Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire movie poster

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

In theaters March 22, 2024

Rated

, ,

115 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , ,

Had I written this within hours of seeing Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024), this review may have been more favorable. Given time to marinate and process, this sequel to the 2021 reboot doesn’t have the razzle-dazzle, given the star power behind it.

The Spengler family, Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) as well as Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) have settled into the old Firehouse and assumed the mantle of the Official Ghostbusters of New York . While good at providing a solid public service, there comes a fair amount of collateral damage, angering Mayor William Peck (William Atherton), last seen in Ghostbusters (1984) as the EPA inspector that ordered the Ecto-Containment Unit shut down. Phoebe, while a brilliant strategist and fearless, is benched, and legally unable to handle the proton packs or assist in captures due to being only 15. She makes a friend, Melody, (Emily Alyn Lind) a lonely teen ghost who plays chess and pines for her own deceased family. Meanwhile, a squirrely man named Radeem (Kumail Nanjiani) unloads a bunch of his grandmother’s keepsakes to Dr Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd), still running Ray’s Occult. One of the objects appears to be a powerful orb, dense and able to generate an immense amount of cold and seismic activity. Of course, it’s all connected and signals the end of the world unless a whole lot of weird coincidences from a lot of loose storylines fall into place.

The trailers for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire look profoundly unsettling but that may not be the movie you’re expecting. Instead of going for thrills, it settles for family-friendly scares and pulls a lot of punches, going instead for light-hearted fun, some pseudo-science, and a darling little teen crush (and not the one you’re expecting). Because it’s aiming for a younger audience, along for the sequel are two holdovers from Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky (Celest O’Conner) inexplicably plucked from Summerville, OK. Podcast works for Ray and Lucky works for Winston (Ernie Hudson). Necessary? Not really. Wouldn’t Trevor and Phoebe make new friends in New York? No one wanted to think that hard and they needed to pad the situational dramedy with young faces.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is front-loaded with family drama and teen angst, and is very, very light on the actual ghosts, at least ghosts we haven’t already seen. Aside from Melody, who appears as a wispy teen in her own wispy blue tendrils of flame, there are at least two callbacks to the original Ghostbusters, one a Non-Terminal Repeating Phantasm (Class V Full Roaming Vapor) and the other is a Class IV Semi-Anchored Entity. To avoid spoilers, I won’t name them, but they’re recognizable enough. At 115 minutes, there was room for more encounters with new ghosts.

There is less storytelling than worldbuilding, leaving room for another movie down the line. It unfortunately feels familiar and in a city like New York, the adventures should be bigger and carry a heftier cost. Plus, the place is still crawling with mini Sta-Puft Marshmallow men that are the size of Hasbro Trolls, but suspiciously reminiscent of the Adipose in Doctor Who. They aren’t very menacing, just psychotically curious and blissfully unaware of their own self-preservation.

The plot isn’t complicated, but it feels chaotic with multiple storylines rushing to converge in literally the last 20 minutes. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire brings back the old gang – again, including Janine (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) who aren’t given a lot to do, as well as Patton Oswalt who plays a version of Patton Oswalt (but the character’s name is Dr. Hubert Wartzki) who works out of a library basement and knows things. It’s all very light brain stuff.

Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe continues to embody the spirit of Egon Spengler, both intellectually curious and analytical to a fault. Setting aside the original crew for all of their complaints about their sunset years, she’s a solid bridge to the past, and could likely carry a film on her own. It would have been nice to see Finn Wolfgard’s Trevor develop a personality and do more than sigh heavily and make puppy-dog eyes at Celest O’Conner’s Lucky, but Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire was just too busy with the 13 other characters.

Director Gil Kenan, responsible for another paranormal retread, Poltergeist (2015) is given a lot of ideas to work with, but not a lot of dramatic capital. There’s no way to keep emotional investment and tension with comedic pratfalls, mis-timed sight gags, and unrealistic deus ex machina. You’re trying to tell me a state-of-the-art containment unit holding an unknown number of paranormal entities relies upon only  a single generator that takes 10 seconds to reboot?

While Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a fine enough film to take the kids to, and the merchandising is already in full swing, I was expecting something more modern. Instead, we get yet another ancient evil entity who’s waited thousands of years to destroy humanity. Here’s hoping that if we are afflicted with another Ghostbusters film, it gives us something to really be scared of.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) is rated PG-13 for mild swears, the familial tension of blended families, car chases, grief, suicidal ideations, below freezing temps that cause no real damage, and burning marshmallow men.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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