Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

In terms of legacy sequels, the Ghostbusters franchise has managed to be pretty satisfying. As beloved as Ivan Reitman’s 1984 comedy classic is, approximating its appeal is almost impossible. How do you catch lightning in a bottle again? Ghostbusters: Afterlife made a reasonable stab at it, introducing an appealing set of new characters and rousingly bringing the original ones back at the end. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire continues to develop Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) and the Spengler family while giving the veteran actors more to do this time around.

The gang has set up shop in the famed firehouse, thanks to funding from Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson). Old nemesis Walter Peck (William Atherton) is now the mayor of New York City and still holds a grudge for that whole marshmallow man thing. At his insistence, 15-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) is sidelined while Gary, mom Callie (Carrie Coon), and brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) continue busting ghosts. A new threat presents itself when huckster Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) brings a cursed artifact into the store run by Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd). The entity inside that artifact threatens to plunge the Big Apple into another ice age. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) are fortunately around to help fight it off.

Director Gil Kenan and his co-writer Jason Reitman hit a good balance of incorporating familiar elements into the new stuff without making it seem like the movie is pandering. There’s a return visit to the New York Public Library, an appearance from Slimer, and a sequence reminiscent of Venkman’s wacky parapsychological testing from the original. In other areas, they put a contemporary spin on Ghostbusters essentials, like the ghost trap drone mounted to the hood of the Ecto-1. It makes sense that modern technology would be used to enhance the business, since the guys were inventing their own tech anyway. Reverence of this sort helps Frozen Empire feel very much in the spirit of its progenitor.


In terms of characterization, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. There are too many important characters, including two minor Afterlife players, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Podcast (Logan Kim), as well as an adolescent ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) whom Phoebe befriends. They and a couple others intermittently clog up the story, which has to find time to give everyone their big moment. Less of them and more of the arc involving Phoebe’s resentment over being treated like a child would have been better, since Grace, Rudd, Coon, and Wolfhard are appealing together.

On the flip side, the original stars are utilized to a greater extent than they were in Afterlife, especially Aykroyd, who gives a touching performance as Ray. Aykroyd, of course, was the originator of Ghostbusters. His work is full of the pride he must feel in having come up with the idea for a series that has brought so much joy to millions of fans. Ray fully becomes the Yoda of the saga in this installment. Winston additionally has an increased function, overseeing a paranormal research lab. Seeing him get his due is beyond gratifying.

The ice age concept works. It’s in the same class as the Zuul/Ivo Shandor threat from the ’84 film, yet just different enough to not come off as a retread. Shots of NYC freezing provide a kick, creating a worthy menace for our heroes to face. Visual effects in the movie are excellent, only overpowering the plot on a few small occasions. Everything builds to an epic conclusion that finds two generations of Ghostbusters joining forces. They blend together nicely – a vital quality, given that legacy sequels frequently have a forced vibe, as opposed to a natural one.

I’m among the people who were significantly impacted by Ghostbusters. I vividly recall seeing it the summer it opened and exiting the theater in a state of euphoria. I’ve enjoyed it countless times in the intervening years. No sequel can touch that blockbuster, but Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire captures enough of the fun to be enjoyable. How can you see the Ecto-1 zipping through the streets of Manhattan and not get a rush?

out of four

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is rated PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language, and suggestive references. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan