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“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” opened Friday March 22, 2024. A sequel to 2021’s “Afterlife,” it continues the story of the Spengler family and teacher Gary Grooberson, played by Paul Rudd. This nostalgia-fueled offering captures the spirit of the franchise but fails to win the heart. 

The latest installment of the “Ghostbusters” franchise doubles down on nostalgia at the expense of the film, shoehorning in characters and ghosts from the 1984 classic as well as every main character from “Afterlife,” whether their appearance makes sense or not. “Frozen Empire” is long on effects but short on story and character development.

The movie opens with the New York Fire Department responding to a call. Instead of fire they find the occupants frozen solid with a single survivor holding a brass orb with strange writing all over it. Cut to modern times, and a classic Ghostbusters logo flashes on the screen.

The Ghostbuster’s modified ambulance turned response vehicle Ecto 1, screams through the streets of New York in pursuit of The Hell’s Kitchen sewer dragon. The action-packed scene serves to introduce the family dynamic carried over from the previous installment. Rudd’s Grooberson is the typical not-quite step dad finding his place in his relationship with Carrie Spengler. Grooberson struggles with being a parent figure and friend to her kids Phoebe and Trevor. 

The destructive aftermath of catching the sewer dragon sees Phoebe kicked off the ghostbusting team for being a minor by former E.P.A. Inspector Walter Peck, a call back from the 1984 film, now New York City Mayor. Peck still harbors a grudge against the Ghostbusters after being mocked by the Ghostbusters and dismissed by the mayor and later being covered in marshmallow when the Stay Puft’ Marshmallow man exploded. 

With the introduction of Peck, the film begins to bash the audience over the head with a giant nostalgia bat, fitting as many aspects of the original film into its 115-minute run time as possible. The film score is a modern remix of the original. The inclusion of Slimer and the library ghosts are clever callbacks with the former being mostly an unnecessary meandering of the film. Many characters exist only because they appeared in the original. 

“Frozen Empire” also suffers from an overabundance of characters given larger roles than necessary, leaving important plot driving characters underutilized and under developed. The pivotal characters central to the plot have completely hollow backstories, with the macguffin character of the Firemaster  poorly written and acted, begging the question if their role could have been eliminated all together. 

The character Lucky, Trevor Spengler’s love interest from “Afterlife” makes an appearance, but her inclusion in the film is mostly relegated to a side character whose lines could have been given to almost any other character. Her inclusion is explained as taking an internship without any context as to why.

The inclusion of the original cast gives the right amount of nostalgia, with Dan Akroyd’s Ray serving as a mentor to Phoebe and Podcast. The inclusion of Podcast makes sense given his connection with Ray in “Afterlife,” lying to his parents about attending space camp to work in Ray’s Occult bookstore and webshow. 

The problems with the film aside, the main focus seems to be about the importance of friends and family. In that aspect the film succeeds, though it fails to capture the heart of the previous film. 

Justin Gomes is the Editor-in-Chief of The Express. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @JLGPHOTOG. 

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