Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Sets Franchise Record With Rotten Tomatoes Score,” the headlines screamed this week, as the latest Ghostbusters sequel debuted squarely in the rotten area of the Rotten Tomatoes ratings system.

To be sure, I don’t take issue with Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire going down in history as the worst-reviewed Ghostbusters (even if I personally would rank it slightly above the even more disappointing Ghostbusters: Afterlife). The part that bugs me is the observation that the previous holder of the record for the lowest Ghostbusters Rotten Tomatoes score was Ghostbusters II, a good sequel that is miles better than Frozen Empire.

I’ve already written a long defense of the film here on ScreenCrush (almost ten years ago?!? Time flies when you’re busting heads in a spiritual sense.) At that time I wrote...

I’d compare the two [original Ghostbusters] movies this way: Ghostbusters was a master chef (director Ivan Reitman) inventing a new dish. Ghostbusters II is the same great chef making the same dish again with a few new ingredients. Is it the same plate of food as before? Basically, yes. But that doesn’t mean it tastes bad. There may not be genius in following a recipe, but there can still be a lot of pleasure.

So I’m not here to litigate the Ghostbusters II debate at length. I just want to observe that, like the original GhostbustersGhostbusters II is a movie that holds up to multiple viewings, and was obviously made with a lot of consideration of its small details — some so small, you might notice them on the first or the second or the 50th viewing. Or ever, unless someone else pointed them out to you.

For example, when I rewatched the original Ghostbusters with my kids last weekend, I spotted a background joke I had never noticed before. When the Ghostbusters chase Slimer through the halls of the Sedgewick Hotel, they accidentally “test” their new proton packs on a housekeeper's cart of cleaning supplies. As Egon, Peter, and Ray discuss their equipment in the foreground, the housekeeper in the background tries to clean up the mess the Ghostbusters made.

See if you can spot the gag; look carefully around 1:07 of the clip below:

Did you spot it? Some of the toilet paper and tissues from the cart sparked a fire, and she is trying to put it out. The flame is tiny — but the housekeeper’s squirt bottle is even smaller, so it does nothing to put it out. Squirt squirt squirt. Nothing happens.

It’s hilarious. But because Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Dan Aykroyd are so funny in the foreground at the same time, I never clocked it before.

There’s an even sneakier joke in Ghostbusters II — one so sneaky, in fact, I never noticed it myself. Someone on a Discord I frequent pointed it out this week, and it’s too clever not to share. (Full credit to Nick Ernst-Maynard for spotting it; you can follow him on Threads or Instagram.)

This scene takes place about 50 minutes into the film. Dana Barrett, the most unlucky woman in New York City has once again been targeted by ghosts, and only the Ghostbusters can save her. While they investigate her apartment for clues, she’s taken up temporary residence in home of Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). Venkman comes back to his apartment right as Dana gets out of the shower. They exchange some dialogue; he tells her he’s going to take her out to dinner while his staff babysits her baby son Oscar.

On its face, it’s an unremarkable sequence, although Murray and Weaver always had terrific chemistry together, and this moment is no exception. And when you watch the film for the first time, you would never notice the model of the Statue of Liberty’s torch sitting on Venkman’s desk — or several other little models of Lady Liberty on the desk beside it. Framed by all these tchotchkes while draped in an oversized towel, Sigourney Weaver even kind of looks like the Statue of Liberty.


READ MORE: Our Full Review of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

In other words: When the Ghostbusters gets the idea to use the Statue of Liberty to defeat Vigo a few scenes later, it’s not just the license plate on the Ecto-1A that gives them the idea. The scheme was subliminally implanted in Venkman’s brain 20 minutes earlier when he was talking with Dana in his apartment.

Again, you can say Ghostbusters II is not on par with Ghostbusters — and you would be right. But you can’t say it wasn’t made with obvious love and affection for these characters and their world, or that the creative team didn’t go to the trouble to foreshadow and motivate its big plot twists, like the use of the Statue of Liberty in the climax.

Oh, by the way: If you look carefully, at that scene in Venkman’s apartment, you’ll also see he has a framed copy of the USA Today from the first movie hanging on his wall. Who knew Venkman was so sentimental about this stuff? That must be why he keeps showing up for these sequels — even Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

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