Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters 2

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

A lot of people went to see Ghostbusters II on its opening weekend 25 years ago, enough to break a box office record (that would be surpassed a week later with the release of Batman). Of course it was hugely anticipated. Ghostbusters was already a classic after only five years, and thanks in part to a Saturday morning cartoon spin-off and toys and other merchandising, kids especially couldn’t wait to see Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston and, of course, Slimer back on the big screen. But it was a huge disappointment for most fans. The plot was too much of a repeat of the original, the cast didn’t give it their all and worst of all it wasn’t very funny, so said — and still say — its biggest critics.

Well, I was only 12 at the time and sufficiently satisfied. Already obsessed then by how New York City is represented in cinema, I especially enjoyed the pink slime causing the Big Apple’s notorious reputation for being a mean-spirited metropolis. I even appreciated the corny use of the Statue of Liberty as the antithesis of that negative distinction. But it was enough to see the gang reunited with their proton packs, as well as the return of Rick Moranis, who would have stolen the whole movie if he weren’t beaten at his own game by Peter MacNicol. Some might think of Dr. Janosz Poha as the Jar Jar Binks of the Ghostbusters franchise. For me, he’s still the sequel’s greatest component.

Introducing Janosz

You can hate his accent all you want, but it’s not just how Janosz talks but what he says that makes him such a funny character. And I’m not merely talking about his broken English. Our first real introduction to the guy is when he’s walking past an employee and telling her that everything she’s doing is wrong. Then he urges another person to be careful. He’s different with Dana (Sigourney Weaver) because he has a crush on her, but here’s something I realize in this scene: nobody in this department of the fictional Manhattan Museum of Art appears to be a professional art restorer. Even if Dana is in fact better than the others, this isn’t her main calling. She’s apparently just doing this little thing while her baby, Oscar, is still an infant. But soon she’ll be ready to go back to her true occupation as a cellist. I guess that’s what happens when you have such a loon in charge.

Janosz Is Commanded By Vigo

When watching this scene, I wonder how MacNicol didn’t go on to do more slapstick comedies. He’s also underrated in Bean (including in one scene also involving art restoration), but he could have been an even greater foil for Rowan Atkinson if his fall here is any indication. Maybe it’s because his breakout role was as the serious young writer in Sophie’s Choice? His performance as Janosz is up there with Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Steve Martin in Looney Tunes: Back in Action as one of the best live-action Looney Tunes routines of all time.

Janosz Meets Peter Venkman

The clip below is missing the important part where Janosz walks up and asks Dana if she’s going to introduce him. But the best part is there: Janosz’s strange, non-shaking handshake. I’m not sure if Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) is wiping off any physical residue or just the feeling of creepiness he gets from the interaction. As in all of MacNicol’s scenes, here you need to keep your eyes on him even when Dana is talking to Peter, whether it’s when he’s on the stairs and sort of trying to hush her criticism or when he’s in front of the painting talking to its subject as if he’s real. The latter comes about as a kind of joke, though, before which it might seem as if MacNicol wasn’t receiving much direction from Ivan Reitman during his background moments — which makes him all the more enjoyable for how he makes do.

Janosz Meets the Ghostbusters

“Why are you came?” is certainly very quotable, and he plays the old joke involving where he’s from perfectly, but in this scene I’m mostly again drawn to the idea that Reitman wasn’t giving MacNicol as much to do as he should have. Check out Janosz in the background at the end, where he’s just standing there doing nothing but putting his face in his hands. I tend to stare at him in that moment as if I’m Ray (Dan Aykroyd) staring at the Vigo painting.

Janosz Checks On Dana and Oscar

There’s not a whole lot to this scene, in which Janosz checks in on Dana and Oscar during the blackout (i.e. “all of this blackness”) and probably intended to kidnap the kid right then and there but fails. Maybe it’s completely unnecessary except that without it we wouldn’t get MacNicol’s nuttiest pronunciation yet — of “baby.”  Bayaybeebee?

Janosz Is Drippings With Goo

Proving that Janosz is really the Louis of the sequel, in spite of the fact that Louis is also in the movie, his awakening from possession in the goo at the end is near-identical to when Louis awakens from his own possession inside the hellhound at the end of Ghostbusters. But whatever, maybe I’m permanently enveloped in pink slime myself, because I love him and this scene, too.

 


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