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MOVIE REVIEW: Merely appealing to nostalgia, ‘Ghosbusters: Frozen Empire’ suffers from a weak story and a bloated cast

They cheered when the old Ghostbusters showed up and they laughed when a gag comes through (especially if it somehow relates to the original group). The nostalgia is strong in this one but that’s what it seems to be.

With a bloated cast and a hackneyed rebellious teen narrative at the center of it, ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ feels more like a by-the-numbers franchise movie than an actual standalone narrative with interesting, dynamic characters. Set three years after its predecessor, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife,’ the story follows the family of Callie Spengler (an underutilized Carrie Coon) as they have taken on the mantle of the Ghostbusters and are doing exactly that in the streets of New York. Funnily enough, I remember liking ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ but I remember nothing about the movie at all (except that Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd where in it). Coming into this movie, the film does nothing to try and bring back any affection for these characters. Callie’s kids – Trevor and Phoebe (played by Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace, respectively) – have typical teenage behaviour in these kinds of films and do not stand out at all in any way.

Trevor is constantly complaining about everything while Phoebe, a genius who seems to take after her grandfather, is at that precarious stage where she is angry about everything and is looking to start a fight. It’s the central relationship story at the center of ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ and it’s also the least interesting thing about the film.

Garraka in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.
Slimer in a trash pile in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

In the usual hijinks of a Ghostbusters movie, a powerful spirit – this time, in the form of an elder god – is freed (due to the recklessness of Phoebe and her lashing out at the world) and the Ghostbusters – both new and old – must come together to stop it and save the world.

Sewer Dragon Ghost being chased through New York in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.
Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard on the set of Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

Directed by Gil Kenan with a script by Kenan and Jason Reitman, the issue with the film is that there are too many characters at play to tell any sort of real cohesive story well. They try to give everyone something to do – from Coon to Rudd to Wolfhard and McKenna and including characters that also appeared in the last film, Logan Kim’s Podcast and Celeste O’Connor’s Lucky Domingo, and the old Ghostbusters, who must make an appearance like Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz, Ernie Hudson’s Winston, Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, and Annie Potts’ Janine Melnitz. But if that’s not enough, they’ve also added Kumail Nanjiani as Nadeen, a man whose heirloom holds the elder god, Emily Alyn Lind, a ghost who befriends Phoebe, James Acaster’s Lars, who is an engineer working for the Ghostbusters, and Patton Oswalt’s librarian.

Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Lars Pinfield (James Acaster) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

With all these characters, each one is given something to do that it takes away from the time that it needs to properly tell Phoebe’s story. So, without the scenes needed to flesh out her character, Phoebe ends up acting like a spoiled brat who unwittingly brings about the coming of a new ice age and endangers everyone in the process. It’s hilarious because she’s identified as a certifiable genius, capable of understanding quantum physics and the like. She is angry because she is removed from Ghostbusting because she’s actually just 15. It doesn’t help that she disrespects her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, Gary (Paul Rudd) and she thinks she is better than everyone. Early in the film, she causes massive property damage while trying to catch a ghost and doesn’t see why she is considered a danger and should not be fighting undead spirits.

Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Lars Pinfield (James Acaster), Podcast (Logan Kim) and Ray (Dan Aykroyd) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

This is a classic 80s and 90s storyline for family adventure films. One member of the family is young but brilliant and special, much like Phoebe is, and they lash out (as kids do) and caused problems, which they themselves end up having to fix and by the end of the film, they are forgiven for everything and they are reminded about how special they are.

There’s a moment in the film that it feels like it will go against this – Callie and Greg clash with the rebellious teen and even call her selfish at one point, which I applaud greatly. I felt that this storyline needed a modern update and that the entitlement that is at display here from Phoebe would be rectified. But to my disappointment, the film backtracks and returns to form.

Janine (Annie Potts), Peter (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston (Ernie Hudson) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

As the central storyline in ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ it makes the film feel so old and outdated. There’s a hefty dose of nostalgia here, especially with the care they take to ensure that the senior Ghostbusters have a good amount of screentime (and some gags that call back to the original 1984 film) that the film feels redundant. I have to agree with my friends when he said that this film is inoffensively bland. It does nothing new to the franchise and checks all its boxes to ensure that it hits all the right notes for family-friendly, mass market affair.

The firehouse freezes over in New York City in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.

While I kept checking the time, to my surprise, the cinema around me was full of people enjoying themselves. They cheered when the old Ghostbusters showed up and they laughed when a gag comes through (especially if it somehow relates to the original group). The nostalgia is strong in this one but that’s what it seems to be. It’s a relic of a time when things were simpler, when stakes weren’t high, and life wasn’t so complicated. It’s a light-hearted movie with no real weight or substance. It does nothing new but appeals to nostalgia, which it does well. The people enjoyed it. But I’m not a sentimental person.

My Rating:

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
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