‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Review

Something strange in your neighborhood

Godspeed when it comes to fully enjoying Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire if you haven’t kept up since 1984—including with 2021′s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. See, the thing is these movies ask (or demand, really) that you’re well-versed in the lore. If you’re not familiar, Frozen Empire might very well come across as baffling, what with its sea of characters, very specific references and reliance on “remember in the old movies when…?” jokes.

Frozen Empire picks up some time after the events of Afterlife. Paul Rudd’s Gary, formerly a science teacher, has joined the descendants of Ghostbusters co-founder Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis) and moved into the old fire station the G-busters have called home since always. There, said family (Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) have really leaned into the family biz by driving the old hearse (you know the one, right? It goes, “hweehhhhhr, hweehhhhhr!”), firing off the famous proton packs (essentially portable nuclear lasers) and insisting they are, collectively, afraid of no ghost. The mayor (William Atherton) doesn’t like this one bit, though, and, following a particularly destructive ghostbusting outing, tells the neo-busters that the youngest kid Phoebe (Grace) can’t bust any ghosts ‘til she’s at least 18.

Needless to say, she’s bummed, so she takes solace in the company of a chess-whiz ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) who, in what appears to be a stab at irony, seems to be the only person who can see Phoebe despite being mostly invisible herself.

Meanwhile, a shiftless loser archetype named Nadeem (Kumail Ali Nanjiani, The Big Sick) comes into possession of an ancient orb/ghost prison that contains the spirit of an even more ancient frost demon. Turns out Nadeem’s recently deceased grandma was the orb’s caretaker. But wouldn’t you know it, the demon gets loose, threatening all life on Earth with ice spikes and frost clouds and, like, cold wind and stuff.

As if that weren’t enough, the original Ghostbusters (Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray and Annie Potts; sadly, no Rick Moranis)—who are still doing ghost stuff, of course—pop in and out to deliver lines about how busting ghosts is always crazy. This leaves performers like Rudd, Wolfhard and Coon with very little screen time while Grace’s Phoebe hangs out with Aykroyd’s Ray for minute after minute after minute.

Oh, the other actors all try their damn best to make their brief time in Frozen Empire feel like a hoot, but when a movie has a supporting character named Podcast (Logan Kim; ugh) and drags Patton Oswalt all the way to set solely for a massive second act exposition dump, it’s hard to stay focused instead of partaking in over-the-top eye rolls.

Ultimately, director/writer Gil Kenan tries to cram too much into his movie’s roughly two-hour running time. This makes much of Frozen Empire feel like a wasted opportunity to break new ground. Perhaps if Kenan and company—he co-wrote the movie with the late Ivan Reitman, director of the original Ghostbusters, and his son Jason, director of Ghostbusters: Afterlife—had not overloaded the film with so many callbacks (Slimer, ghost librarian, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man—now in miniature asexual reproduction form), they could have at least made something that doesn’t feel like a series of boxes waiting to be checked. There’s a difference between franchise fans and people who just kind of liked the first movie in the ‘80s—Frozen Empire doesn’t seem suited to either group.


+The demon is cool; good actors, just…not great movie

-Almost all callbacks; not enough demon; Nanjiani is tedious

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Directed by Kenan

With Grace, Rudd, Coon, Wolfhard, Kim, Aykroyd, Hudson, Murray, Lind and Potts

Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 115 min.

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