Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Review

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a breath of fresh air for the franchise, passing the proton pack to the next generation with wit, scares, and heart. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire attempts to top its predecessor with more ghosts, callbacks, and large-scale threats. The film doesn’t offer as many new ideas, however. Frozen Empire primarily exists to provide a warm sense of nostalgia, although one addition takes the franchise to uncharted territory. Had the story been built around this element, it could’ve been the most unique Ghostbusters movie since the 1984 classic. Instead, we’re left with a solid sequel that has a handful of great scenes.

Jason Reitman remains a co-writer, but he hands directorial duties to Gil Kenan. Likewise, the OG Ghostbusters all make appearances, although they’re mostly content with letting the new class take the lead. The Spenglers leave their not-so-quiet Summerville home for a familiar New York fire station, returning the franchise to its roots. The Big Apple again provides the backdrop for some inventive action sequences and even more creative ghosts. The film has echoes of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, but with enough family dynamics to keep the story grounded.

Looking to prove to her mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and step-science teacher Gary (Paul Rudd) that she’s old enough to be a Ghostbuster, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) attempts to uncover the mystery of a supernatural artifact. Along with Dan Aykroyd’s Ray, she finds that the artifact hosts an evil entity that seeks to unleash hell on earth frozen over. At least that’s the summary. The characters spend a little too long unraveling the artifact’s backstory. We have to sit through a lot of exposition before getting to the titular Frozen Empire.

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When you think about it, Ghostbusters’ lore has always been complicated. The original film balanced this with lovable characters and humor. Like Afterlife, Frozen Empire is more concerned with thrills than laughs. The characters are still immensely charming, but the film juggles more than it knows what to do with. It’s great seeing Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and even William Atherton again, although they’re mainly here for fan service. The same goes for Bill Murray, who again can only be bothered to show up for two brief – yet fun – scenes. Meanwhile, Finn Wolfhard gets sidelined along with newcomers like Patton Oswalt and Kumail Nanjiani.

Two characters redeem the film’s shortcomings: Grace’s Phoebe and Emily Alyn Lind as another girl named Melody. They develop an absorbing, even poignant dynamic, one being a Ghostbuster and the other being a ghost. Outside of the late Egon in the last movie, the ghosts in this series have mainly ranged from pests to pure evil. It’s intriguing seeing Phoebe befriend Melody rather than bust her, leading to some deep conversations about life, death, and what comes next. For the first time in this franchise, we’re given a glimpse of what it’s like being a ghost trapped between worlds. With more focus on their dynamic, Frozen Empire could’ve packed an even bigger emotional punch than Afterlife. Alas, the filmmakers are also obligated to work in several other characters, set pieces, and hallmarks that come with the territory. Even so, their relationship elevates Frozen Empire from being another Ghostbusters movie to a worthy one.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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