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 movie is available on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

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.

Universal

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?

Scroll down for a look at the Blu-ray bonus features.


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.

Blu-ray Features:

The Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Blu-ray comes with more than an hour of excellent bonus features, including a feature-length audio commentary from director Gil Kenan. Elsewhere on the disc, you’ll find the following:

Return to the Firehouse: Making Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire - As the title implies, this is a making-of feature that runs 21 minutes and provides background on the film’s production. The importance of the firehouse itself is emphasized, as Kenan wanted it to essentially be another character in the movie.

Busted: Capturing the Ghosts of Frozen Empire is a look at the design and creation of the spirits that inhabit the story. You also learn a little about how those paranormal effects were achieved.

Manifesting Garraka focuses on the history of the story’s primary villain. The first two Ghostbusters movies revolved around Ivo Shandor, so there was a need to create a new myth equal to that.

New York, New Gear - Here you take a dive into the new gizmos employed by the Ghostbusters, including their ghost trap drone. It’s a fun look at how Frozen Empire builds on the equipment established in the previous entries.

Welcome to the Paranormal Discovery Center offers a tour through the movie’s most intriguing new addition, Ray Stantz’s laboratory for studying and containing ghosts. Scenes in the center often have a lot going on in them, making it hard to savor all the little details. This feature gives you that opportunity.

Knowing the Score homes in on the movie’s music, which incorporates themes from the original score while also establishing its own mood.

Deleted & Extended Scenes - These are really cool to see. There’s nothing that substantially impacts the story; it’s mostly odds and ends, including a longer version of Trevor exploring the attic and a pep talk that Lucky gives to Trevor. The best of them has Venkman and Grooberson conversing in the firehouse basement. Murray hilariously brings back Venkman’s swagger in this moment.

Easter Eggs Unleashed is the jewel of the bonus features, as it points out all the covert references in the movie. Some are obvious, but many are buried in the background or hidden in other details, like the shirt Phoebe wears that has markings from the ghost traps. Kenan points out where these easter eggs are located, and there are so many that it takes a full six minutes to cover them all. Any hardcore Ghostbusters fan will love watching this.

The supplementary material on Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is thoroughly enjoyable. The disc’s picture and sound quality are top notch, as well.

To order a copy from Amazon, click here.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan