PG, back when PG meant absolutely nothing. There's some mild swearing in here. But there are a lot of sex jokes, including Louis and Janine making out pretty hard. There's also some pretty terrifying imagery, especially when Janosz turns into a ghost nanny and grabs Oscar. But I also showed my kids this, so it can't be that bad. Either that, or I'm a bad father. PG.
DIRECTOR: Ivan Reitman
See, I wanted to write about Ghostbusters II! It's a very different experience, opening one's blog knowing that one gets to talk about Ghostbusters 2 (It's easier than the Roman numeral). I've always loved Ghostbusters 2. I know, that seems like a bit of blasphemy. But I can tell you right now, if Ghostbusters 2 is on, I'll probably watch it. Now, I had a brief Twitter discussion with Doug Benson (Ooh, name drop much?) about this movie. Benson, like most people, think that Ghostbusters 2 is an inferior sequel. He'd probably go as far as to say it's a bad movie. That's kind of fair. His argument had the weight of, "It's basically the first movie over again." Lord knows that I've hated movies for the same reason. I absolutely detest Home Alone 2: Lost in New York for the same accusation. And while I can concede that there are elements of the movie, like swapping the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for the Statue of Liberty in the third act, that are the same...the story stands pretty well on its own two feet.
Considering that Ivan Reitman directed both movies only five years apart, Ghostbusters 2 feels like a tonally different movie. I mean, it has the same actors and some of the beats run parallel to the original Ghostbusters. And maybe it's just that it is 1989 and film is starting to look different, but Ghostbusters 2 feels less like guerilla filmmaking and feels almost cinematic. When looking for stills for the movie, I noticed that the aspect ratio is tighter. The high resolution of these stills looked clean. The color palate has less of a brown saturation and everything just feels richer. I would give Reitman a standing ovation if it had something to do with the motifs of the film, having a Romantic era painting like Vigo the Carpathian as its central villain. Can you imagine that, knowing that much of the movie was going to take place in an art museum that Reitman made sure that all of his colors would fit within a painting? I mean, it's a stretch, but I want to live in a world where that happened. Realistically, it's probably that first theory of just time passing and Columbia Pictures throwing more money at what should have been a commercial success.
But like many sci-fi action comedy sequels, much more of the movie is given to the development of the villain. We know who the Ghostbusters are now. They aren't completely successful, which does feel like a bit of a backtrack considering that the first movie did so much heavy lifting getting them to be successes. But removing the Ghostbusters as commonplace does do the job of giving the characters some conflict to rise up against. Because I'll be writing about Don't Look Up fairly soon, there is this prophetic message about people choosing to ignore evidence to confirm cultural biases. Harris Yulin's judge outright states that he doesn't believe in "the existence of spooks, specters" or anything else similar. Remember, this is five years real time after New York was almost decimated by Gozer the Gozarian. Faiths had rallied to come together against ancient evil and it only took five years to forget that everyone in New York was pestered by ghosts. Enter Vigo the Carpathian, a commentary on the cynicism of New Yorkers.
While Reitman, Ramis, and Aykroyd specifically comment on the behavior of New Yorkers, there is something fundamentally American that is being satired here. Vigo, an ancient god who has no ties to the present, can only grow strong on the ill will of humanity. This leads me to something that I've been carrying around in my pocket for a few weeks now: Ghostbusters 2 is a better Christmas / New Years movie than Die Hard. Because Ghostbusters 2 is so critical of humanity, it also offers humanity a chance to redeem itself. In the first film, most of the conflict is placed upon the eponymous Ghostbusters. It's the four of them versus Gozer and Walter Peck. If anyone else had to make a choice, it's Mayor Lenny, but that seems like a pretty tiny plot point. If Christmas and New Years is about humanity coming together and purging itself of its negative attitudes, having Vigo and his river of mood slime as the antagonists is probably the smartest move to go. With Stay Puft, the colossus pancaking police cars was the villain. But with the Statue of Liberty, there's this unifying concept that says, "Can't we all work together to believe the world can be a better place?" Look at Die Hard. It just happens to be set at Christmas to get McClane and Holly back together. That's it. But Ghostbusters 2 is all about the potential innate goodness of humanity. It is actually a little vulnerable about it as well.
But I did try watching this movie with a critical eye. After all, Doug Benson has "Doug Loves Movies". He watches a lot of movies too and he has strong opinions. There is one weak element. It's really minor for me, so please be patient as I extend this blog entry to a deeper level than it really should take. If I had to be critical of anything, it's Kurt Fuller as Hardemeyer. I have no problem with Kurt Fuller. He was perfectly cast and he did a fantastic job. Similarly, you may be asking who Hardemeyer is. When you think Ghostbusters, you probably don't think of that memorable role of Hardemeyer. Hardemeyer is the mayor's assistant. He's a minor part, but he actually causes some damage for the movie as a whole. He's the guy who actively hates the Ghostbusters. He keeps Peter Venkman away from the mayor when he's at the studio for some reason. He's the one who stops the Ghostbusters from going to the press with the headline "Slimes Square." But most importantly, he has the Ghostbusters committed to a mental institution when he has the opportunity. The reason that Hardemeyer is a bit frustrating as an audience member is that it is one of the spots where the movie desperately wants to be the first movie.
Benson's argument that the movie retreads a lot of the same ground has some merit. Instead of having to prove the existence of ghosts, the Ghostbusters are in a place where they have to be the martyrs for something that people had a hard time grappling with. Dana Barrett, once again, finds herself at the epicenter of a spectral nexus, this time her involvement with a museum instead of her apartment. I know that there's a line explaining her time away from the orchestra, but I do find it hard to believe that her temporary job is probably someone's career that had to involve a lot of studying. There's Stay Puft v. the Statue of Liberty. But the one thing that made the least amount of sense is Hardemeyer. There was a beat missing in the film and they wanted to fill it with another Walter Peck. I watched a video saying that the first Ghostbusters was about nothing because no single element really gets a lot of attention in the first film. I argue that Walter Peck, representing cynicism, is the true antagonist of the film and that Gozer really is a White Walker situation. (An explanation? If the humans could just get their act together and work in harmony, this problem could be solved before it becomes a problem.)
But Hardemeyer isn't needed for the second film. We already have the judge filling that role. We've evolved past the flint-nosed cynic who can't accept what is right before him. And Walter Peck is actually kind of developed. The fact that I could just drop the name Hardemeyer and nothing really happens means that he's woefully underdeveloped.
But I have to say, I honestly don't hate Hardemeyer. I wouldn't have noticed this weak spot had I not listened to Doug Loves Movies. I absolutely adore Ghostbusters II, despite the fact that most people don't care. Maybe it's my obsession with Christmas stories or maybe its just the fact that I often find funnier quotes than the first film. (I will never dog the first film, pun intended.) Ghostbusters 2 is a much more solid movie than anyone really gives it credit for and it might be one of my favorite sequels of all time. And if you think it is weird how much I'm gushing over Ghostbusters II, wait until you read my blog on Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.