Movie Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’

Film

Winston (Ernie Hudson) and Peter (Bill Murray) in Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Winston (Ernie Hudson) and Peter (Bill Murray) in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo By Jaap Buitendijk. © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Opening in theaters on Friday March 22nd is ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,’ starring Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts.

Related Article: Ghostbusters Day Brings News of New Movies, Shows and More

Initial Thoughts

(L to R) Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard on the set of Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard on the set of Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo By: Jaap Buitendijk. Copyright: © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With all the throat-clearing and reintroductions of ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ behind us, it might be natural to think that ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ could forge ahead into a new story and era with the next generation of paranormal investigators. But no, ‘Frozen Empire’ rounds up a large ensemble of both old and new cast members and gives almost all of them nothing to do, except stand around and spout either tired jokes or even more tiring exposition.

Five films in, this remains a property that is firmly mired in past glories – or, to be exact, the memory of one glorious film that came out 40 years ago. But it’s resoundingly clear that this should never have been a franchise in the first place, and ‘Frozen Empire’ is a hollow example of corporate mandates at their worst. Director/co-writer Gil Kenan (who also co-wrote ‘Afterlife’) and co-writer Jason Reitman (who directed ‘Afterlife’) have no new ideas and nothing to say, and it’s only the work of a handful of the actors that holds – barely – one’s attention.

Story and Direction

Mckenna Grace, Director Gil Kenna and Logan Kim on the set of Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Mckenna Grace, Director Gil Kenna and Logan Kim on the set of Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo By Jaap Buitendijk. © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It’s two years since the events of ‘Afterlife’ and the descendants of Egon Spengler – his daughter Callie (Carrie Coon), her kids Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), along with surrogate dad/scientist Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) – have relocated to New York City and now have taken over the Ghostbusters business, working and living in the old firehouse where the original Ghostbusters did the same.

As for the originals, they continue to do paranormal research at a fully equipped lab financed by Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), with Ray Stentz (Dan Aykroyd) offering advice to the new team and Winston’s staff of engineers working on new and improved equipment.

After an initially promising opening in which we see Phoebe, Callie, Finn, and Gary head out in the Ecto-1 for an energetic pursuit of a Sewer Dragon, ‘Frozen Empire’ settles into an hour and a half of tedium marked by occasional events that may or may not be of interest. Unfortunately, we’re also back to the same old, same old, as some of the damage caused by the Ghostbusters’ efforts in the city puts them in the crosshairs of the OG team’s enemy from back in the day, now-Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton in a thankless return), who is still determined after all these years to shut the Ghostbusters down.

Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) in Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.' Photo: Jaap Buitendijk.

(L to R) Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo: Jaap Buitendijk. Copyright: © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, a fellow named Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) wanders into Ray’s bookshop with a bunch of his late grandmother’s relics to sell, including a strange sphere that – as we saw in a prologue set 100 years earlier – has the power to turn both objects and human beings into ice. The sphere certainly generates enough psychic energy to send Ray’s lab equipment into a tizzy, warranting further investigation.

Just what that sphere contains, and what role Nadeem has to play, is unveiled in one stultifying exposition dump after another, although some of it is at least amusingly delivered by Patton Oswalt in a cameo as the Fox Mulder of the New York Public Library (he also works in the basement). At the same time, Phoebe – feeling down and dejected because she’s been benched due to her age – strikes up a relationship with a young teenage ghost (Emily Alyn Lind) that is clearly gay despite the filmmakers straining hard to avoid confirming that fact.

Loads of exposition, endless nods to the past (poor Paul Rudd, who’s actually one of the film’s few bright spots, speaks-sings the famous theme song at one point), and the paper-thin plot at the center of the movie all conspire to make ‘Frozen Empire’ a slog, until we get to the CG-heavy third act battle – complete with column of psychic power emanating upward into the clouds (we thought we’d put that tired visual device behind us).

But none of this is very funny, very entertaining, or compelling to watch, and the mechanics of the plot and overstuffed cast means that most of the actors get little or nothing of importance to do, and often disappear for long stretches. By the end, they all have to come together – including a barely registering Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) – to defeat yet another digitally-created entity from the other side with a murky plan to destroy the world. For most of the running time, however, ‘Frozen Empire’ plods along, with Kenan seemingly unable to draw any life or energy out of this well-worn narrative.

A Wasted Cast

Bill Murray and Paul Rudd on the set of Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Bill Murray and Paul Rudd on the set of Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo By Jaap Buitendijk. © 2023 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

One of the things people appreciated most about ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ was the introduction of its new cast, which also included the Spenglers’ new friends/helpmates Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Podcast (Logan Kim). All of them are back, but most of them are sidelined with the exception of Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe. Carrie Coon and Finn Wolfhard are given shockingly little in terms of story or character arc, with Coon looking bored throughout (she’s even sitting and scrolling through her phone in one scene) and Wolfhard literally vanishing from the film for much of its second act.

Grace and Paul Rudd fare better and carry a lot of the film, with Rudd providing his usual effortless charm. Grace is also very good, although she’s given a plot turn late in the movie that makes no sense at all, especially in light of events that follow it. As for the new additions, Nanjiani makes the most out of a thin character but does get most of the funnier lines (and delivers them well), while Oswalt relishes his brief time onscreen and provides his usual caustic presence.

Which brings us to the OG Ghostbusters. Aykroyd plays a more integral part in this story – although he’s more or less Basil Exposition – and manages to come off the best, while Ernie Hudson is just glad to be there and makes sure you know it as he smiles constantly for the camera. He and Aykroyd share a brief moment in which they ponder getting old, but it’s a theme with little potency as it’s never brought up again. As for Murray, he neither has a lot of screen time nor anything meaningful to provide to the story – sadly, Peter Venkman is a shadow of his former self (thankfully, there are no further cameos from the “ghost” of the late Harold Ramis’ Egon). And what happened to Sigourney Weaver’s Dana, glimpsed at the end of the last film?

Final Thoughts: Who You Gonna Call? Nobody

Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Gary (Paul Rudd), Nadeem (Kamail Nanjiani), Podcast (Logan Kim) and Callie (Carrie Coon) in Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Gary (Paul Rudd), Nadeem (Kamail Nanjiani), Podcast (Logan Kim) and Callie (Carrie Coon) in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo: Jaap Buitendijk. Copyright: © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A headline recently appeared online that asked if ‘Ghostbusters’ could just go back to being one of the great comedies of the 1980s, without the constant corporate mandate to make it into a franchise. We sadly could not agree more at this point. This is a property that’s truly running on fumes, and we’re really not sure if even a blast from a proton pack could reignite it.

‘Ghostbusters’ is like ‘Star Wars’ in a way too – as much as the franchise seems to want to move forward, it always ends up being stuck in the past. While both ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Frozen Empire’ contain little sparks of inspiration – mostly in the casting – the property’s reliance on nostalgia, combined with a lack of fresh narrative ideas or jokes, make ‘Frozen Empire’ a tedious, enervating sit. Let’s not answer the call anymore.

‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ receives 4 out of 10 stars.

“It’ll send a chill down your spine.”

PG-131 hr 55 minMar 14th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

The Spengler family returns to where it all started – the iconic New York City firehouse – to team up with the original Ghostbusters, who’ve developed a top-secret… Read the Plot

What is the Plot of ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’?

As the descendants of Egon Spengler continue the ghostbustin’ business in New York City with the support of the rest of the original Ghostbusters, a new paranormal menace threatens to put the Big Apple into a deep freeze and unleash a second Ice Age upon the rest of humanity.

Who is in the Cast of ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’?

  • Paul Rudd as Gary Grooberson
  • Carrie Coon as Callie Spengler
  • Finn Wolfhard as Trevor Spengler
  • Mckenna Grace as Phoebe Spengler
  • Kumail Nanjiani as Nadeem Razmaadi
  • Patton Oswalt as Dr. Hubert Wartzki
  • Logan Kim as Podcast
  • Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
  • Dan Aykroyd as Dr. Ray Stantz
  • Ernie Hudson as Dr. Winston Zeddemore
  • Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz
Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Gary (Paul Rudd), Janine (Annie Potts), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Podcast (Logan Kim), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), Lars (James Acaster) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) in Columbia Pictures’ 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.'

(L to R) Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Gary (Paul Rudd), Janine (Annie Potts), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Podcast (Logan Kim), Ray (Dan Aykroyd), Lars (James Acaster) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.’ Photo: Jaap Buitendijk. Copyright: © 2024 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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