When Ghostbusters II was released, I was a prime target audience member. A kid at the age of 9 who loved the first movie, would occasionally watch the animated series and could be sold anything with the right marketing. These tactics weren’t necessarily used the first time around, but studio heads know how to exploit a franchise and milk it for everything it’s worth. Because of that we got a new round of toys, Ecto-Cooler Hi-C and Hardee’s (or Carl’s Jr. depending on your region) promotional gadgets and food items just to name a few. And I bought into it because I was a kid. As I got older, my love for the film diminished a little as I began to see its flaws. That said, it does have its strengths and shouldn’t be completely dismissed.
This film toes a line being written as legitimate follow-up to the original film and as a live-action version of the animated series. Most likely due to the cartoon’s popularity. And because of that, much of the humor felt tempered. Janine had a makeover to reflect her animated counterpart. Even Slimer pops up in a few scenes just to be there. Honestly, it surprises me he wasn’t in the film more. I can hear that studio exec saying, “Hey, kids are all about this Slimer guy. He’s the hip new character everyone loves! So what can we do to make him a focal point of the movie? Could he possibly go with the Ghostbusters and help them hunt other ghosts? Maybe we let him go off on his own adventure in the movie. How fun would that be?” I’m convinced this conversation happened.
Despite what they’re working with, everyone is great. Bill Murray as Venkman is always a dependable laugh (when he wants to be). Dan Aykroyd as Ray seems to lean into his more childlike mannerisms. Harold Ramis as Egon seems like he’s loosened up a little bit over the years. Ernie Hudson has much more to do here as Winston although he could have had much more overall had they worked in some of his original material from the first. Signourney Weaver is always on point as is Annie Potts, even though her character seems feistier than before. And finally, Rick Moranis may be playing a goofier version of Louis Tulley but he does it in the best way. The man is a treasure and I wish he would return to acting.
But for my money, the absolute standout in this film is Peter MacNicol. He committed to the role of Janosz and made the character his own, so much so that he took the basic outline that was written and turned this character into a one-note villain into something much more. He is the one who developed the backstory for Janosz, positing that he was from Carpathia and his knowledge of Vigo could be common to him, which is some backstory we never get IN the movie. He also worked tirelessly to develop and enhance Janosz’s accent which makes that character so much funnier, in my opinion. Because of his commitment as an actor, he made the characters memorable, at least to this viewer.
In regards to the villain, Vigo seems like he could have been a much larger threat than he was, but he also seemed very confined by what he was able to accomplish. Say if someone were to shoot Janosz in the head (it was New York after all), his plan would have been (ahem) well shot. At least for some time. Interesting premise, just not enough zing. Fun fact (or not depending on who you are): Vigo actor Wilhelm von Homburg actually had his dialogue dubbed over by Max von Sydow, something he wasn’t aware was going to happen. He was apparently pretty pissed when he left the film’s premiere.
One of the biggest (no pun intended) moments in the movie that felt forced to me was the inclusion of the living Lady Liberty. This felt like a deliberate attempt to replicate the Stay Puft Marshmallow scene and I feel it’s WAY too outlandish. So a toaster has to move within the confines of its construct, but the Statue of Liberty is no longer made of copper and can move fluidly. I know it’s fantasy but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
If I could point out one standout in the movie for me, it would be the courtroom scenes. The Scolari Brothers felt like genuine threats albeit smaller ones and the scene gave us some solid Ghostbuster action. Something that would be nice to have more of instead of another montage of scenes over a hip-hop track. In the first movie, it seemed like a good idea to establish business was starting to pick up. In this film, it was like the moment they were back in business, ghosts were everywhere. It’s weird.
Despite how I may sound griping about it, I do enjoy this movie and always follow-up the original with it. It just feels like there was a much better movie that could have existed had studios just stayed the hell out of it.