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Film review: Ghostbusters II

Published: Saturday, July 8 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

There's still trouble in your neighborhood — at least if you live in New York City. So who ya gonna call?

Who do you think?

"Ghostbusters." Again.

In fact, "Ghostbusters Again" would be as apt a title as "Ghostbusters II," since it's little more than the same movie: Three paranormal investigators are on the skids until ghostly occurrences at a famous Manhattan institution lead them to evil slime that conjures up ghosts. The 'busters capture the spirits and store them, but eventually the boys are locked up until the mayor is convinced he needs to let them out so they can save the city. And the climax has a huge figure stomping through the streets.

Well, to be honest, there have been some minor alterations: It's four "Ghostbusters" now, of course (five by the end of the film). The institution is the Manhattan Museum of Art instead of the New York Public Library. The ghosts are captured, but we're never told where they're being stored this time. The boys are locked up in a loony bin rather than a jail. And instead of the marshmallow man . . . well, we'll let that be a surprise.

After all, there aren't many surprises to be had here.

The first half of "Ghostbusters II" is very funny as we're told it's now five years later — and it is, by golly! — and the incredible amount of damage caused during the course of the first film has left the four 'busters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson) destitute. Murray is hosting a phony psychic talk show, Aykroyd is running an occult bookstore, Ramis is back on campus and, to help make ends meet, Aykroyd and Hudson are reduced to performing for rich kids' birthday parties. (They sing, "Who you gonna call?" And the children shout back, "He-Man!" To which Aykroyd deadpans, "Ungrateful yuppie larvae.")

Meanwhile, during the past half-decade Sigourney Weaver has broken up with Murray, and she's married and divorced someone else. She also has a baby — a baby being threatened by an evil spirit temporarily trapped in a painting at the art museum. The spirit is also linked to a river of slime flowing under Manhattan, which has its incarnate evil energized by the nastiness of short-tempered New Yorkers.

Hmmm.

Well, do not dismay. Plot doesn't really matter in a silly horror-comedy, after all. And "Ghostbusters II" gets the bulk of its laughs from the first half during a hilarious courtroom sequence, some great one-liners from Murray and Ramis, from a wonderful turn by Rick Moranis repeating his role as the nerdy accountant, by villain Peter MacNicol (with the strangest European accent since Laurence Olivier in "The Jazz Singer") and from a number of fine-tuned inventive early scenes, which, laugh-for-laugh, rival the best bits in the first "Ghostbusters."

But then the movie starts a slow downhill slide from which it never fully recovers. It's not fatal, but it's a bit frustrating considering all that has gone before.

Still, there's plenty to enjoy here and fans of the group won't care about the shortcomings. Murray is very good, much better than in the embarrassing "Scrooged" (he's playing a character and not winking at the camera), and the rest of the cast is in rare form. Including the charming twins William T. and Henry J. Deutschendorf, who alternate as Weaver's baby. (And, yes, that's Cheech Marin as one of the dockworkers.)

Rated PG, "Ghostbusters" has some violence and a couple of profanities, but parents will be pleased to know it is relatively free of the vulgarity that marred the first film.