HomeReviews‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Review: This Sequel Left Me Cold

‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Review: This Sequel Left Me Cold


God bless Dan Aykroyd. He has waited a long time to play a major role in another Ghostbusters movie, and when he finally got the chance, he made the most of it. This man lives to spout nonsense ghost-catching jargon — and whenever he does it in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, he can barely keep a smile off his face. The movie around him is a mess at the best of times and a disaster at the worst, but Aykroyd always looks like he’s having fun, even if no one else is.

There are about a million different things crammed into Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, and sadly Aykroyd’s deeply felt performance is the only one that really works. Although this fifth Ghostbusters movie certainly contains many actors and Easter eggs (so many Easter eggs) from the earlier installments, the film it recalls the most is Jurassic World: Dominion, another clumsily assembled and messily overstuffed legacyquel that united multiple generations of franchise stars with zero idea how to use most of them effectively. (Aykroyd is the notable exception in this case.)

Screen time is at such a premium in Frozen Empire that several top-billed actors appear so infrequently (and in such inconsequential roles) their parts might technically qualify as cameos. Towards the end of the film, there are so many heroes onscreen that the cameraman actively struggles to squeeze them all into the frame. Even with a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio to work with, a couple of the characters block our view of the others.

READ MORE: Way Before 1984, These Were the True Original Ghostbusters

Frozen Empire is in such a rush to get everyone and everything on its agenda in that it doesn’t even have time to explain the new Ghostbusters’ status quo. 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife introduced the family of the late Egon Spengler (rest in peace, Harold Ramis): His daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). In the sequel, the Spenglers relocate from Summerville, Oklahoma to the Ghostbusters’ Tribeca firehouse, where they’re joined by Phoebe’s former science teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

This Gary is an odd fellow. He acts like a member of the Spengler family, and must be in a serious relationship with Callie, even though the two never show any signs of affection toward one another, or go out on any dates, or have a single conversation that isn’t about busting ghosts or Gary’s relationship with Callie’s kids. If he wasn’t in a relationship with Callie, why would he move with her and her children from Oklahoma? It’s certainly not because he’s qualified to be a Ghostbuster (he’s not).

While this peculiar family drives around Manhattan the Ecto-1 cleaning up the town, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), a former Ghostbuster who is now a billionaire businessman who never goes to an office or does any work of any kind, sets up a new “Paranormal Research Lab” in an abandoned aquarium in order to develop new ghost-trapping tech to help the Spenglers. Winston’s retired Ghostbuster teammate Ray (Aykroyd) still runs his occult bookshop from Ghostbusters II, and in his spare time he also creates quirky YouTube videos with Podcast (Logan Kim), another kid Ghostbuster from Ghostbusters: Afterlife from Oklahoma who also inexplicably lives in New York City now — in Ray’s basement, no less. (Podcast told his parents he’s at Space Camp for the summer.)

The actual plot only kicks into gear when Kumail Nanjiani’s Nadeem shows up at Ray‘s looking to pawn some supposedly haunted objects for a couple of bucks. Nadeem gives off major con artist vibes, but one of his trinkets buries the needle on Ray’s old ghost detector, so he offers $100 for it. Further investigation confirms it contains a long-imprisoned ancient god who wants very much to make good on Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’s subtitle.

As you can see, this movie’s plot is beyond convoluted, and I haven’t even mentioned at least seven of Frozen Empire’s most significant characters, including Bill Murray’s old school Ghostbuster, Peter Venkman. Murray barely appears in Frozen Empire, although he does deliver several of the movie’s few legitimately funny lines. At the opposite end of the spectrum — both in terms of the number of scenes and the number of laughs — is Emily Alyn Lind, who plays a major (and majorly baffling) role as a friendly ghost named Melody who befriends Phoebe.

Lind’s apparition constantly emits gentle blue flames, a condition she says stems from her tragic death: She was roasted alive in a tenement fire. Everything about this character is weird, starting from the fact that this comely dead girl looks and sounds more like a TikTok teen than someone who would lived in New York City a century ago. And Melody’s mere presence as a benevolent specter raises all sorts of questions about the nature of the afterlife that the film absolutely does not want us to contemplate.

Previously, the ghosts in Ghostbusters were irritants, monsters, and world destroyers; they needed to be stopped at all costs to preserve the natural order from supernatural chaos. The Ghostbusters caught these interdimensional meddlers, shoved them in a big containment unit in their basement, and that was that.

The structural integrity of that containment unit is a major running subplot throughout Frozen Empire, and as part of it, the Ghostbusters make it clear they intend to incarcerate the ghosts they capture for all of eternity. When those ghosts were all depicted as translucent dragons and gluttonous Slimers, that seemed okay. But if these ghosts are at all like Melody, that sounds like a cruel and unusual punishment. Yet no one onscreen (including Phoebe!) seems troubled by this in the slightest. They all go right on zapping and trapping ghosts with no qualms about any of it.

The Frozen Empire script, by director Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman — the son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman and the director and co-writer (with Kenan) of Ghostbusters: Afterlife — is filled with strange logical and narrative quagmires like that one. The movie feels like it exists as a studio imperative first — “Make a Ghostbusters movie with the cast of the old movies and the cast of the new movie!” — and a compelling story a very distant second. Loads of plot lines and supporting characters simply don’t add up.


If there were scenes that justified the involvement of Annie Potts’ Janine or Celeste O’Connor’s Lucky, for example, they wound up on the cutting room floor. Characters keep popping up out of nowhere for a scene or two, and then vanishing again. (Hey, there’s Patton Oswalt! Look, it’s James Acaster!) Then they return, sometimes with totally different attitudes than when they left, like when Winston gets into a big fight with Ray about something in the second act, then forgets all about it in the third act.

On the plus side, while those two scenes do not fit together at all, they do give Hudson and especially Aykroyd a few more minutes onscreen to conjure a little of that old Ghostbusters magic. When Ray explains that saving New York City from yet another apocalyptic threat is exactly how he wants to spend his golden years, risks be damned, it‘s hard to know where the role ends and the actor begins. If the rest of Frozen Empire felt like the movie Aykroyd looks like he thinks he’s in, it would be the best Ghostbusters sequel ever made.

Additional Thoughts:

-William Atherton — AKA “dickless” EPA bureaucrat Walter Peck — returns in a Frozen Empire scene where he chastises the new Ghostbusters for allowing a minor to dangle from the side of a speeding vehicle while blasting buildings and vehicles indiscriminately with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator. The Ghostbusters dismiss his concerns but … he’s not wrong? You know your Ghostbusters movie is in trouble when Walter Peck makes some solid points.

-While Frozen Empire is set entirely in New York, the film is sorely lacking Ghostbusters’ genuine Noo Yawk flavor. The Ecto-1 chases ghosts through the streets of Manhattan and never encounters any traffic. When the movie’s Big Bad freezes the city, the wide shots of the streets are devoid of pedestrians and cars. There are very few extras and even fewer crowds. The place is practically a ghost town.

RATING: 4/10

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Content Source: screencrush.com


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