Sometimes a thing is repeated so often, everyone starts to believe it. This is particularly true in discussions of pop culture. Throughout the web, fans and critics try to correct for this, resulting in lists of books, albums, and films which are either overrated, underrated, or sometimes—like in the case of this Chuck Klosterman band list—rated exactly as they should be. But in popular SFF films, one movie gets unfairly persecuted more than many. And that movie is Ghostbusters 2. Here are five reasons why it’s much better than everyone seems to think it is.
Both Ghostbusters films are fairly unique in the genres of science fiction/fantasy films insofar as they are both genuinely comedies. Perhaps the only other film series that blends this sensibility as well is Back to the Future. In any case, if either Ghostbusters wasn’t funny, it wouldn’t work. We’re all constantly quoting from the first film, but the second movie has a lot of great jokes too. From Peter MacNicol’s entrance (“everything you’re doing is bad, I want you to know this”) to Egon’s bizarre experiments involving puppies and marriage counseling (“let’s see what happens when we take away the puppy”), to Peter Venkamn’s television show, World of the Psychic (“hairless pets, weird”) and, of course, Rick Moranis’s fantastically clueless Louis Tully (“come on we’re both lawyers”).
But my favorite bit probably comes when Ray, Egon and Winston bust in on Peter and Dana’s dinner, covered in slime and in their underwear: “Boys, boys, you’re scaring the straights.”
The movie picks up five years after the first film, and depicts a pretty bleak situation for the Ghostbusters. Not only did the public turn against them, but the government too. Ray and Winston have even resorted to going to birthday parties and singing their own theme song to disinterested children. This brief commentary on how quickly society forgets its heroes is pretty poignant. To make matters worse, we learn that Peter and Dana didn’t stay together, and Dana is now a single mother. Then in the early scenes of the movie, the Ghostbusters get arrested! If all of these scenes weren’t so funny, they’d be heartbreaking. This makes their comeback in the middle of the movie all the more satisfying. When the Ghostbusters are briefly thrown into a mental instution towards the third act, the tension and the set-up for the final comeback is awesome. The Ghostbusters are a lot like real people in this way; they’re constantly messing up, but always dusting themselves off and trying again.
So it turns out the reason everyone is in such a bad mood in New York City is the fault of people’s negativity, but it’s being made worse by the pink mood slime running around underground. The fact that negativity is actually made into a manifest substance gives the Ghostbusters a formidable enemy. Sure, they’re also fighting Viggo the Carpathian, but the notion that everyone being in a bad mood is the real enemy is pretty compelling. Egon points out it would take a tremendous amount of negative energy to generate a flow of that size, to which Winston replies, “New York, what a town.” This is nice because it’s a mirror of his line at the end of the first film in which he says, “I love this town.” It seems like hard times have made everyone a little more cynical. In this way, slime serves as a great and literal lubricate for the drama throughout the movie.
The Statue of Liberty Walks
Standing on Liberty Island, Peter reminds us that Lady Liberty is, in fact, French. And then they cover the insides of her with slime and make her walk. If you’re describing this sequence to someone who has never seen the movie, you’ll realize how great it sounds. The Ghostbusters make the Statue of Liberty walk through the streets of New York. I’ve seen this movie countless times, and I’m still surprised at how awesome that is. Sure, the statue isn’t to scale, and some of the effects look corny now, and the whole thing is pretty much out of nowhere. But the scene in which the Ghostbusters repel down on ropes from the crown of the statue is priceless.
It’s Another Ghostbusters Movie
The whole concept of the Ghostbusters, even just abstractly, is so great that any kind of sequel would have been a treat for fans. If you walk in on any given scene of this movie, you’ll know it’s not the first one. There’s a freshness and scrappiness to the first movie that isn’t present in the sequel, and yet it feels like a Ghostbusters movie. Though a sequel to Ghostbusters probably wasn’t necessary, Ghostbusters 2, despite rumors to the contrary, is not a bad movie. Almost all the scenes have great dialogue, the conflict is interesting, the ghost stuff is scary when it needs to be, and it has a satisfying climax. And just like the first film, it has a lot of heart.
But what did you think? All the way back in 1989 were you really that upset? Or if you caught the movies on TV or video or DVD, would you ever give Ghostbusters 2 the reverence you gave Ghostbusters uno?
Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.