Ghostbusters II (1989): Something Weird Alright

Hey everyone, Jack Drees! It is time for part 2 of 2 in the “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife” review series. Yes, that’s the name we’re going with. After all, the series literally happens before “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” comes out and I’ll note that I thought of the title in March, published it, and have not had time to change it. But whatever, we’re sticking with it! No one ever said I was a god! But, Gozer, if you are reading this, I assure you, I am a god. TRUST ME. Either way, last week we reviewed the original “Ghostbusters,” the 1984 comedy featuring four guys who join forces to take down the paranormal in New York City. If you read my review, you’d know that I enjoyed the film and I would put it up there with some of the films you should see before you become a ghost yourself. Some tiny increments are slightly questionable by today’s standards, but regardless, I really like the movie. Today we are going to be talking about the 1989 sequel, “Ghostbusters II,” which until prepping for this review, I have never seen. What did I think? Read on to find out for yourself!

“Ghostbusters II” is directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed the original “Ghostbusters,” and stars Bill Murray (Stripes, Scrooged), Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, The Year of Living Dangerously), Harold Ramis (Stripes, Second City Television), Rick Moranis (Second City Television, Sterling Brew), Ernie Hudson (Spacehunter: Adventures in the Hidden Zone, Two of a Kind), and Annie Potts (Pretty in Pink, Corvette Summer). This film is the sequel to “Ghostbusters” and follows the four busters for hire as they are able to revive their unique business when ectoplasm is present in a river and ghosts resurge around New York City.

The “Ghostbusters” property has become one of the most iconic in all of history. So much so to the point that it has a few movies, an animated series, a sequelish video game, and a ton of quotable lines. Frankly, I have not dived all that much into the expanded material. However, it does not take away my appreciation for the original film. I ended up watching the 2016 remake before “Ghostbusters II.” Granted, that 2016 film was not exactly connected to the original series in continuity so it did not require me to watch those films, although watching that first film in advance, which I had on Blu-ray for some time, certainly helped. It not only helped me understand some of what to expect going into the remake, but after seeing the remake, it reminded me of how much better the original is in terms of characterization, humor, and action. Although it feels weird to say that I’ve not seen “Ghostbusters II.” I was not born on or before 1989 so in a way it kind of makes sense, but one would figure as someone who has enjoyed the original that I would come around to the sequel at one point or another. Nope! I ghosted the sequel far too long, and now it is time for me to give it the attention it deserves.

The saying is as cliché as ordering fries at a McDonalds, sequels are typically inferior to the original. Do I think that is the case with “Ghostbusters II?” Definitely. The sequel has a slightly campier feel compared to its counterpart, and honestly it feels more like it is trying to cater to families (after all it primarily features a baby) than the original. I wonder if the creation of PG-13 in 1984 had anything to do with it, but I could be spitballing here. After all, I’ve noticed less swearing and less lewd content. After all, you’ve got to entertain the kiddies who probably also saw a horny Sigourney Weaver seduce Bill Murray like it was their last days on earth. I will say though, this is sort of my first problem, albeit a personal one, with the film. The original “Ghostbusters,” even though it could definitely entertain younger audiences, felt grittier. It felt more adult and raw. “Ghostbusters” felt like a movie that put imaginary, spooky ghosts in a realistic environment with real people searching after true purpose in life. While “Ghostbusters II” definitely has elements of realism, and some continuations of previous storylines from the original film, the film starts off with this vibe that feels more supernatural, which is weird to say because the purpose of both movies is literally about guys trying to exterminate the supernatural.

While Sigourney Weaver’s character of Dana having a kid adds a bit to her character and makes sense chronologically, I much prefer the more adult aspects of the original film. Much of what happens between her, the kid, and everyone else that comes into her life, feels more like a kids movie more than a movie that could cater to almost anyone like the original did.

I will say though, one thing that has not changed is the chemistry between the four ghostbusters. Each respective actor portrays these individuals like glitter. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. I will say though, despite their impressive chemistry, there are not as many quotable lines in this film compared to the original. I mean, there are a few funny ones, but if you asked me to name the first “Ghostbusters” quote that comes to mind, I’m probably gonna think of “We came, we saw, we kicked it’s ass,” long before “You’re short, your bellybutton sticks out too far, and you’re a terrible burden on your poor mother.”

I will point out my favorite part of the movie though, it is the chemistry between Rick Moranis and Annie Potts. The two actors are back as their respective characters, Louis Tully and Janine Melnitz. But this time around, instead of seeing them on their own charades, they’re together, and they find themselves in a situation where they’re kind of in love. I am not the kind of person that “ships” people, it just does not seem like a guy thing. But I will tell you, I think when it comes to two people who I legit think make a cute couple, Louis and Janine was a pair I did not ask for, but it’s also a pair I never knew I would have wanted. Janine and Louis hang out during a time when the former was hired to babysit for Dana’s kid, and some of the lines between these two feel absolutely perfect for the moment, and I could honestly watch a getaway style romantic comedy between these two. I’m not a romcom guy, but if these two were in it as their respective characters or different personalities, I would watch it instantly. Unfortunately, such a thing will probably never happen as we rarely see Moranis in anything nowadays. I mean, he’s only done a Mint Mobile commercial and an episode of “The Goldbergs” in recent years so the chances of this coming to light are as low as Tiger Woods’s scoring average.

The other highlight of the film is the ending. HOLY S*IT is it the perfect blend of stupid, awesome, and flat out insanity. If you take the bonkers nature of the original film by the end of it, and multiply it to gargantuan levels, you get the ending of “Ghostbusters II.” No, seriously! This is THE definition of a sequel. It doesn’t make the movie good, but in my book, it’s a proper definition. It’s that common saying, bigger is better! But that’s just advertising! “Ghostbusters II” presents a less heightened reality in this case! Without giving everything away, let’s just say, for those of you who have not seen this movie, I will guarantee that the “statue of liberty” scene and everything else involved with that is worth every single f*cking penny.

I will also say that the antagonists of this film got a bit of a downgrade compared to the original. In this film’s defense, I knew about Vigo the Carpathian going in, thanks to the internet and maybe comic con. Vigo was okay. He was not as memorable as say Slimer, who wasn’t even the main antagonist of the original, but still. And by the way, I will note that Slimer does make an appearance in this sequel too, but again, that’s not the point! It’s hard to be compelled by a villain when all he does is stay in one spot during the movie. Well, The Emperor in “Return of the Jedi” being an obvious exception here. Although he did move a bit when we were first introduced to him so I don’t know if my example is quite on point. As for the other villain, we have Dr. Janosz Poha, played by Peter MacNicol. Now, his character may look like a dick, but looks aren’t everything. Going back to what I said about this film being more kiddy than the original. I feel like MacNicol’s portrayal of this character is part of it. Personally, if he were around today and I were a casting director, I’d put him in as an Internet troll in a Disney Channel original movie. The execution of MacNicol’s dialogue in many scenes for some reason feels stiff and cartoon-like. Again, it takes some grit away from the franchise.

I think “Ghostbusters II” suffers from escaping reality and entering this vibe that represents a cartoon at times. Now this franchise did eventually develop a cartoon, but that’s not the point. The original film had this feel to it that put me in the room with these guys that were experiencing problems of their own and we see how they try to develop their solutions in ways that feel practical despite taking place in a world of ghosts. The sequel seems to become overly hyperactive and tries too hard. Some of the acting feels overdone and the story bridges into an unpleasingly unrealistic territory. I have seen films that are much more infuriating than “Ghostbusters II,” but this is not one I would be putting on again in the next month.

Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in GHOSTBUSTERS.

In the end, “Ghostbusters II,” as much flack as I’m giving it, is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Heck, it’s not even my least favorite “Ghostbusters” film! But this film feels weirdly cleaner than its 1984 counterpart, and not in a good way. Again, I would imagine the MPAA had something to do with it since the concept of PG-13 was invented. With that idea, you could get away with more, but possibly risk losing box office money from younger audiences. You want little Timmy wearing that Ghostbuster Halloween costume, right? Let’s get some kids in the theater! Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but this reminds me of when “Revenge of the Nerds II” came out. The first film, simply titled “Revenge of the Nerds,” was rated R. It was raunchy, dirty, and by today’s standards, somewhat questionable. I continue to find it ridiculously entertaining, but there are one or two scenes that if they came out today, they might end up on the cutting room floor to avoid controversy. Then “Nerds in Paradise” came out, got a PG-13 rating. Yes, there’s still some naughty material in the movie, but it is a significant downgrade if you will compared to the first movie. Both “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II” ended up with PG ratings, but time shows the evolution of movie ratings and I would say that it has altered a bit through the 1980s. Maybe it is not the best idea to be comparing “Ghostbusters II” to its original counterpart, but when the original counterpart is as iconic and quotable as it is, it makes such an avoidance nearly impossible. With that being said, I’d rather watch the original “Ghostbusters” before its sequel, and I’m going to give “Ghostbusters II” a 5/10.

“Ghostbusters II” is available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available wherever you buy or rent movies digitally.

Thanks for reading this review! Thanks for reading this two part mini-series I like to call “Ghostbusters: Before Afterlife!” Be sure to check out my review for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which will be posted some time after the movie comes out. Also, next month, is my final movie review series for 2020, and it is one based on an iconic sci-fi franchise. No, not “Star Wars,” we already did that one. It’s “The Matrix!” That’s right! This December, I’ll be talking about the “Matrix” trilogy, directed by the Wachowskis, in preparation for the upcoming film “The Matrix: Resurrections,” starring Keanu Reeves who will be returning as Neo. All will be discussed in my upcoming series, “The Matrix: Reviewed!” Look forward to it! I’ll be reviewing “The Matrix” on December 5th, “The Matrix: Reloaded” on December 12th, and “The Matrix: Revolutions” on December 19th. That last date may change as the new “Spider-Man” film may be prioritized, but we’ll see. Either way, look forward to the upcoming series! I can’t wait to get into it! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Ghostbusters II?” What did you think about it? Or, do you believe in ghosts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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