October 20, 2005

Ghostbusters II

Ghostbusters II is the kind of sequel that was the norm in the era before the franchise. The first film wasn't designed for sequels; it was a funny, well-constructed, stand-alone film. But the characters connected with the American public. The key players got back together and threw together this entertaining second go around.
The premise is basically that all of the good that was shown at the end of the first film has been undone by the beginning of this one. Banned from fighting ghosts, Ray Stanz and Winston Zeddemore resort to entertaining at kids' birthday parties — a disappointment to the generation raised on He-Man. Peter Venkman is the host of a show on the supernatural produced by the local NBC affiliate. He appears, if anything, less interested in his guests than his audience. Egon Spengler is doing behavioural testing in a lab. Stanz runs a bookstore on the occult. Dana Barrett left Venkman, got married, had a kid, then got divorced.
Much like the cast of a long-running television show, this time out these guys know their characters inside-and-out. The performances are so fluid and comfortable that the ghostbusting is almost beside the point. Murray, in particular, is on top form here. He brings fierce intelligence, timing, and wit to a character that is a loser who stands out mainly because Egon and Ray are the benchmark. By throwing the baby in as an obstacle between him and Dana, the sexual tension is able to flourish, with an undercurrent that energizes the entire flick. I'm not sure anything can top Rick Moranis's performance in the original, but his re-introduction in an early courtroom scene here had me on the floor in a way no comedy in recent memory has been able to muster.
What problems are there are a natural result of the original so effectively drawing its story to a close. Rebooting all of the character relationships allows more of the same character dynamics so loved in the first film. But it also meant that the characters themselves are fairly stagnant. There's no particularly new territory entered here, unless you count a romantic subplot between Louis and Annie Potts's definitive secretary Janine. The results are satisfying but neither enriching nor enterprising. ()


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