Ghostbusters 2: The most overlooked holiday film

Review: The ghost-hunting comedy hits all the right notes to make it an unlikely yuletide classic.

There comes a time when all the Christmas movies have been watched, and while it would be awesome to watch Scrooged for the fifth time, it might be nice to unearth a different film for a change of pace. A film that has all the hallmarks of the holiday, but maybe doesn’t get too saccharine with the message, isn’t a romantic comedy like Love, Actually and then also doesn’t go as dark as Bad Santa.

Ghostbusters 2 might just hit that sweet spot of cynicism and cloying that has been missing from the holiday for so long.

Released in June 1989, the sequel to the immensely popular Ghostbusters broke box office records, but received tepid reviews. Siskel & Ebert infamously explained how the film gives nothing new to the audience in their 1989 review.

They awarded the movie two thumbs down, with Ebert calling it an example of the “bankruptcy of sequels,” and Siskel asking about the cynical nature of having a guaranteed success, and not even trying to make a decent film.

However, the feel-good vibes in Ghostbusters 2 mesh well with the themes found in other Christmas films. The message is about love, being kind to one another, how symbols bring people together in song (somehow), and how pink slime and Howard Huntsberry’s lyrics can make immobile objects impossibly mobile, like Cheech Marin’s career.

Couple that with its placement on the calendar, and this should make one a solid Christmas film. It even has a baby selected as the new ruler of the world. What more do you want from a Christmas movie? Snow?

For a film that takes place ostensibly through the holiday season and culminates specifically on New Year’s Eve, writers and actors Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd go out of their way to ignore Christmas and religion. The scene below is the only time the holiday gets mentioned in the film.

While this makes sense for Ramis and Aykroyd’s characters as two scientists immersed in the occult and supernatural, it comes at the sacrifice of characterization and effort. Gone from Ghostbusters 2 are well done character moments found in the first film.

And in their place we have actors running through the motions, a retread plot, and a messy conclusion hinging on the belief that a crowd of partying '80s era New Yorkers know all the words to “Auld Lang Syne.”

The tone of Ghostbusters 2 shifted in the intervening years, from adult laughs and situations, to awkward comebacks and kid-friendly entertainment. This is where the cynicism creeps in: For all the bluster about wanting to have good will toward one other, this film was made to sell more toys and to make money. It worked. And it is not a shame to say that it worked well.

It is a shame, however, to let this film go unnoticed during the holiday season, when the third repeat of Elf comes on, and the 12th hour of A Christmas Story starts, and the only escape is to the nostalgia of an easily sold to and excitable child.

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