The first Ghostbusters film is iconic. It’s a classic piece of comedy that, if you ever find yourself around people who will make the erroneous claim that they don’t like it, you must excuse yourself from the room and dedicate your life to making sure you never come in contact with that person again because they are probably beings of pure negativity and anger and being around them will make you die a slow death from unhappiness. It’s amazing when you realize the film is now celebrating its 30th anniversary and the movie is just as relevant and entertaining today as it was when it first came out.
Now, unless you limit your internet activity to forwarding emails that talk about how Obama is trying to take away our guns and is a space lizard, you probably know that a third film in the franchise is currently going through every blockade that has the possibility of occurring in what might be some of the worst examples of production hell a film could endure.
Some movies experience production setbacks by having a script purchase and shelved immediately and other go through the troubles of cast members getting hurt during production or directors leaving after a disagreement with the studio but Ghostbusters III has its own circle it is trapped in. After years of “yes, we’re making it” and “no, screw that, we’re not making it” happening, the production got the added eff-you as one of the stars says he won’t do it because the script is terrible (keep in mind that this man said “yes, I’ll do that” to not one live-action Garfield movie but two), one of the original cast members passed away (rest in peace, Harold Ramis), the original director refusing to direct it and say he will only produce it, and a list of directors that grows dangerously shorter as nearly everyone who has ever yelled “Action” from behind a camera is passing on the project. To put it bluntly, things don’t look good for Ghostbusters III. So, in honor of Ghostbusters Week here on The Robot Pajamas, I’ve decided to revisit the one sequel that was produced for the four supernatural ghost trappers and see if Ghostbusters II holds up 25 years after its release and see if it provides any foundation for the Dan Aykroyd’s almost heroic attempts at trying to keep the third film from being put in the containment unit.
Chances are you know the story behind this one and, if you don’t, the film is old enough that it could have graduated college and is now busy in a career that doesn’t utilize his degree, so don’t give me that “Spoilers!” nonsense. Five years after the foursome with proton packs saved New York City from the adorable giant we know as The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the group fell on to hard times and now live in disgrace and are believed to be charlatans. Well, as luck would have it, the city comes under threat again as a river of slime that feeds off of the emotions of people is growing in strength and is on the verge of getting an ancient evil-doer of a man out of his prison—a prison that just so happens to be a work of art. Now it’s up to Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) to reunite and once again save the city.
I actually have a lot of fond memories of Ghostbusters II. This film always sticks out in my head vividly because I’ll never forget seeing the movie in theaters with my dad. The scene in the decommissioned subway tunnel particularly sticks out because, at one second, it scared the living excrement out of my bowels and bladder when the decapitated heads on spikes surrounded Ray, Egon and Winston but, the next second, my father and I were practically in tears while we laughed at the ghost train running through Winston. Over the years, I’ve watched the film quite a bit and always remembered enjoying it. It’s been some time since I’ve watched it—most likely, the last time I popped it into my DVD player was when I purchased it but the memories of the fun are still there. However, as I pointed out when I revisited Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not long ago here on TRP, the memories sometimes are better than the reality…
…except in this case! I still think it’s a fun movie.
I won’t pull any punches here—like some of the best and most intimidating pro-wrestlers of our time, I work stiff. You can take that sentence any way you want; either way, it explains why I don’t have a contract with the WWE. I’m not going to sit here and make the claim that this sequel is one of those that is somehow better than the first (a rarity but it happens sometimes). In fact, when you boil it all down, the film is really not trying to do anything different than the first film. When you really look at it, the story is pretty much identical to the first film with just some minor changes. For example, the fact they were already once a team and are familiar with how good bustin’ makes them feel, and the ghosts are different from the last film. So, in that aspect, the film lacks a lot of imagination. However, like the first one, there is still one thing that I absolutely hate about it…
In both films, Ernie Hudson’s character of Winston Zeddemore isn’t given the screen-time or presence in the story that he deserves. Ray, Egon and Venkman are all scientists who study the paranormal but Winston is the Average Joe of the group who just sees this as a job. There is literally a wealth of comedy and character in Winston that just never gets explored. Zeddemore being pushed into the background so the Paranormal Club can be featured is a big disappointment—especially since he provides one of my favorite moments in the film (see the subway scene I mentioned earlier). However, this aside, I still think the movie is a lot of fun and it still makes me laugh.
Yes, the film has some weird stuff going on like tacking on Ray being possessed by Vigo for a brief second before that conflict is handled in a second’s time, or why the painting of Vigo changes to an image of the Ghostbusters rocking some togas, or why their logo ghost is holding up the peace sign (I know it’s a “two” that is suppose to represent the sequel but why would they need that because it is a sequel to us, the viewers, and is just a return to business for them). And yes, we still have to live with the fact the film has Bobby Brown in it before we learned about what a deranged drug addict he was (but, damn, wasn’t that song catchy?) but how awesome was it to see the Statue of Liberty walking through New York while a dance mix of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” rocked, or how hilarious is Peter MacNicol with that ridiculous accent as Janosz, or how classic the entire courtroom scene is with the Scoleri Brothers? Ghostbusters II may not be an example of an exemplary follow-up but the movie could have been a lot worse.
Ghostbusters II is like a lot of sequels; it didn’t try to reinvent the formula and went with what it knows. While this may bother some, this isn’t necessarily a bad decision because it brought forth something familiar but entertaining as well. The film proved that there are more stories for the Ghostbusters (of course, the classic animated series proved that, too) and it shows that it is very possible for us to have a third adventure that doesn’t come in the form of a very disappointing video game with bad hit detection and infuriating aiming mechanics (also, why did the game punish you for causing damage? Wasn’t that one of the whole gags of the Ghostbusters?). While it may never be as revered or beloved as the first film, I still find myself pleasantly entertained by the sequel and, even though it’s now silly to believe so, it sparks a small flame in me that hopes the third film will be produced and it will be worth the wait…I’m forever the optimist!
Rev. Ron once shook hands with Ernie Hudson while he was getting chicken fingers at C2E2 in Chicago and then spent the rest of the day wondering why he didn’t have an assistant run and get him some damn chicken, so he didn’t have to do it himself. He’s also a big geek who contemplates stupid things, which you can read about in his movie reviews on his blog and by following him on Twitter (@RevRonster).