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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Review

March 22, 2024 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Image Credit: Sony Pictures
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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Review  

Directed By: Gil Kenan
Written By: Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman
Runtime: 115 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references.

Mckenna Grace – Phoebe Spengler
Paul Rudd – Gary Grooberson
Carrie Coon – Callie Spengler
Finn Wolfhard – Trevor Spengler
Emily Alyn Lind – Melody
Celeste O’Connor – Lucky
Logan Kim – Podcast
Bill Murray – Peter Venkman
Dan Akroyd – Ray Stantz
Ernie Hudson – Winston Zeddemore
Annie Potts – Janine Melnitz
Kumail Nanjiani – Nadeem Razmaadi
Patton Oswalt – Hubert Wartzki
James Acaster – Lars Pinfield
William Atherton – Walter Peck

The Ghostbusters return for the latest big-screen adventure in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Continuing from the events put forth in 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Phoebe Spengler (Grace) once again takes center stage as New York faces a deadly threat in the form of a malevolent spirit who has the power to freeze over New York City with the Death Chill. Gil Kenan, who co-wrote and produced Afterlife, takes over behind the camera from Jason Reitman for Frozen Empire. Frozen Empire takes positive steps in terms of expanding the world and mythology of Ghostbusters, but at the cost of the new characters who lack depth.

Frozen Empire wisely relocates the Spenglers to New York City after their previous adventure in Summerville, Oklahoma for Afterlife. Thanks to help from billionaire business and OG Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddemore (Hudson), the Spenglers have been granted the keys to the Ghostbusters’ old Firehouse, along with the Ecto-1. They are taking up the old family trade of Ghostbustin’, much to the chagrin of one Walter Peck, the Ghostbusters’ old bureaucratic nemesis who is now the mayor of Manhattan.

While Phoebe sees ghostbusting and studying spirits as her calling, she gets the proverbial bench after their latest ghost hunt causes quite a bit of damage to private and public property. In the meantime, hapless merch reseller Nadeem Razmaadi (Nanjiani) happens to sell some old family heirlooms to Ray Stantz (Aykroyd), not realizing that one particular object houses a malevolent evil spiritual demon, Garraka. Garrakka cannot escape yet, but he’s able to communicate with the spirits lurking in the outside world. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks free and unleashes his frozen hell across the city and the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Phoebe forms an unlikely friendship with a wayward spirit, Melody (Lind), a teen who tragically died in a fire and wishes to reunite with her family on the other side.

Thanks to funding from Winston, the Ghostbusters now have a new base set up with a larger containment unit since the one in the Firehouse is reaching its breaking point. However, Garraka’s ability to communicate and subjugate spirits makes the containment unit his next target, putting the entire city at risk.

As far as legacy sequels go Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has its moments. Kenan clearly understands the world, and as a writer, he understands world-building and mythology. He provides natural extensions and backgrounds to the world that operate organically with the earlier films. The way Frozen Empire expands the mythology of the franchise hues closer to the old animated shows, such as The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters. The nostalgic vibes from the film ring stronger in Phoebe’s subplot with Melody.

The movie suffers from overstuffing the plot with an abundance of characters, so few of them get the proper screentime they require. The newer characters who were first introduced in Afterlife are back, such as Podcast (Kim) and Lucky (O’Connor), but they have very little to do and little to no impact on the plot. Podcast has an interesting setup. He’s staying at Ray’s bookshop for the summer as an “intern” and helping Ray film a web series. That’s an organic outcome based on how the characters met and interacted in the last film. Lucky is interning at the Paranormal Research Center for Winston, which is a bit more contrived.

Although it’s nice that Kenan found ways to work Podcast and Lucky into the plot, they do not have character arcs. Trevor still likes Lucky, but there is virtually no development or progression in their relationship. The film also spends significant time developing Nadeem’s arc, coming from a lineage of elite warriors who helped trap Garraka and keep him at bay. There is also Ray, who wants to return to the Ghostbusters trade in his golden years. Thankfully, Ray and Winston have a bit more material to work with in Frozen Empire while revisiting these characters at this stage in their lives. And then there’s the terminally nice guy Gary Grooberson (Rudd), who has also moved in with the Spenglers in New York City since he’s still dating Callie Spengler (Coon). Gary is walking on eggshells as he attempts to navigate that delicate transition to become the new parent to Trevor and Phoebe.

All of the actors are talented, but there are too many characters and too many subplots here. Even Peter Venkman (Murray), who shows up for a few scenes, could have easily been written out of the script. Grace continues to assert herself in the role of Phoebe, and hersubplot of forming a bond with Melody is compelling. Rudd also performs well in his own conflict as he seeks to become more than just a teacher figure for the Spengler kids, but Trevor (Wolfhard) continues to suffer as a character.

Trevor fails to come into his own throughout Frozen Empire, and he’s only given a throwaway subplot involving Slimer. There is a hint of something interesting with Slimer, almost like an Elliott and E.T.-type relationship, but the relationship is not significantly developed to any such degree. While it’s nice to see the iconic Slimer on the big screen again, Trevor’s role has minimal importance to the main story.

The movie raises larger questions such as: Does imprisoning the ghosts in containment units prevent them from passing on to the other side? Is it really the right thing to do? Frozen Empire does not truly ponder the greater questions it raises; and that’s the flaw of the world-building since it doesn’t delve deeply enough into the ideas.

Nonetheless, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire does have its redeeming factor as an entertaining Ghostbusters movie, but it really could have benefitted from more time fleshing out the newer characters. The experience is still somewhat satisfying, but it feels overstuffed.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire finds its strength with its solid cast of performers, the focus on Phoebe Spengler, and fun, fascinating world-building elements that naturally expand the franchise's lore. However, Gil Kenan becomes overzealous by filling the runtime with too many characters and subplots. As a result, the newer team members from the last movie play more like window dressing than actual characters with meaningful parts to play. Regardless, Frozen Empire comes together as a relatively entertaining legacy sequel for the franchise.