Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

  • 11 May - 17 May, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire tries to cram way too many characters, storylines and iconic images into its two-hour runtime. Director Gil Kenan’s film does a vaguely better job of balancing the old and the new than its predecessor, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It finesses the fan service in a way that the 2021 reboot/legacyquel/whatever you want to call it did not, offering familiar images and bits of dialogue in breezier fashion while also moving these characters, and this story, in a slightly different direction.

Kenan (Monster House, A Boy Called Christmas) takes over directing duties from Jason Reitman, son of the late, legendary Ivan Reitman, director of the original 1984 Ghostbusters and to whom this film is dedicated. Kenan and Reitman once again co-wrote the script. There are more laughs to be had here, mostly thanks to Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt showing up and being their reliably likable selves. But this new series of Ghostbusters movies continues to stray far from the scrappy, anarchic vibe of the series’~origins, instead offering weightier emotional stakes and a misplaced reverence for franchise lore.

The remaining stars of the 1984 megahit return in hopes of reminding us of what we loved about that movie as kids. Bill Murray saunters in and makes a few blasé quips as Venkman. Dan Aykroyd spews rapid-fire scientific jargon as Stantz. Ernie Hudson is the voice of reason as Zeddemore, who has established his own high-tech paranormal investigation lab. And it’s a pleasure to see Annie Potts come back as the sweetly sarcastic Janine. Those beloved figures from 40 years ago must share the screen with the descendants of Spengler: Carrie Coon’s Callie, her science-whiz daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), and her perpetually annoyed son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, who barely gets anything to do). Thankfully, Frozen Empire refrains from trotting out Hologram Harold Ramis again in the name of shameless tearjerking.

Rudd, whom we previously saw as Oklahoma science teacher Gary Grooberson, has now joined the Spengler family in New York City as fellow Ghostbuster/stepfather figure. They’ve taken over the historic firehouse and are now zooming around in the old Ecto-1, chasing spectral creatures with the new, high-tech gear Phoebe has crafted. The opening chase scene is admittedly a lot of fun, offering genuine thrills as well as sufficiently snappy banter. But the rest of the movie never matches that level of energy or enjoyment.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire gets bogged down in the mythology of an ancient, evil monster, who’s accidentally freed from the metal orb in which it had been imprisoned (the visual effects in depicting him are substantial, making him a legitimately fearsome figure). The threat of a permanent ice age in which decades of captured ghosts would burst free and wreak havoc upon Manhattan (and parts of Queens) looms large. But the logic of how all this destruction might occur, and what Kumail Nanjiani’s character could possibly do to stop it, remains needlessly complicated. It’s also the least compelling element of Frozen Empire, but it does provide the opportunity for a welcome cameo from Oswalt as an ancient language expert at the New York Public Library. He’s a breath of fresh air in this often-self-serious setting, so much so that you’ll wish they’d build a whole Ghostbusters movie around him. Meanwhile, Coon – one of the most deeply talented and versatile actresses working today – is woefully underused once again as the no-nonsense mom trying to hold it all together.

Frozen Empire seems more interested in the wacky antics of the miniature Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men, who are even more Minion-like than ever this time, and in celebrating the cultural phenomenon of the Ghostbusters franchise as a whole. Once again, this is a movie that repeatedly acknowledges that the Ray Parker Jr. theme song was a massive radio and MTV hit 40 years ago, even going so far as to include a bit of the original music video. But we’d all be better off singing a different tune at this point.