Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Review

Ghostbutsers Frozen Empire attempts to build the franchise out into an extended universe, but falls a little flat in the process.

PLOT: After having relocated to NYC to fight ghosts, the Spengler (Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, McKenna Grace & Finn Wolfhard) find themselves tangling with an old nemesis of the Ghostbusters, Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton), who wants to shut them down for good. Meanwhile, an ancient evil will be unleashed over the city, releasing all the spirits caught over the last forty years.

REVIEW: I was a big fan of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Jason Reitman’s film skillfully blended nostalgia with a new take on the franchise that opened up the Ghostbusters universe in an inclusive way. It welcomed new fans without alienating old ones, something the 2016 reboot notoriously failed at. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire seems to be aimed at building the franchise out more extensively. While it’s still a fun, nostalgia-driven return to the Ghostbusting universe, it’s not as good as the last film and spreads itself too thin to do the new characters justice. 

One thing fans are excited about is that the original surviving Ghostbusters have more screen time. That’s partly true. Ernie Hudson’s Winston and Dan Aykroyd’s Ray are part of the ensemble here, with significant arcs of their own. Murray, as Venkman, is still turning in more of a glorified cameo, with his role welcome but ultimately inconsequential. It’s too bad because the OG guys still have the dynamite chemistry that made the original film such a hit. Murray seems like he’s having fun, especially when Annie Potts suits up as Janine towards the end, and it’s great to see that the old gang still has it.

But, it can’t be denied that they can’t help but steal the thunder of the new cast, as when they show up at the end, you forget about the new characters, some of whom have very little to do in this instalment. Finn Wolfhard, in particular, seems to have a limited role, with him primarily busy chasing Slimer around the old firehouse and barely figuring into the plot. The same goes for Celeste O’Connor and Logan Kim, who return as Lucky and Podcast, with the plot stretching to explain why these Oklahoma kids are suddenly in New York. 

A lot of the new screen time in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is swallowed by Kumail Nanjiani, who seems like he’s being soft-launched as the potential star of his own spinoff, playing the hapless, ne’er-do-well descendant of an ancient family with a connection to the movie’s big bad, a spirit named Garraka that can freeze people to death with the power of fright. Nanjiani is likeable and funny, but with so many characters, the under two-hour running time is packed. His role, coupled with a lot of time devoted to Winston’s high-tech ghost-busting organization, all feels almost Marvel-ish in how transparent they are about planting the seeds for future spin-offs. 

McKenna Grace’s Phoebe remains the defacto lead, with her going through some growing pains because she’s being sidelined from the family biz due to William Atherton’s Peck and his machinations. Her subplot is the most affecting part of the film, especially once she becomes involved with a tragic ghost (played by Emily Alyn Lind) with a link to Garraka, who ultimately doesn’t amount to much of a villain. Making the bad guy a giant CGI creature doesn’t do the film any favours, as if you think of the classic Ghostbusters villains, like Gozer and Vigo; they always had recognizably human avatars. 

Even Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon feel like they have less to do this time, as both have become these kinds of idealized parental figures, as opposed to the more complicated versions they played in the last film. They just go with the flow here, although Rudd and Coon can’t help but be likeable. I wish co-writers Jason Reitman and new director Gil Kenan did more with them.

All that said, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is still entertaining, even if it takes a solid hour of exposition for the film to feel like it’s moving. Gil Kenan does a good job directing, even if it lacks the unique American Graffiti meets Ghostbusters vibe Reitman brought to the last film. This one feels more like a run-of-the-mill studio film, although I like that they’re still using many of the old Elmer Bernstein themes on the soundtrack, along with Ray Parker Jr’s song. 

Another plus is that Ernie Hudson has his meatiest Ghostbusters role to date, and the idea of Winston, Ray, Janine and Venkman all still being pals in their golden years is touching, as is the idea here that – just because someone’s gotten old doesn’t mean they have to pass the torch. The film is being billed as a Ghost Corps production, which I suppose means Sony will try to make this an MCU-style franchise. If they want to make a spin-off, doing a proper Ghostbusters 3 focused on the now-elderly original characters would be amazing. Everyone still seems game, and if you let them do their own thing in another movie, maybe it would give the new characters established in these new movies a chance to come into their own in a Creed 3-style follow-up. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, sequel


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