Film Review: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire


Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
Director: Gil Kenan

Ghostcorps and Right of Way Films
In Theaters: 03.22

There’s been a thirst for ‘80s nostalgia fixes over the past decade, whether it’s properties set during the period or sequels/reboots of beloved franchises from back in the day. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the third time we’ve returned to this particular well since 2017, and this time, the water is more than a little bit icy.

Two years after the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the Spengler family has left their ramshackle abode in Summerville, Oklahoma, and moved to New York City (if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere), where they are living in the old firehouse that has served as Ghostbusters HQ since 1984. Gary (Paul Rudd, Ant-Man) and Callie (Carrie Coon, The Leftovers) are officially a couple, and Gary is settling into his role as a stepfather, though Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things) and especially Phoebe (Mckenna Grace, I, Tonya) are more interested in catching the dead than playing catch with Dad. Phoebe’s daring deeds are put on hold by Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton, Die Hard) who holds a long-standing grudge against the Ghostbusters and won’t stand for the idea of a 15-year old with a nuclear accelerator on her back. The family/team is going to need all hands on deck when an ancient orb, which serves as a prison to a Mesopotamian ice god named Garraka, falls into the wrong hands. Garraka unleashes a horde of escaped spirits and intends to freeze the city solid. The original Ghostbusters—Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) are there to answer the call, and old school meets the new as the heroes band together to fend off a second ice age.

Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, hands over directing duties to his writing partner, Gil Kenan (Monster House), who does an impressive job with the larger sequences, including an opening chase that is a literal blast. The duo has chosen to follow up Ghostbusters: Afterlife with a more traditional entry in the franchise, evoking the flavor of the beloved cartoon spinoff The Real Ghostbusters. The laughs come steadily, but the film suffers from a serious case of overcrowding with far more supporting characters than are needed, resulting in too many of them having little to do. In particular, the Spengler kids’ two friends from Afterlife, Podcast (Logan Kim, The Walking Dead: Dead City) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor, Madame Web), are unnecessary and are given spurious reasons to even be in New York, and a scientist named Lars Pinfield (James Acaster, Cinderella) is entirely unmemorable and a bit intrusive. Still, Frozen Empire finds the right mix of silly, spirited and spooky, and as someone who has been gleefully riding along since the Ectomobile first hit the streets 40 years ago, my inner child felt like it had died and not gone to heaven because it was having too much fun sliming people down here. 

Rudd has been bumped up top billing and the center spot on the poster, and he’s given a lot more to do this time around, though Phoebe is still the lead character, and Grace is sublime in the role. The evolving dynamic between Phoebe and Gary, who is trying to be there for the kids without overstepping, is endearing. Coon and Wolfhard are really just part of the comic ensemble this time around, though they are charming. Aykroyd and Hudson are clearly relishing every moment, as is Patton Oswalt (Ratatouille) in an amusing cameo as Dr. Hubert Wartzki, an eccentric scientist. Murray just sort of saunters on screen when he feels like showing up, which is enough to get a number of hearty laughs. Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) gets even more of them as Nadeem Razmaadi, a slacker who sells Ray an ancient orb that has psychokinetic powers, and as it turns out, has a vital role to play in saving the world. Emily Alyn Lind (Doctor Sleep) shines as Melody, the ghost of a deceased teen who forms a strong bond with Phoebe, and it would have been worthwhile to jettison a few of the excess characters in order to devote more time to this intriguing relationship.

Yes, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a made-to-order attempt by a studio to mine a venerable intellectual property for more box office gold, yet it’s made by people with such an emotional and creative connection to the material that it’s also a splendid gift to the devoted fans. Simply put, Bustin’ makes me feel good. –Patrick Gibbs 

Read more reviews from Patrick Gibbs here:
Film Review: One Life
Film Review: Spaceman