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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (A Movie Review)


Starring Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O'Connor, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton, James Acaster, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Gallegos, Claudia Nell McCoy, Lauren Yaffe, Damian Muziani, Natalie Cousteau, Emily Ng, Evelyn Anne Bulls and Holden Goodman.

Screenplay by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman.

Directed by Gil Kenan.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13.

It’s now official – there have been more Ghostbusters reboot films now than there were in the original series of films. There were two original Ghostbuster films (1984 and 1989), followed by the 2016 all-female reboot by Paul Feig, and then yet another reboot of the property in 2021 by Jason Reitman (son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman) and Gil (Monster House) Kenan, of which this film is a sequel.

So that’s three reboot films to two originals. Honestly, none of the later films (including the original sequel Ghostbusters II) are as good as the first Ghostbusters movie, not by a long shot. And, if we’re continuing to be truthful, even the first Ghostbusters, while very enjoyable, is not as good as you probably remember it being.

However, it was certainly much, much better than Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, an over-stuffed and under-funny piece of nostalgic fan service.

Unfortunately, Frozen Empire, like Ghostbusters: Afterlife before it, forgets what made the original something of a classic. Instead, Frozen Empire spends way too much time on its disjointed and overly complicated paranormal aspects and forgets to take the time to come up with some decent jokes.

You know things are going bad when the biggest laugh in the whole movie comes from Paul Rudd doing a deadpan recitation of the lyrics from the original “Ghostbusters” theme song by Ray Parker, Jr.

Suddenly, bustin’ doesn’t make us feel good.

However, at least this chapter of the saga returns to New York City, after the brief sojourn to the boonies of Oklahoma in Afterlife.

Like the last film, the main characters here are the family of the late Egon Spengler (who had been played by Ghostbusters co-star and co-creator Harold Ramis, who died in 2014). The new generation of Ghostbusters includes Egon’s daughter (Carrie Coon, who normally is so good, seems to have been told simply to play a mom, and a pretty bad one at that), her children (Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) and mom’s boyfriend (Paul Rudd). They are living in the old Ghostbusters firehouse and have taken over the ghost busting chores.

The spirits they are tracking are an odd mix of old and new. For fans of the originals, the film periodically pulls out Slimer, the library ghost and the Sta-Puft marshmallow men (now tiny id creatures reminiscent of the hell-raising monsters from Ghostbusters’ old rival in supernatural comedy in 1984, Gremlins).

The new spirits are even more problematic. There is a flying ghost eel, a chess-playing flaming ghost teen, some weird thing which is able to possess and bring any inanimate (or animate) object to life by simply touching it. Then there is the main baddy, an ancient spirit who is able to freeze the whole wide world. (When did ghosts get all these weird supernatural skills?)

And, of course, the living original Ghostbusters return in supporting roles as their famous characters. Life has moved on and they have too, but they are still on the outskirts of the story. Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) has opened a shop purchasing paranormal memorabilia. Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) has become a multi-millionaire and uses his riches to fund the Ghostbusters. Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) seems to still be a university psychologist. And Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) seems to just be hanging around in case someone needs to answer the phones.

In fairness, the main positive in Frozen Empire is Aykroyd, who is obviously relishing revisiting the character he created (both as an actor and co-writer) 40 years ago. Aykroyd is having so much fun with his character that when he is onscreen Frozen Empire picks up steam and becomes quite nearly entertaining. Hudson and Potts are also a lot of fun to revisit, although they don’t get nearly as much to do.

However, Bill Murray is in the film significantly less than his old ghostbusting partners, and frankly when he is there, he has surprisingly little to add to the proceedings. Honestly, way more of Murray’s one-liners land with a thud than actually hit the mark, which is kind of shocking because Murray was definitely the comic MVP of the original. Murray appears tired and bored here, which may explain why he resisted returning to the Ghostbusters universe for decades before finally returning for glorified cameos in the three reboots. (Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis tried several times over the years to get a Ghostbusters III off the ground in the 90s and the 00s, but Murray always refused to participate and killed the potential project.)

Not that he had any real reason to be all that excited to be back in the tan jumpsuit. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is mostly treading water, trying to be a huge, exciting blockbuster but mostly having a been-there/done-that vibe.

Also, the story, beyond being predictable and overly familiar, often makes little or no sense. For example, in one scene a character allows her soul to leave her body for two minutes in order to relate better to a ghost, which has no logic in either a narrative or character sense. And this was supposed to be the smart one.

I think it’s time to put the Ghostbusters franchise back in the deep freeze.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: March 22, 2024.


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