Ghostbusters II (1989)
Release Date: June 16th, 1989 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Ivan Reitman Actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, Peter MacNicol
ive years after the events of “Ghostbusters” (both literally and in the storyline), the sequel picks up with cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and her new baby experiencing further supernatural interferences. She parted ways with Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) years ago, married another man and divorced, and now needs help from Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) to identify the cause of her child’s sudden strange behavior. Though Venkman is the host of cheesy television show “World of the Psychic,” and parapsychologists Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) attempt to entertain children at parties after the business went under (attributed to crooked politics), they get back together to analyze Dana’s claims.
After doing research at Ray’s Occult Books and examining baby Oscar’s nursery, they discover a paranormal activity reading from beneath the street. Jackhammering into an underground river of slime in a New York subway tunnel around First Avenue, the trio obtains a sample, but ends up in court for their hole-digging troubles. Their lawyer, Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), isn’t much help, leading to a fine of $25,000 each and a sentence of 18 months at Rikers Island. When the judge’s cries of disgust at the defendants cause the slime exhibit to summon the ghosts of dead criminals, havoc is wreaked on the proceedings. Saving the day, the Ghostbusters’ case is dropped, they’re put back into the spotlight, and they’re allowed to restart their lucrative company.
Meanwhile, Dana’s temporary day job as an art restorer at a Manhattan museum puts her in the path of creepy boss Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), who becomes possessed by an evil spirit inhabiting a massive painting. The portrait of Lord Vigo von Homburg Deutschendorf the Carpathian, a powerful sixteenth century sorcerer, Moldavian tyrant, psychotic autocrat, and genocidal madman, contains the remnants of Vigo’s soul. And it needs a child vessel through which to be reborn…
The ghostly adventure this time around is surprisingly better than in the original, resorting to a more sensible tale of ancient malevolency residing in haunted artwork. Toward the conclusion, the plot begins to resemble the end-of-the-world scenario from before, almost as if writers Aykroyd and Ramis were trying to fix previous scripting faults. The sets are more realistic, the special effects tighter, and the dialogue filled with better explanations. Even the marginally scary moments and bits of slapstick feature cleverer setups. A psychoreactive substance (mood ooze), ghastly photographs (mulitplanar emanations), a subterraneous stream of concentrated wickedness sludge, and the return of the proton packs help to keep things interesting, yet “Ghostbusters II” still tends to suffer from the same slowness felt in its predecessor.
Despite rekindling Pete’s constant flirting with Dana, retaining the amusing chemistry between the team members, adding visually diverting specters, bringing back the attention-grabbing theme music, and crafting a more focused premise, the humor (which is of significant importance) is less frequent and less funny. In general, it has the same look and feel, but the energy and enthusiasm has waned. In its efforts to improve upon several aspects, “Ghostbusters II” has also managed to leave a few components too similar, preserve the disappointingly inexplicable finale, and fail to bring enough fresh content to the table – ultimately losing some of the entertainment value.
– Mike Massie