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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Slimes Us with Nostalgia

Amusing sequel spits out Easter eggs between modest comic morsels

You could excuse “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” for wallowing in nostalgia.

The reboot/sequel had to wash away the stain of the 2016 “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call” while making amends with the franchise faithful.

“Afterlife” still moved the story’s setting far from the Big Apple, and the presence of the franchise’s core members came mostly at the end. It felt like the franchise was ready to go off on its own.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” argues just the opposite.

The sequel stuffs every possible nostalgia blast into its two-hour running time. The iconic theme song. The score. The original cast members. The references. The quips. Nearly every scene marinates in our memories.

Rick Moranis must have looked at the heaping pile of money on his agent’s desk and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Yet the movie that struggles to the surface is just sly enough to recommend. You won’t feel good about it later, and most will hope the franchise stalls here … for good.

GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE - Official Trailer (HD)

The story picks up two years after “Afterlife,” and the Spengler clan has embraced its ghost-busting destiny in New York.

They’re racing around the city in the Ecto-mobile, quibbling with each other like families often do.

Their handiwork draws the ire of the Mayor (William Atherton, another franchise returnee), forcing young Phoebe (“Crash & Bernstein” alum Mckenna Grace) to lay down her proton pack. She’s only 15 and too young to be an official Ghostbuster by the city’s rules and regulations.

Remember when the 1984 original shredded Big Government? Rebellion isn’t allowed in this movie franchise or Hollywood circa 2024.

That’s a problem since a new ghostly threat is lurking around the corner. A mysterious orb carries a ghost eager to turn the earth into, wait for it, a Frozen Empire. The Spenglers will need backup to thwart its plans, including young Ghostbusters (Celeste O’Connor, fresh from “Madame Web”) and Logan Kim as the returning Podcast.

The Old Guard – Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and Bill Murray (briefly) – also join the fight.

Murray is fittingly like a ghost in the film. He pops in and out of the story as if he were on-set for mere hours, not days. Hmmmm.

We also get Patton Oswalt in an unnecessary role spitting out exposition. And boy, there’s a ton of exposition to be shared.

Remember storytelling?

British comic James Acaster adds nothing to the sequel as yet another ghost expert. Then again, gags are in short supply in the rebooted franchise.

Thank heavens for Kumail Nanjiani. He plays a sad-sack who sells Aykroyd’s Ray the orb in question, and he’s the only cast member who “gets” the whole point of Ghostbusting.

Make. Us. Laugh.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The 1984 original mixed a great theme song, a killer cast and a slick comedy/sci-fi hybrid. The last two “Ghost” features dialed down the comedy.

“Frozen Empire” is a mess, no doubt, down to the absurd return of the mini-Stay Puff marshmallow men. Think the Minions minus a sense of purpose.

And yet the sequel is never dull, delivers a few smiles and is smart enough to keep throwing things at the screen until something sticks.

Take Paul Rudd, playing the Spenglers’ quasi-father figure and Mama Spengler’s love interest. Rudd is always great. Always. He has little to do here but crack wise (mildly) and look lost while he figures out what it means to be a step-father. 

Except it’s clear his character isn’t actually married to Carrie Coon’s Callie Spengler.

And then there’s Phoebe’s relationship with a female teen ghost (Emily Alyn Lind). Suffice it to say the film suggests a romantic bond between geek girl and that ghostly presence, but it lacks the courage to go all the way.

(That should enrage social conservatives and far-Left activists alike).

You could see where a stripped-down “Frozen Empire” might make sense. Aykroyd and Hudson discuss getting old in one poignant exchange. The former notes that fighting ghosts still makes him happy. You can sense the moment speaks to a celebrity who once sat atop Hollywood’s A-list.

Phoebe’s teen angst could also play well if given more screen time. So could the quirky dynamics of the Spengler clan.

And why bother hiring Rudd if you’ve got nothing for him to do? Reciting classic Ghostbusters lines does not count.

The box office will determine if the “Ghostbusters” franchise goes back to sleep following “Frozen Empire.”

Either way, it’s time to stop with the Memberberries and blaze a new trail.

HiT or Miss: “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is an exercise in raw nostalgia but the gifted cast ensures it’s a diverting affair despite the film’s flaws.

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