Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Recap: "Ghostbusters II" Part 2: Pollution and Resolution

Okay, I think I'm good now. It's a new day, I can come at this movie with a fresh perspective.

As I've said, every movie deserves a fair chance. And in the interest of fairness, I'm making myself give this movie four meaningful compliments before I continue recapping.

1: It really does feel good to see the Ghostbusters triumphantly return after busting the Scoleri Brothers.
2: The special effects still hold up, even after all this time. No small feat, what with the rushed production.
3: Despite her breakup with Peter Venkman, it's nice that Sigourney Weaver returned for the sequel instead of being replaced with a new character, as in the initial drafts. It wouldn't be a Ghostbusters film without her.
4: "We had part of a slinky. But I straightened it." I love that line.

And you know what? Now that the movie's gotten its setup out of the way, the meat of the movie is bound to be pretty good. So with a positive outlook, I'll be sinking my teeth into the next part of the movie.

That's right, ghost logo. I'm at inner peace.
The next part of the film is the apparently-traditional busting montage.

In the interest of fairness, again, I'm going to point out that the montage itself is an improvement over the one in the first film, simply because the bigger budget actually allows the film to show our heroes busting ghosts, as opposed to running around with smoking ghost traps while the lack of action is disguised with a slew of celebrity cameos.

You win this one, Ghostbusters II.
But now that I've pointed out the pros of the montage, I need to point out the cons, starting with the very first shot of the montage.

What have they done to you?
Yes, that's Annie Potts reprising the role of Janine under the Harry Potter glasses and Judy Funnie hair.

The reason why? FREAKING KIDS.

Remember in Part 1 when I mentioned that there was a Ghostbusters cartoon? Well, maybe I should show a picture of the animated Ghostbusters team.

Hmm.... something's off.
Yeah, they look a bit different. Partially so they wouldn't have to license the actors' likenesses, but also so they could give each character a unique look, as opposed to them all having brown hair and most of them being white.

But of all the redesigns to keep, Janine's?

Now, I'll admit that my complaint can be boiled down to "the character I like isn't hot anymore."

Which, I'll also admit, seems like a pretty misogynistic complaint.

But hear me out.

In the first film, Janine was an awesome character, and I'm not simply talking about her appearance. She was a sarcastic young lady with a quick wit and a sharp tongue, but also had a warmer side, as shown with her one-sided crush on Egon and the way she praised him for helping poor, poor Louis Tully. She had some great lines and gave us some of the first film's most memorable moments. I mean, who could forget "WE GOT ONE!" or "Ghostbusters, whaddaya want?"

In the first movie, Janine served two functions, after her romance subplot with Egon was dropped.
  1.  Witty comic relief.
  2. A bit of eye candy.
And you can't tell me that the lovely Annie Potts wasn't hired as eye candy. Why else would they have gotten Chris Hemsworth to play her counterpart in the reboot?

"This computer. I like it! Another!"
Now, sitting there and being pretty was Janine's main job before the calls started pouring in... but Annie Potts's main job was to provide some sarcasm and light banter.

So if this movie decides to give her a new, cartoon-inspired look... you know what? All things considered, that's fine, as long as the character still has a purpose to exist. Namely, the aforementioned sarcasm/banter.

Unfortunately, this movie's dialogue, as I've mentioned, is missing the grown-up punch that the first movie had, so what we're left with is a lady who looks like a clown who can't even tell a good joke.

Not that that's automatically a bad thing.
So unless they suddenly force a random romantic subplot onto her, she has no reason to exist, other than "Hey, Janine's back!"
And the rest of this montage is pretty terrible, too.

First of all, the iconic theme has been replaced by a rap song. And not even a good rap song. It sounds uncannily like the Ninja Rap from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. And the lyrics? Run-D.M.C. rhymed "ghostbusters" with "ghost-dusters." No, really.

Second, there's a segment where Janine and Louis star in a Ghostbusters commercial that tries and fails so hard to be so-bad-its-good like in the first movie. In fact, the basic premise of the commercial is that a honeymoon couple has a ghost in their hotel room, so they call the Ghostbusters... which was originally going to be the reason the Ghostbusters were called into the Sedgewick Hotel in the first film. So, again, they're just recycling material from the first film.

Third, Slimer is shown to be living at the firehouse now. Because like Janine's redheadedness and Winston's lack of a mustache, that's how it was in the cartoon.

Slimer... why must you be the representation of the kiddification of Ghostbusters?
Speaking of Winston, our heroes are finally letting him be in another scene. Egon and Ray are showing Winston and Peter exactly what the slime they've been collecting is capable of. Ray yells at a jar of it for a bit, creating bubbles.

Ray: "I mean, what a discovery. A psycho-reactive substance!"

So... if a substance that empathically reacts to thoughts is a breakthrough... then all of your and Egon's research regarding the environment being influenced by emotion is a crock of bullcrap.  God, at least the last movie gave us consistent pseudoscientific bullcrap.

Ray: "Whatever this stuff is, it responds to human emotional states."

Bad vibes give it energy, and they've been trying to see if good vibes can get a similar result.

Peter: "What kind of tests?"
Ray: "Well, we sing to it, and uh, we talk to it. And say supportive, nurturing things to it."
Peter: "You're not sleeping with it, are you, Ray?"

Ray's look at Egon speaks volumes

Winston: "It's always the quiet ones."

Yeah, but Egon will have the last laugh once the internet age comes around and he discovers the "slime girl" fetish.
They move on to the kinetic test and put some in a toaster while playing some Jackie Wilson. There’s a minor error here, as the music wasn’t actually played on-set, but dubbed in during post, meaning that when Bill Murray jokes that the toaster “sounds exactly like Jackie,” the actual singing hasn’t started yet. Whoops.

But the toaster soon starts dancing around and spitting out toast. Dan Aykroyd awkwardly moves to catch it, but Harold Ramis does it instead.

Whoops. Again.
Geez, this bit is filled with minor mistakes. You can even see the mechanism bouncing the toaster around.

Anyway, with the demonstration over, Peter makes jokes about selling a line of the toasters as Christmas gifts before pretending that it's attacking him. Remember when Bill Murray would play Peter Venkman as a sardonic jerk with a goofy streak and not an utter cartoon character? I miss those days.

Later that day, Peter heads to the museum to talk to Dana. But first, he meets a fan of his old show at the guard desk.

Old Guard: "It used to be one of my two favorite shows."
Peter: "You're kidding. Oh, great, what was the other one?"
Old Guard: "Bassmasters."

...Well, that sure was a punchline. I think.

Dana, in the restoration room, walks back to her painting. The portrait of Vigo smiles at her, but when she whips her head around, his face is as stern as always.

"Hey, baby. How you doin'?"
Peter comes in and compliments her work, earning the jealousy of Janosz. The two amicably... well, I was going to say that they shake hands, but Janosz really just sort of touches it for a bit. It's... awkward.

Even Peter feels the need to wipe his hand off afterwards.
Peter admires Vigo's portrait for a bit, and Janosz explain that "Prince" Vigo was the ruler of Carpathia and Moldavia.

Janosz: "He was a very powerful magician, Dr. Venkman. And, ehh, a genius, in many ways."
Dana: "He was also a lunatic and a genocidal madman. I hate this painting."

So, wait, I just realized something. The Ghostbusters are fighting a wizard. A wizard who lives inside a moving painting, no less. When did this stop being Ghostbusters and start being Harry Potter?

Peter jokes about painting in a kitten to make Vigo happy, but Janosz ushers them away. On the other side of the room, Dana mentions how creeped out the painting makes her feel. And every once in a while, she could swear that it's smiling at her. And when they both look over and see Janosz talking to the painting... yeah, that's a red flag.

That night, when Dana gets a bath ready for Oscar, pink slime fills the tub, which tries to engulf them both.

That bathtub has wormsign, the likes of which God has never seen.
With nowhere else to turn, she quickly heads to Peter's apartment. He lets them both in, and she tells him what happened. Peter comforts her before calling Ray and telling him to check out that tub. Ray relays the information to Egon, who brings up some information he found on that Vigo guy. Namely, that he was a genocidal tyrant who lived suspiciously long. Calling it now, the painting's a horcrux!

Ray asks if Egon thinks there's a connection between Vigo and the mood slime.

Egon: "Is the atomic weight of Cobalt 58.9?"

They head off to examine the tub and make plans to check out the museum while Peter wraps up Oscar in his favorite Jets sweatshirt. The one that originally came from Joe Namath. While Peter wraps Oscar up, Dana gives him the "Oh, he's such good father material" look. You know, the one that means that these two are totally going to get back together why are they even trying to hide it. That look.

Anyway, after a joke about how Peter will be sleeping on the couch tonight, Peter puts down the baby for the night.

Peter: "You're short, your belly button sticks out too far, and you're a terrible burden on your poor mother."

Ah ha. Putdowns. Ha. Ha ha.

The next day, the Ghostbusters get ready to take a look at the portrait of Vigo as they inform Peter on their findings. Vigo died at the ripe old age of 105, but not from natural causes.

Ray: "He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered."

I’d correct Ray that when referring to somebody being suspended by their neck until death, it should be “hanged”…. But maybe his killers displayed him over the window like a set of curtains. Who knows?

Peter: "Ouch."

To add some more creepiness to his Rasputinian death, just before his head died, he vowed to return, saying, "Death is but a door, time is but a window, I'll be back."

The boys in beige enter the restoration room, to the protestations of Janosz.

Janosz: "Dr. Venkman, Dana is not here!"
Peter: "Yeah, we know that, Johnny."
Janosz: "So why are you came?"

But Peter asks an important question.

Peter: "Johnny, where the hell are you from, anyway?"
Janosz: "The upper vest side?"

The Ghostbusters proceed to take pictures and scans of Vigo's painting. As Peter pretends to be a fashion photographer, Ray seems transfixed by Vigo's eyes....

Or maybe Dan Aykroyd is just really bored.
Having done their worst, the ghostbusters leave and go their separate ways. Peter returns home to find a freshly-showered Dana and a sleeping baby.

Peter Venkman referred to this lovely vision as "the ol' ball and chain." She can do better.
Peter tells her that the boys found nothing but a little pink slime. And because he has no sense of occasion, he tells Dana to get dressed up for a night on the town. He's even gotten a babysitter, a wonderful young lady named Janine. The flowers he got for her really seem to seal the deal, and she falls for the old Bill Murray charm.

Dana: "Don't put any of those old cheap moves on me."
Peter: "No, no, no...."
Dana: "It's different."
Peter: "I have all new cheap moves."

After some jokes about how men don't simply divide clothes into clean and dirty, we cut back to the firehouse, where Janine is on the phone while shutting down the place for the day. I can't wait to see some of that classic Janine sarcasm!

Janine: "Well, they couldn't get to you until after the new year. ...Well, just don't go in there."

A variation on the old "Doctor, it hurts when I do this" routine. Ha. Ha ha. Ho. Hee. Ha.

...ha.

Louis (who works for the Ghostbusters as their accountant now; sorry, I forgot to mention it) walks outside with Janine. Nervously, he builds up the courage to ask her out, but she tells him that she's babysitting tonight. He's visibly brought down by the news, but she lets him tag along.

Over with Ray and Egon, they're checking on their spirit photography of the Vigo painting.

Egon: "Multi-planar Kirlian emanations."

It's giving off electromagnetic energy, in layman's terms.

Ray: "Check out the aura on this sucker."

Mumbo jumbo, in layman's terms.

As they wait for a machine to analyze another photo, they treat us to another example of this movie's particular brand of humor.

Ray: "So whadda ya think? Chinese?"
Egon: "How 'bout Thai?"
Ray: "Too spicy. Greek?"
Egon: "Mmm... Mexican?"
Ray: "Pizza?"
Egon: "Thin or thick?"
Ray: "Chicago."

Now, let me analyze this joke. No, really.

Ray starts off suggesting foreign cuisine before settling on a choice that, as a New Yorker, he should have strong feelings against. The joke being, obviously, that he's settling for a familiar American (Italian, but very much co-opted by the USA) classic after suggesting foreign food.

That's the joke. There's no twist, no unique spin, and nothing that elevates it from something that would have gotten a polite chuckle in the 1950's.

There are only so many ways I can say "This isn't funny." In the course of this Recap, I've used analysis, I've used sarcasm, and I've used forced laughter. So I think I'm now well within my rights to simply use a meme to criticize this movie's humor from this point on.

Man, I seem to be making a lot of Doctor Who references this week.
When the photo's done in the spectro-whatever machine, they take a look at the result. Ray recognizes it.

Ray: "That's the river of slime."

"I don't remember the river of slime looking so hot, though."
The room begins to catch fire as the two are magically locked inside. Luckily, Winston bursts in with a fire extinguisher.

"Can't you guys go two minutes without me? I leave to get coffee, and you're on trial, or in danger, or whatever."
Later, Peter, and Dana emerge from his building, ready for a night on the town. Then the other Ghostbusters show up, ready to take him with them to go down into the disused subway tunnels and check out some pink slime. Guess which option Peter chooses.

Three quarters of the team venture down into the disused subway tunnels, noting that they must be getting closer when they suddenly have a vision of heads on pikes.

Okay, I'll admit, this is wonderfully horrifying.
They decide to go get their proton packs (using the phrase for the first time in the films), but never do, what with the sudden appearance of a ghost train, which might be a reference to the “spectral locomotive” story from the montage in the first film. It passes right through Winston, who appears to be frazzled, but unharmed. And unslimed, for some reason.

Egon: "I think that was the old New York Central, City of Albany. Derailed in 1920, killed hundreds of people. Did you catch the number on the locomotive?"
Winston: "Sorry. I missed it."

But in all the excitement, Ray disappeared and found a hole that leads down into the vast slime river.

Egon: "Do you know how much negative energy it must have taken to generate a flow this size?"

So, what, the pink slime was created by negative energy, now? When did we establish that? All we knew was that bad vibes made it bubble and good vibes made it dance.

Winston: "New York. What a town."

Yeah, it's not like I can name any place on Earth that harbored more hatred, pain, and suffering at any point in history Auschwitz. Oh, great, I just went all Godwin's Law on this Recap.

Look, I just have a hard time believing that New York City is the biggest cesspool of festering anger in the world, despite what the stereotypes would have you think. A lot of people say, "Oh, New Yorkers are jerks." A lot of people say, "Parisians are such jerks." The truth? People in cities tend to be ruder and less patient. Mostly because they have to put up with rude and impatient people. It's a vicious cycle.

So, really, New York's anger issues are par for the course for large cities. Even when you factor in all the BROOKLYN RAAAAAAAGE.

Anyway, an attempt to measure the depth of the river results in Winston getting pulled into the current. Because Winston, in case you haven't been paying attention, is the film's punching bag. As the other two go after their black best friend, Dana proposes a toast to Peter, whom she describes at the most charming, kindest, most unusual man she's ever broken up with.

They talk. You know, the usual "Oh, you're sweet, but you're not right for me, Peter" stuff we've come to expect. Banter. I'm skipping it because it's not interesting, it's not funny, and it's not relevant to the plot.

"But Newt!" I hear no one cry. "You can't skip anything! You have to describe it in some way to let us know how bad it is!"

Fine. Here you go.

Peter: "I mean, if I had this kind of support on a 24-hour-a-day basis, I could have myself whipped into shape by the end of this century."
Dana: "Well, why don't you just give me a jingle in the year 2000?"
Peter: "Why don't I give you... a jingle right now?"

They kiss.

As I said, it's not interesting. It's not funny.

If I wanted a quiet romance scene involving Bill Murray, I'd watch Lost in Translation, thank you very much.
Hey, speaking of not interesting and not funny, let's cut to Janine and Louis babysitting Oscar. Louis is telling Oscar a version of Snow White, as filtered through tax law, and puts him to bed before Janine pulls a PG-13 version of the Basic Instinct leg cross. It involves no leg crossing or nudity, which means that all she's doing s holding a glass ball up to her covered-up nether regions.

So in the end, not much like Basic Instinct at all. Forget I brought it up.
Yeah, she's set her sights on Louis. Randomly.

Louis: "So, you want to play Boggle, or Super Mario Brothers?"

Well, I think... Uh... um.... ugh. This movie is just sucking the creativity right out of me. Janine obviously wants sex, and I can't even come up with a proper double entendre relating to Boggle or Super Mario!

Anyway, Janine reaches around his head to apparently perform Oo-mox on him as the three slimy, sticky Ghostbusters emerge from the sewers and attack each other in anger. Before they can manage to seriously hurt each other, Egon yells at the other two to strip down to their long johns, which solves the problem by getting most of the slime off of them.

Ray: "It's this stuff... It's like pure concentrated evil."

And they've emerged from the sewers to see where it's all flowing to: the museum.

As Peter and Dana continue to enjoy their date, Winston, Ray, and Egon come in, positively dripping with slime, to rant like crazy people in the midst of the crusty white people in the restaurant.

Peter: "Boys! Boys! You're scaring the straights, okay?"

It's not what you think; he's referring to the other restaurant goers as "reserved people who follow conventional mores." Although, now that I think about it, that line isn't helped by the fact that the Ghostbusters are dripping with transparent goo....

And to think, the Ghostbusters movie that's all about people getting slimed isn't the one with the Ron Jeremy cameo.
Anyway, the cops escort the gooey men away as Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" plays. Peter follows them to see the mayor as Dana returns home to find Janine and Louis making out on her couch. Instead of yelling "What the hell, you're supposed to be watching my son" like any rational human being would, she gives them a sly little smirk.

Oh, yeah, she seems like a responsible babysitter.
And after they all catch up, Dana asks how Oscar was.

Janine: "He was a little fussy at first. Then we just gave him some French bread pizza. Passed right out."

Okay, NewtCave readers. Question time.

Was that funny?

I'm serious, I can't tell at this point. I got a chuckle out of it, but I don't know if it was actually funny or if I'm just desperate to laugh at anything.  Anyway, they continue to make out while Dana checks on the baby. Meanwhile, the Ghostbusters are meeting with the mayor (David Margulies). He gives them two minutes to explain.

Ray: "Well, first of all, Mr. Mayor, it's a great pleasure to see you again. And we'd just like to say that almost 50% of us voted for you in the last election."
Mayor: "I appreciate that."

Okay, I know I'm desperate to laugh, but I'm pretty sure that was funny.

They try to explain what's going on before Winston dumbs it down. Basically, all the bad feelings in the city are turning into goo that makes people angry. And... this is where things turn into a filibuster. Take it, Peter.

Peter: "Lenny, have you been out on the street lately? Do you know how weird it is out there? We've taken our own headcount. There seem to be three million completely miserable assholes living in the tri-state area."

I blame Dr. Doofenshmirtz, myself.

Ray: "And what budgie-brain here doesn't realize is that if we don't do something fast, this whole place is gonna blow like a frog on a hot plate."
Hardemeyer: "Yeah, right."
Mayor: "What am I s'posed to do? Go on television and tell ten million people they have to be nice to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's God-given right."

Boy, things really were different before 9/11. No, I mean it. In 1989, you have a movie about how New York sucks and everyone there hates each other. Come 2002, you have ordinary people throwing trash at the Green Goblin, saying that if you mess with one of them, you mess with all of them.

Why don't they just whip out the "saving the lives of millions of registered voters" line again?
But at the moment, their two minutes are up. The mayor leaves, and the Ghostbusters make a big show out of their intentions to go to the newspapers with their news. But before they do, Hardemeyer asks if they'd like to tell their story to some of his buddies downtown. "Downtown" turns out to be the Parkview Psychiatric Hospital. Because in the world of Ghostbusters II, you can just drop people off at mental institutions, as long as you claim that they're crazy.

Also, hello, Bill Murray's actual brother.
Coming up in Part 3! Countdown to doomsday!

2 comments:

  1. I would say that "misogynistic" is a big world that isn't bad by default but its shouldn't be overused or it's loses its supposed weight. (I mean it's literally means "hatred of women") Might as well call disagreement "harassment". The correct term here would be "shallow".

    Also: No, it wasn't funny, but second joke kinda was.

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    1. Well, I used the term "misogynistic" because I was a bit worried that my initial criticism might seem like I was devaluing Annie Potts as a person, which was never my intent, as I hope I've made clear.

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