About the only compliment I can pay Ghostbusters II is the first half or so doesn’t reveal how terrible the movie’s going to get. The film had a troubled production, which might explain the special effects looking rough for the third act. II’s third act apes the third act from the first movie, only without any of the stakes. Ghostbusters II is profoundly without stakes.
Ostensibly, the boys in beige (and navy blue to fit into the popular contemporary cartoon series “The Real Ghostbusters”’s continuity) are trying to save Sigourney Weaver’s baby from Peter MacNicol, her pervy boss who’s become an agent of evil. Except the movie’s not going to kill a baby. So it’s all about how they save the baby. Except Ghostbusters II’s third act is horrible. It gets worse every stake-less scene. The movie’s also got this “New York City sucks” undertone, which is kind of strange. It could work—the movie picks up after the Ghostbusters have been sued out of business, so maybe they could hate the Big Apple, but… no, it’s just for the jokes. The really tepid jokes.
The first act establishes the new ground situation—Weaver’s got a baby (Murray’s not the daddy), Murray’s a psychic TV talk show host (which fits because the character’s written like a talk show host the entire movie), Harold Ramis is doing hard science, Dan Aykroyd is running a used book shop while not doing appearances with Ernie Hudson. Does Hudson have anything else going on the side? Don’t ask; the movie doesn’t care.
Along the way, we’ll learn Rick Moranis has gone back to school and become a lawyer. Annie Potts will be back, then David Margulies comes back as the Mayor, too. Margulies seems exhausted at the whole production, which tracks. Kurt Fuller plays his dipshit aide, who doesn’t trust the gang.
The movie feels long because nothing connects. Ackroyd and Ramos’s script gives them more to do for a while (Ramis especially), but it doesn’t go anywhere. Moranis and Potts get about the best subplot, which is only fair since they’re giving the best performances, but they also don’t have the worst writing. Ramis and Ackroyd saved it for themselves—plus Hudson. II forgets about Hudson for most of the first act, then turns him into an exposition delivery device in the second—alongside Ramis and Ackroyd—and it’s way too much.
Then Weaver starts phoning it in for the finale, which is not good, given it’s all about her baby becoming an evil god. I can’t remember when she goes flat, but it’s way too early, and it’s way too flat. II can’t figure out how to make her and Murray cute together, so they have him play with the baby a lot. Ghostbusters II targets the weirdest demographics—boys who love “Real Ghostbusters” and their moms who didn’t like the first movie but can handle it because the baby’s adorable.
Reitman can’t direct that movie. He does an awful job. As far as the technicals, no one does a good job, really—Michael Chapman somehow shoots it poorly, and then Randy Edelman’s score is arguably offensive—but there’s some basic competence to the production. Dennis Muren’s special effects leave a lot to be desired, though.
So it’s all doomed.
There are also a bunch of stunt cameos for some reason. They don’t amount to anything.
As for top-billed Murray… maybe HBO should’ve given him a talk show or whatever. But it’s not a performance. Many people embarrass themselves in II—Aykroyd, Weaver, Hudson, MacNichol, Harris Yulin—but nothing compares to Murray. He’s been fixed. I’m not sure II’d have been any better without the snip-snip, but it might not have been so dull.