Film review: Ghostbusters Frozen Empire

After relocating from Oklahoma to New York City, the Spengler family become the new Ghostbusters team. But it’s not long before an ancient evil thaws out to cause trouble for everyone.

The history of proposed Ghostbusters sequels has been… troubled… over the past 30 years. After the lukewarm reception to Ghostbusters II in 1989, plans for a third film were revisited on and off for over a decade or more, but with certain actors feeling the franchise had run its course, it seemed like a dead end.

Then from 2009 onward, there seemed to be some hope after ‘Ghostbusters: The Video Game’ provided fans with a quasi-sequel set in 1991. Co-written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and with many of the original actors lending their voices to the production, rumours began to swirl once again about a new movie.

However, after the untimely passing of Ramis in 2014, all hopes for a sequel with the original team were lost. What we got instead was 2016’s ‘Ghostbusters: Answer the Call’, directed by Paul Feig and starring some of the biggest names in comedy at the time, such as Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. Despite some solid special effects, the film failed to replicate (or understand) the same sort of dry-wit and charm of the original. Opting instead for a more cringeworthy improvisational tone, which destroyed the pacing of the film and was so poorly received that Sony Pictures scrapped plans for any future sequels.

Fans then rejoiced in 2019 when an unexpected teaser trailer for a new film suddenly dropped, and that this outing would be helmed by none other than Jason Reitman son of original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman. Jason had long maintained that he wouldn’t touch a sequel to his father’s legacy, opting to make his own unique films that were critically acclaimed, such as 2007’s ‘Juno’.

With an idea to centre a new film around a family, Jason Reitman’s new entry would ignore the events of the 2016 film and start fresh with a new cast of characters, in the unconventional setting of Oklahoma. Starring McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, and supporting actors such as Paul Rudd, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ was a solid film that expanded the lore of the previous films, and set up a whole new generation for bustin’ ghosts. It also has an ending that will make you cry buckets (If you know, you know).

Fast forward to 2024, and ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ brings the story back to New York City as Phoebe Spengler (McKenna Grace) and family (now residing in the old Ghostbuster firehouse HQ) are overwhelmed at being the new front line against the paranormal. Each of them trying to figure out where they fit into their new family dynamic since Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) started dating Phoebe and Trevor’s (Finn Wolfhard) mum Callie (Carrie Coon). Leading to some daughter/stepfather emotional beats that don’t really land as they maybe should.



Across town however, an ancient McGuffin… sorry… ‘orb’ artefact sold to Ray’s (Dan Aykroyd) occult shop by Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) releases a blast of energy that damages the ghost containment unit at the firehouse HQ, and puts the team in the firing line of current New York mayor/old Ghostbusters nemesis Walter Peck (William Atherton).

What follows is a rather pointless trail of “I know a guy” expositional moments from Ray, and the sadly not well-utilised Podcast (Logan Kim) trying to figure out what the orb contains, which we eventually find out is an ancient ice demon known as Garraka. All of this takes place while Phoebe is distracted by a teenage ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) who has been sent to befriend her by ghost-controlling Garraka, in order to utilise the new Ghostbusters R&D department and its tech to ensure his release.

This is one of my biggest problems with Frozen Empire as Phoebe, who is basically the heart of previous film Afterlife, is relegated to a fairly uninteresting quasi-romantic b-plot. Sure, she’s only 15 and she’s frustrated after being benched by her family because Mayor Peck clamped down on them for essentially employing a minor. But her character was so much more confident and driven in Afterlife, leaving her feeling more like a weak plot device here.

The film isn’t without its charm and humour though, seeing some of the older team back at it and mixing with the new generation brings smiles at times, but the story is so stuffed with unnecessary characters that it leaves no time for the development of a meaningful emotional arc for the main cast. Performances are solid and special effects are at times pleasingly ‘old school,’ (Slimer makes a welcome return in mostly puppet form). Plus characters like Rudd’s who spend the runtime gleefully revelling in being a Ghostbuster manage to keep the tone light. Kumail Nanjiani almost steals the show with his one-liners, and Dan Aykroyd is clearly having a whale of a time… it’s just a shame that likes of Bill Murray, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson feel underutilised in what should have been a more of a ‘passing of the torch’ to a new generation story. Instead, they just kind of fritter around in the peripherals of the film and drop in to offer a weak gag where needed.

It all culminates in an experience that feels like something of a nostalgic purgatory. The film’s heart is in the right place, but it throws too many elements into the mix to be truly satisfying. Gil Kenan’s direction is fine, but it lacks the subtlety of Jason Reitman’s efforts from Afterlife. Combined with a rushed third act and ineffectual villain, this feels like an opportunity wasted. It’s a fun enough time at the movies, but the filmmakers have traded fan service for meaningful story development, confusing who this film is actually aimed at. Is it for the elder-millennial/children of the 80s such as myself… or a new generation of moviegoers, who arguably have no interest in seeing new entries into the franchise?

What seemed effortless and natural about the original film feels over examined here, like a committee put everything fans love about all aspects of the movies, cartoon, video games and hit ‘blend’… resulting in this inoffensive beige slime. I’m sure there’ll be another sequel along soon, but let’s hope it has the courage to let go of the past and lean into a tighter, funnier, and more original story.”







Author: Arron Dennis

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