are actually the biggest stars in the world in real life. The cartoon had already aired at this point too, and so a lot of the quiet and somewhat mature wit of the first movie is replaced with goofy slapstick and over the top emoting. And that’s a bit of a letdown.

However, the movie as a whole is still very enjoyable overall. The electric energy and bounce of the first movie is still there, the supernatural goofy plot is still there (albeit maybe not as dark and occult as the first movie’s Gozer plot) and the characters are still really good. There are a few dumb moments, but for the most part the characters - especially Bill Murray and Harold Ramis - carry the film higher than it would have been otherwise, and the chemistry and energy between them is still very ripe and present throughout the runtime. So despite a few goofy 80s-movie moments, a couple dumb cliches, I still really enjoy Ghostbusters 2. I can see why some people dislike it, but it’s good in my books.

Images copyright of their original owners, I own none of them.