Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Film Appreciation - Too Hot to Handle, Too Cold to Hold

Mistakes were made, but Cody Hamman still has some Film Appreciation for Ghostbusters II.

Bill Murray has said that when Ghostbusters II was first pitched to him, there was a different story in place, one that he thought was great. Then by the time he reported to set, the story had changed, and the one they brought to the screen wasn't as good as they one he had been told about before. I don't know what that previous idea was, but I do think mistakes were made in the development and production of Ghostbusters II.

Scripted by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, who also returned to play ghostbusters Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler alongside Murray's Peter Venkman and Ernie Hudson's Winston Zeddemore, the sequel picks up five years after the events of its predecessor and finds the ghostbusters in a situation that makes no sense. Our heroes were blamed and sued for the damage caused by the supernatural entities they defeated at the end of Ghostbusters, they have been written off as a hoax, and had to go out of business because there's a court order forbidding them from conducting paranormal investigations or eliminations. This is baffling. Many people throughout New York City saw evidence of the supernatural in the previous movie, they saw ghosts and a giant marshmallow man moving through the streets, the ghostbusters had their support in their endeavors. There's no way anyone could think they were a hoax after the ending of that movie. It would have made sense if they had to go out of business because there wasn't any more paranormal activity after they saved the world, but the fact that the sequel has them discredited and banned from ghostbusting is nonsense.

They start breaking the rules when Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), the female lead and Venkman's love interest from the first movie, comes back into their lives. In five years Dana has dated Venkman, broken up with him, gotten married and had a son named Oscar, and gotten divorced, with Oscar's father moving to London and leaving the eight month old infant with his mother. It's been a busy time for Dana, and now she fears that there's something supernatural going on around her again. She's right to be concerned, because that painting she's helping restore at the art museum she works at, that painting of Vigo the Carpathian, that thing is bad news.

Vigo was the genocidal ruler of the kingdom of Carpathia in the 1500s, and when he wasn't conquering lands and murdering hundreds of people, he was also a magician. His evil ways led to the people of his kingdom giving him a death that Rasputin would be disturbed by - in 1610, when he was 105. Vigo had a long life, but he's not done yet. His spirit inhabits the painting in the Manhattan Museum of Art and is able to reach out to the place's curator Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), turning Janosz into his devoted servant and sending him on a mission to bring him a child he can be reborn through. Janosz has a crush on Dana, so he comes up with a plan: he'll let Vigo possess Oscar, then he and Dana can raise Vigo together as their son.

While Janosz is working on pulling that off, the ghostbusters have discovered that there's a river of slime running in the pneumatic transit system tunnels under the city, slime that reacts to intense emotions and causes ghosts to appear. This turns out to be beneficial to the ghostbusters. When the slime summons a pair of ghostly criminals to a courtroom, the judge witnesses this and tosses out the court order that keeps them from busting ghosts. They're back in business, with receptionist Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) answering the phone and tax man / lawyer Louis Tully (Rick Moranis) added to the payroll.

A whole lot of slimy action ensues, the ghostbusters have to save Dana and Oscar from Janosz and Vigo (who is played by Wilhelm von Homburg and voiced by Max von Sydow), and climax involves another giant being stomping through the streets of the city - but this time it's the Statue of Liberty, piloted by the ghostbusters and made mobile by some positively-charged, music-fueled slime.

My main issues with Ghostbusters II come in the first 30 minutes of the film, then there's a bit more nonsense later on when they're briefly committed to a psychiatric hospital. But aside from all that stuff about people not believing the ghostbusters, I actually do enjoy a lot about this sequel... it's hard not to when it was a large part of my childhood.

The first Ghostbusters came out when I was six months old, and I was almost two years old when it was released on VHS, so that movie had already turned me into a massive Ghostbusters fan by the time part 2 was released. I had watched the first movie over and over by 1989, I was a regular watcher of the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters, which ran from 1986 to 1991, and I even liked Filmation's Ghostbusters cartoon, which didn't have anything to do with these Ghostbusters, but was instead connected to a 1975 TV show called The Ghost Busters. I still remember sitting in my high chair, eating Ghostbusters cereal while watching TV, and my memory tells me that cereal remains, to this date, the best cereal I've ever had. Even better than my beloved FrankenBerry. And since it's not being made exactly as it was in the '80s, it doesn't exist to challenge that memory.

So, being an established fan, I was hyped when Ghostbusters II was released in June of 1989. I don't think I saw it in the theatre, I missed it for some reason, but I definitely caught it on VHS as soon as it was available for rental, and had a cassette copy of the soundtrack. Since I was 5 or 6 when I first watched the movie, I didn't question the stuff about the ghostbusters being considered a hoax, I just went along with it and enjoyed what the movie was showing me. 

I think Ghostbusters II is a step down from Ghostbusters in every way, but there are still some good laughs to be had in there, and some very memorable moments, lines, and characters. I wish it was a bit better overall, but I appreciate it for the entertainment it brought to my childhood.

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