Film reviews and more since 2009

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) review

Dir. Gil Kenan

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★

Where Ghostbusters: Afterlife was little more than a two-hour Easter egg hunt of popular character and actor cameos, its sequel, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, arrives with the ambition of trying to tell a new story. It doesn’t succeed, mind you, but the intent is more present than it was two-and-a-half years ago. Tis pity that after years of rumors, rumblings, and broken promises regarding future Ghostbusters installments that we now have two legacyquels that would’ve been tough to stomach as direct-to-DVD flicks in the early 2000s.

Afterlife co-writer Gil Kenan (Monster House) assumes the directing duties from Jason Reitman, son of the late, Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters. Jason remains a co-writer on Frozen Empire, but the familial connections don’t produce anything close to the charm of the original two films. The emphasis continues to be on brand familiarity, and while its narrative isn’t so much diluted by innumerable callbacks, it is brought down by a hasty storyline that practically has its many characters crashing into each other in the pursuit of screentime. The sins of Jurassic World Dominion are nigh.

The film’s characters are essentially divided into three groups: the original stars, the Spengler family, and those making their debut. Nobody seems more thrilled to be a part of this project than Dan Aykroyd, and it’s evident from the jump. For the first time in the series, Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz gets to be the most prominent of the original Ghostbusters. Ernie Hudson’s Winston has established his own multi-billion dollar paranormal investigation company while Murray’s Venkman is barely present at all, leaving Stantz, who is trying his hand at the YouTube thing with the help of “Podcast” (Logan Kim).

In regards to the Spengler family, they have uprooted their lives from sleepy Summerville, Oklahoma to New York City for no clear reason other than to set up shop in the famous firehouse. Mother Callie (Carrie Coon), her teenage son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and her genius daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) have all assumed their positions as Ghostbusters, in addition to the kids’ science teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd). Is he their stepfather? Are him and Callie dating? The movie is never clear. There’s no time for explanation when the film opens with the gang zooming around in an Ecto-1, chasing apparitions and destroying New York City.

Eventually, Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) shows up to Stantz’s paranormal antique shop to pawn a spherical, Arabic orb in which an ancient spirit has been imprisoned. Nadeem couldn’t care less that this orb houses a spirit who could bring a permanent ice age to the entire world. He’s more concerned with getting fast cash and avoiding any kind of plan for his life. It’s probably for the better. The backstory behind the villain is needlessly convoluted, compounded by the introduction of Patton Oswalt, an ancient spirit scholar who pops up faster than an niche expert on an episode of Pawn Stars.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire should be a slam-dunk, especially with the return of Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz and William Atherton’s EPA inspector William Peck. But Kenan and Jason Reitman conjure up too much plot and too many characters to make the experience feel fluid. Everyone feels like they’re fighting for equitable screentime, and the Spengler family operates more like a collective. This rings true early on when the film tries to gift Phoebe a subplot revolving around her feeling underappreciated. She finds comfort in a friendly ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), but this relationship doesn’t extend beyond much more than a game of chess.

Where this revitalization of the series should be pushing it forward into the future, Ghostbusters feels like a relic of the past that’s permanently stuck there. Frozen Empire fails to develop its new characters (Finn Wolfhard’s Trevor in particular is given nothing remotely exciting to do or say), and outside of Aykroyd, doesn’t provide a purpose for its beloved cast who laid the groundwork. This is a muddled, messy sequel, so much so that by the time the villain starts to freeze over every inch of Queens, we’ve succumbed to the fact that the climax will be a hodgepodge of noise, CGI, and the inevitability of that Ray Parker, Jr. tune, which in itself has become another predictable Easter egg.

NOTE: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is now playing exclusively in theaters.

My review of Ghostbusters (1984)
My review of Ghostbusters (2016)
My review of Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Starring: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim, Emily Alyn Lind, Annie Potts, and William Atherton. Directed by: Gil Kenan.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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