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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Ghostbusters II

Here we are again, with Fishing in the Discount Bin, as I bloggity blog about some movie I own.  It's time for another classic from my childhood.  While I don't think it's as awesome as when I first saw it, I still think it's better than most people give it credit for:  Ghostbusters II.  This appears in my notes at September 28, 2014.

Ghostbusters was one of the first movies I did when I started this series of blog entries...wow, almost 4 years ago now.  But I didn't own Ghostbusters II.  With 2014 being the 30th anniversary of the franchise, I had an itch to finally add it to my collection, but was having a tough time finding it.  Then, they announced a new 30th anniversary boxed set with all new Blu-Ray editions of both films, so I snatched it up.

I never understood why Ghostbusters II gets kind a raw deal.  I remember quite enjoying it when I first saw it in the theatre at the age of 12.  For a while in my life, I'm sure I thought it was better than the first one.  But now, being older and watching it again, I can understand why it might not be as well-loved.  One that many have pointed out over the years was that, between the two films, the spirit of Ghostbusters was kept alive by a very popular Saturday morning cartoon.  So for the second film, a lot of the adult comedy was toned down, and it was made more family-friendly.  On top of that, watching it again tonight, there is an air of "been there, done that" hanging over the film.  Since the first one was considered so groundbreaking and revolutionary, you knew it was to be expected.  But I don't think it's worthy of the flat-out hatred it gets. 

It is a little contrived to put our heroes exactly in the same down-on-their-luck position as they were at the start of the first film.  In the first few minutes, we find out that the Ghostbusters are no more.  Given all the property damage they caused battling Gozer in the first film, they were sued by hundreds of organizations, and slammed with a restraining order preventing them from doing any more ghost-busting, essentially driving them out of business.  Egon's gone back into the private sector doing research, Venkman hosts a cable TV show where he interviews psychics, and Ray runs an occult book store, and occasionally does birthday parties with Winston. 

But before long, it's court orders be damned when their old friend Dana Barrett comes calling.  Her husband recently skipped out on her, making her a single mother with a baby.  When her stroller takes off on its own, wildly weaving in and out through traffic, she reaches out to the Ghostbusters once more for help.  And before long, they're back in business, rounding up ghosts, and preparing to do battle with another ghostly destroyer of worlds, Vigo the Carpathian. 

Watching it again, it's fascinating to see the relationship between Venkman and Dana this time out.  They both have this attitude that the other is "the one that got away," and when Venkman opens up his home to Dana and her baby Oscar to protect them from Vigo, they settle into domestic bliss pretty quickly.  Bill Murray injects a surprising amount of pathos into Venkman when Venkman is left alone with baby Oscar for the first time and confides to the infant, "I could have been your father...I should have been your father."  Venkman actually matures a little bit this time out, giving him something almost like a character arc.

We get some interesting new characters as well.  I always adored Peter MacNicol as Janoz, Dana's new boss at the art museum.  (Yeah, she went from a cellist to an art restorer...I'm not sure how that career change works.)  It's just so down right quirky, with a ridiculous accent.  Janoz soon gets posses by Vigo to be his disciple, making him odder.  I once saw MacNicol on The Tonight Show mention that he was once considered a pretty serious dramatic actor, but after Ghostbusters II, he got offered a lot of quirky oddballs.

We also have legendary comedic character actor Kurt Fuller as Deputy Mayor Hardemeyer.  He replaces Walter Peck from the first film as the pencil-necked administrator who wants to shut down the Ghostbusters.  Going through the deleted scenes, he originally had quite the comeuppance that I kinda wish they kept in the final film. 

And there are some aspects of the film that really feel like an upgrade over the first film.  The special effects this time out where done by the legendary Industrial Light and Magic, when they were at the top of their game.  It's vintage late-1980s ILM.  And Randy Edelman's score is phenomenal.  It's a quintessential 1980s score.  For the romance and comedy, we get synthesized pianos typical of the rom-coms of the era.  For the action and ghostbusting, it switches over to classic John Williams-style action/fantasy, full of thundering brass and heroic fanfares.  It's a great score.

Ghostbusters II is still rather enjoyable.  In a letter that comes with the 30th anniversary boxed set, director Ivan Reitman implores you to give it another chance.  Do so.  It may surprise you. 

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