Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024, dir. Gil Kenan)

by | Mar 22, 2024


JustWatch

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 115 mins

UK Distributor: Sony Pictures

UK Release Date: 22 March 2024

WHO’S IN GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE?

Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, James Acaster, Emily Alyn Lind

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Gil Kenan (director, writer), Jason Reitman (writer, producer), Jason Blumenfeld and Ivan Reitman (producers), Dario Marianelli (composer), Eric Steelberg (cinematographer), Nathan Orloff and Shane Reid (editors)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

A team of old and new Ghostbusters combat an icy new supernatural threat…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE?

Bustin’ may feel good to many fans of the now 40-year-old franchise, but I have honestly never been as into Ghostbusters as others. Even the original film, which became a true lightning-in-a-bottle moment of pop culture back in 1984, has always just been a movie that I thought was just okay, but not something that I’d consider even remotely a true favourite. The same can be said about the 1989 direct sequel Ghostbusters II, the 2016 reboot, and the 2021 legacy sequel Ghostbusters: Afterlife, all of which, much like the original, simply just exist to me (and before you ask: no, I never watched the cartoon spin-off The Real Ghostbusters, either).

In a sense, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire – the fifth, or canonically the fourth, overall film in the series – is also something that I have no strong feelings toward whatsoever. But even as someone who has never been a massive fan of this franchise, I can tell that this one is probably the messiest of the lot, or at the very least the most unentertaining.

Taking place some time after the events of Afterlife, we find the Spengler family – Callie (Carrie Coon), her two children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), and stand-in father figure Gary (Paul Rudd) – back in New York where their revamped Ghostbusters business is protecting the city, in addition to drawing the ire of Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton). When original member Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), now retired and running an occult store, receives a mysterious orb from trader Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) that’s said to contain an ancient evil spirit with an icy power known as the “Death Chill”, Ghostbusters new and old – and yes, that does include fellow OGs Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) – must try and stop the demonic force from plunging New York, and maybe the world, into an icicle-ridden hellscape.

The thing about Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is that it tries to do far too much all at once, and ends up feeling utterly overstuffed. There are simply too many main characters to keep track of – a minimum of ten, by my count – and that doesn’t just include the original group and the crew we first met in Afterlife, but also new additions like Kumail Nanjiani’s huckster character, Patton Oswalt as a handy source of exposition, UK comedian James Acaster as a fellow teammate, and even Emily Alyn Lind as a sixteen-year-old ghost that Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe befriends. The script, by Gil Kenan (who also directed the film) and Afterlife’s director Jason Reitman, feels impeccably unbalanced as it attempts to give each and every one of these characters some kind of special moment, but because there’s never really anything about them that makes them interesting or all that distinguishable from one another, such moments feel unwarranted since you don’t really care that much about them or what they’ve got going on.

The central plot itself is strangely complicated, not to mention highly convenient, as much of it relies on specific people doing the wrong thing at just the right time, which means that you’ll have seemingly smart characters easily playing into the hands of the villains because the script dictates at least one uncharacteristic screw-up per protagonist. That doesn’t even factor in all the side-quests that only serve to give the more prominent names among the cast something to do. Finn Wolfhard’s Trevor, for example, spends most of the movie trying to capture the iconic green ghost Slimer that’s nested itself within countless snack wrappers in the Ghostbusters’ firehouse attic. There’s also some mystical element surrounding Nanjiani’s character that essentially turns him into a Firebender, though the over-explained mythology behind that is less the recent Netflix version of Avatar: The Last Airbender and more the Shyamalan feature that no dignified Avatar fan wants to even acknowledge. Even the often-reliable Paul Rudd is stuck in a role where he’s basically trying to get his adoptive step-children to acknowledge him as their dad. It’s a half-hearted attempt to give all these characters some kind of contribution to the plot, even when it’s not necessary, which ends up wasting even more the real on-screen charm of actors like Paul Rudd (and honestly, if we’re talking effects-heavy franchise movies starring Rudd that also have Bill Murray crammed into the mix, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is, for all its flaws, far more ambitious and even engrossing than Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is).

Though not quite to the extent that Afterlife did – which, for those who barely remember, ended with a heartfelt if morally questionable tribute to the late Harold Ramis – the film relies heavily on nostalgia for the Ghostbusters franchise to pad itself out even further. Beyond the inclusion of the original cast members, who despite their extended roles are still relegated to the “Special Appearances By” section in the ending credits, there are nods to numerous items and mythologies that fans may recognise from the other films, some of which stop entire action sequences in their tracks just to replicate for no reason other than it happened in the original movie. I hesitate to call it overly cynical, because I’ve seen this kind of nostalgia-baiting be done far worse in other legacy sequels, but it certainly doesn’t make the film any more entertaining. If anything, it makes it even more dull to sit through, because there’s very little energy being put into the writing and the action to make you think of anything else outside the films it’s constantly trying to remind you of.

It’s not a completely terrible film, for there are a couple of heartfelt moments that do set up some interesting character dynamics, even if it ultimately goes down a somewhat predictable path, and while the film never really made me laugh (its somewhat self-serious tone depletes most of the comedy from this famously comedic franchise), the occasional chuckles do come courtesy of Kumail Nanjiani and his humorously direct approach to the material. It isn’t enough, though, to forgive Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire for being yet another tired legacy sequel that further proves that some franchises, including this one, need to be carried through to the afterlife once and for all.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a messy and largely unentertaining legacy sequel that overstuffs itself with too many characters to care about, and a convoluted collection of plots that rely heavily on franchise nostalgia to breeze its way toward a clumsy finish. In the words of Jud from Pet Sematary, sometimes dead is better.

Two out of five stars

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