Our review of Ghostbusters I And II (Double Feature Giftset), published August 29th, 2005, is also available.
Be ready to believe us.
The original Ghostbusters was a little independent film released to only 60 theaters back in 1985. It was small yet thought provoking, with themes of love and beauty and…you know what? I'm not even going to continue with this gag. EVERYONE has seen the original Ghostbusters. It was like in 1989 when Batman was released. Unless you were dead or Amish, you saw it, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Actually, the same summer the original Batman was released, the sequel, Ghostbusters II, was also unleashed in theaters. Starring the original cast (Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson and screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis), the film did decent business, but not up to the expectations of the original. Last year, Columbia released a Collector's Edition of the original Ghostbusters along with a somewhat bare bones version of Ghostbusters II.
So, you want a review of Ghostbusters II, eh? Who ya gonna call?
Facts of the Case
It's been four years since the Ghostbusters strapped on their proton packs to do battle with demons, ghouls and ghosts in the Big Apple. Out of work, Ray Stanz, Peter Venkman, Eagon Spengler and Winston Zedmore have been doing odd jobs and playing children's birthday parties as "The Ghostbusters" to make ends meet (they know they've hit rock bottom when the children start calling out for "He-Man" instead). However, something is afoul in the city that never sleeps. Underneath the roads and buildings of New York, evil is stirring in the form of a river of negative pink slime. Of course, our boys realize this far before anyone else, and attempt to do something about it. However, in their efforts they're arrested and taken to court. Suddenly, they got O.J. troubles!
Through a series of fortunes in the courtroom (including some old electrocuted prison ghosts back for revenge against the Judge), the Ghostbusters are once again set free to do battle against the supernatural. This time it's in the form of a 15th century painting housing a murderous ghost, Viggo the Carpathian, back for world domination (his dying words were "Death is but a door, time is but a window…I'll be back." I have this feeling he was big into word games).
Time is short as the Ghostbusters are at it again, trapping every ectoplasmic entity that they can spot and trying to save Dana Barrett's (Weaver) baby from falling into the clutches of Viggo. See, Viggo is looking to use the baby as a new body to house his evil soul. Surprisingly, this doesn't sit well with his mother.
Down to the wire, with nothing to lose (except a hundred million people and the city of New York), the Ghostbusters prepare for a final showdown with the worlds most un-jolly Carpathian.
This sequel has such a strange feel to it. Maybe on its own it's a great movie. But you can't separate the dance from the dancer. This is a sequel to a highly successful film, and therefore must be compared to the original. I sat around for a while trying to think of why this just doesn't add up to the spectacle of the original Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters II is a very good film. There were times when I laughed a lot (especially the scenes with Bill Murray), the effects were done well (for 1989), and the story was sharp and tight, with an interesting plot and good characters.
Yet, it wasn't on par with the original. Now, the strange thing is I can't really pinpoint exactly why. It could be because, in a very roundabout way, this is the original Ghostbusters retold in a different script. In the original, New York is danger of being taken over by Gozar the Gozarian. The Ghostbusters catch some ghosts, figure out what to do and do battle with Gozar. This is basically that same structure, using instead Viggo the Carpathian as the lead ghost. In this reviewer's opinion, that is essentially the same plot, retold.
There is also the subplot of Viggo wanting to use Dana's baby for his new body. In the original, Dana and Louis (Moranis) were used as the Key Master and The Gatekeeper. Maybe I am nitpicking, but it all seems to be the same thing rehashed in a second script.
Now, this is not to say that Ghostbusters II is not an enjoyable movie. Far from it. I really enjoyed watching Ghostbusters II again (I had seen it originally in the theaters in '89). Aykroyd and Ramis have written a very funny script, and performances all around are fun or entertaining (however, it should be noted that Sigourney Weaver has been quoted as saying that she didn't come back to the sequel for artistic merits).
Special mention is given to Peter McNicol as Janosz Poha, the curator at the local art restoration building housing the painting of Viggo the Carpathian. An accomplished character actor ("Ally McBeal," Addams Family Values), he gives a manic, hysterical performance as a weirdly exotic creep who speaks in a dialect that is part Pig Latin, part Spanglish and part planet Pluto (and he's from the Upper West Side of New York. Go figure). He almost single-handedly steals away the film from Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis; a tough feat considering the amount of talent there.
Ghostbusters II is presented in its original widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio on side A (with full screen included on side B). Columbia has given the film the anamorphic treatment, and for a 10-year-old film, this looks surprisingly crisp. Colors show no bleeding; there was no artifact to be spotted, over all a great transfer. I did once catch a spot of grain. Maybe I just blinked and saw stars for a moment. Either way, a nice transfer by Columbia, who earns a gold star for the day. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, a very good mix with little hiss and appropriate sound. I was able to hear dialogue and music clearly, and sound effects were clean and clear.
For extras we get a few Theatrical Trailers, one for each of the Ghostbusters films, and one to Stripes (which also starred Murray and Ramis) and Groundhog Day (Directed by Ramis, starring Murray). All are in full frame, and as with most trailers are fun to watch, especially if you're a Bill Murray fan.
Also included are talent files and filmographies, Production Notes, and…that's it. We do, however, get many subtitles in about a billion different languages. So, if you're Ukrainian, your ship has just come in.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If the original Ghostbusters disc is Spago, the Ghostbusters II DVD is Burger King. I understand that the original Ghostbusters was a mega hit, and the second one didn't equal the box office intake of the original. However, does that mean that the sequel should get screwed over by way of extras? They did a commentary track for the first one. Was there some big hurry that Ramis and company couldn't have hung out a few hours more and watched the second film as well? What, did he have to rush over finish editing Multiplicity? Thank God for small favors.
There is a double DVD pack of both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II out from Columbia. I think that is your best buy if you're a Ghostbusters fan. I can't really recommend just the Ghostbusters II disc on its own, especially as bare as it is (unless you are a big fan of this one and not the second one…but the price you pay for that insolence is no extras). However, owning the double DVD pack with the original with all its features AND this disc is a nice double feature for your DVD player.
Released on bail, but in the custody of the original Ghostbusters. Maybe the more time it spends with that disc, the more this one will straighten out its act.
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