Ghostbusters 2 (1989) Movie Review “Flawed Yet Entertaining Follow Up”

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With a thunderous crash, the first frames of “Ghostbusters 2” are the words, “5 years later.” Soon we are treated too our first images of Dana Barrett (once again played Sigourney Weaver) walking down the streets of Manhattan with her baby as she passes by a bunch of citizens of New York being rude and obnoxious to one another. Soon something seems to take possession of the baby carriage and sends it into flying into the road, narrowing avoiding traffic. The music is tense and emphasizes danger as Dana goes running after it and just barely catches it before it could cause anymore havoc in the streets.

Why do I bring up the opening scene of the movie? Simply because, from the moment of the opening frames, it shows that we’re in for a different sort of film from the first one. The time long between the original and the sequel causes it to lose some focus on what made the original so revered and loved. “Ghostbusters 2” does have its moments of brilliance and memorable scenes but it’s inconsistent tone, heavy handed message, and long lulls of absent humor does hurt the film as a whole. However in retrospect as far as comedy sequels goes this is among the better ones.

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“Ghostbusters 2″returns to our characters 5 years after the showdown between them and a giant marshmallow man (the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man) and everyone is on nearly separate paths. The Ghostbusters have been disbanded thanks to a court order not allowing them to continue their business. Yet soon thanks to an increase of ghost activity in the great city of New York and a discovery of a river of slime below the streets, the Ghostbusters must return together in order to once again save us all.

It’s very surprising to see where the screenwriters decided to take this sequel. It would have been very easy just to have the group stay together for their next adventure like the cartoon show did in between these two films did (which is loosely consider cannon). Yet this split does have some logic gaps that some viewers must be willing to give. I guess I can buy the fact that the group got sued a lot (this is a country that’ll sue you if you have say “Merry Christmas” after all) but the fact that everyone seems to still not believe in ghosts, seems very illogical. If a giant marshmallow man didn’t convince you then I don’t know what will.

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Director Ivan Reitman returns to the chair and “Ghostbusters 2” has a cleaner and crisper look to it than the previous one did. Reitman shows a talent for once again directing both the creepy and fun ghost attacks along with the funny comedic scenes. Yet at the same time (which has more to it than just him) this film is very inconsistent with the tone.

Something that should be noted about the original is that even when things got tense and creepy it still maintained a level of fun thanks to the cast members firing jokes away. In this when things get tense and creepy, there is no relief with humor or lighthearted music. Instead certain scenes will come off rather dark and disturbing than something we should be having fun with. Which in a way is ironic because the filmmakers tried to make this one more kid friendly because of the cartoon show (“The Real Ghostbusters”) that was semi popular at the time. Large part of that is the music.

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The original’s music always still had hints of fun overly dramatic musical cues so even more things got more intense it gives the audience room to breathe and let them know, “hey we’re all still having fun here.” In this the music does the opposite, it enhances the horror and intensity. A shot of several bloody heads on sticks is not played for laughs in any way shape or form and makes it tonally inconsistent.

The other thing that adds to this is the lulls between moments of humor. There are large spots in the film where the movie simply isn’t funny and not even because the humor is missing it’s mark but more so because someone simply forgot to write a joke in there. When the group is cracking jokes it is funny and that’s a testament to how great this group is together but it seems like they held back on the ad-lib and stuck closer with the script unlike the first one. In a way this feels like a dramatic third chapter in a trilogy rather than the returning second adventure in a franchise.

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The only other visible flaw this film has is the heavy handed message it leaves you with. You’re being beat over the head with this message of New York has gotten to be a place of(as Peter Venkman puts it), “miserable ass holes,” that don’t respect one another enough and no one has any kindness left. This is a good message but not when you’re being constantly reminded of it. Shifting from a film that didn’t have a message to preaching one to the choir doesn’t provide any consistency with the fans.

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Yet even still with these flaws there are many fun moments to be had. It might be not nearly as good as the original yet it still is solid in its own right. I do applaud it for trying new things out rather than rehashing the same old thing from the first one. Yet still being daring does not always measure up to success. I’ve said this before I’ll say it again, live action comedy sequels are so tough to get right. So much so even “Ghostbusters 2” is among the better ones of the genre.

Final Score

6.5/10

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