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Release Date: 03/22/24 [Cinemas]
Genre: Adventure. Comedy. Fantasy.

Studio: Columbia Pictures. 

"When the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an evil force, Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second ice age." 


Where Ghostbusters: Afterlife attempted to reboot and update the franchise, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire brings it all back to its roots.


That is, the grit and scope of New York City, a group of friends coming together to form a family, and supernatural hijinks that’s funny just as often as it is spooky. 


The Spengler clan from Afterlife – Mckenna Grace as Phoebe Spengler, Finn Wolfhard as Trevor Spengler, Carrie Coon as Callie Spengler, and Paul Rudd as Gary Grooberson – have moved into the old ghostbusting headquarters in Manhattan, and they’ve taken up the mantle as professional ghostbusters for hire. 


The movie opens with a fun scene of the foursome chasing a specter in the Ecto-1 (the loud, not-so-sleek car from the original film) through the sprawl and splendor of downtown New York. The gang, predictably, do a lot of damage during the pursuit, which lands them an audience with an angry Mayor Walter Peck (a returning William Atherton). Phoebe, who is just 15, draws the most ire and is grounded from ghostbusting until she’s 18. 


The introverted, science-focused Phoebe is greatly disillusioned at not being able to continue what her grandfather started. She wanders off to sulk and play chess in a nearby park, meets a kindred spirit named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), and strikes up an unlikely friendship. 


Meanwhile, a relic that possesses an ancient evil ends up in the hands of Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), the OG Ghostbuster and current collector of odd objects. When the evil breaks free, it sets its sights on the aging and overflowing ghost containment unit at headquarters, with plans to forge a supernatural army capable of enslaving mankind. 


With all that swirling menace unleashed on the city, new and old Ghostbusters must reunite to once again save the day.


Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) all have larger roles than in Afterlife, but its Aykroyd who gets the most to do and has the most fun with it. Aykroyd was one of the writers of the original Ghostbusters and is himself a true believer in the paranormal. He has a ball spitting out spooky jargon and waxing poetic about ghostly antiquities, and he seems totally at home as an aging Ghostbuster who's still obsessed with the occult.


Kumail Nanjiani is a newcomer to the franchise (as Nadeem) and makes a big impact as comic relief side character with a ton of funny line reads. He fits into this world perfectly.


Of the returning stars from Afterlife, Grace once again draws the lead, this time building on the dimensions of her brainy character and adding the depth of being a teenager struggling to find her identity – while all around her the dead are walking and wackiness is ensuing. She plays well against Lind’s new character, and that relationship adds an interesting wrinkle to the story.


It’s also a gas to see Atherton – a heel and highlight from the original – return to an antagonistic role. 


Along with all the new and returning actors, the filmmakers – led by writer/director Gil Kenan – do themselves two very big favors. One, the effects look more practical and lived in than overly glossy and computer generated. This goes a long way in making the movie feel like it fits into that familiar Ghostbusters world. Two, the music heavily – heavily – borrows from the original Elmer Bernstein score, evoking all those moments of spooky wonder all over again. It’s a brilliant and subtle way to tug at the heartstrings of longtime fans.


Where Ghostbusters: Afterlife was sort of a Stranger Things update to the original franchise’s formula, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire really brings it back to the roots of the original film and what made it so memorable. And that's fun – and this movie is damned fun.


There are plenty of nods and Easter eggs, but there are also engaging new characters, new ghosts, and new technology that all move the story forward. And Aykroyd and Rudd and Nanjiani, among others, seem to be having an absolute blast just being in this world – and that, too, is infectious. 


Diehard fans ought to eat this up, like so many Stay-Puft Marshmallows. For the people who grew up with the franchise, this is a breath of fresh air, and just an exuberant joyride of a movie. The score, the practical effects, real sets and lived-in worlds, the balance of humor and PG-13 horror – it just feels like a warm hug and a real love letter.

Here's to hoping Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the start of more films that keep to the scruffy charm of the original film, while breaking new ground and letting these characters grow and evolve through new adventures. What a fun and joyful way to spend an afternoon at the movies.

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