‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ movie review: Nostalgia over novelty

Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, James Acaster, Logan Kim and Dan Aykroyd feature in ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’
| Photo Credit: JAAP BUITENDIJK

The Ghostbusters phenomenon has permeated pop culture to such an extent that not recognizing terms like Ectomobile and Proton pack or responding with ‘Ghostbusters’ when someone asks “Who you gonna call?” might imply an incomplete pop culture knowledge.

Yet the 2016 franchise reboot was a disappointment leading to a revisionist follow-up with 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which garnered lukewarm reactions. If that film left you wanting, expect to get the cold treatment from Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, a follow-up that falls flat on delivering fresh excitement.

Directed by Jason Reitman, Ghostbusters: Afterlife set the stage for a new generation of ghostbusters, directly descended from Egon Spengler. We met the geeky Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), her brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) eager to be taken seriously, their mother Callie (Carrie Coon), and Callie’s boyfriend Gary (Paul Rudd), an ex-teacher. The sequel plunges this motley crew into the heart of New York City, battling supernatural threats like the Hell’s Kitchen Sewage Dragon, and ultimately confronts them with Garraka, a frosty demon deity. It’s packed with familiar bonding dynamics, cameos aplenty, and numerous nods to please devotees of the classics.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (English)

Director: Gil Kenan

Cast: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani

Runtime: 115 minutes

Storyline: The Ghostbusters face off against an ancient ice-fiend wreaking havoc.

The original Ghostbusters films were known for their delightful, humorous take on the supernatural, a trendsetting combination for the time. Frozen Empire, however, takes a turn for the serious, with a somber quote from Robert Frost’s ‘Fire and Ice’ foreshadowing a departure from the series’ usual humor. The movie hurls jargon like ‘spiritual inhabitation’ and ‘ionic separator’ at its audience, seemingly to elevate its nerdy ethos, but it comes off as overwrought.

Frozen Empire has its moments when it banks on nostalgia. It’s not just the original Ghostbusters icons like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd making appearances; even less expected persona like the notorious Walter Peck (William Atherton) resurface. The film chases the high of the past with countless throwbacks, from spotlighting the Statue of Liberty incident to subtle homages such as the spectral librarian that once startled Aykroyd’s character.

These wistful callbacks resonate to some extent, but the blending of old and new casts doesn’t quite achieve the intended emotional impact in the climax battle. Standout moments are found in Kumail Nanjiani’s humorous performance as Nadeem Razmaadi, the seller of a mystical orb holding Garraka. His brief but brilliant role serves as a reminder of the comedy gold this franchise once struck.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire largely relies on fan service, failing to captivate beyond the initial burst of nostalgia. The charm quickly wears thin with this less spellbinding new crew, suggesting it might be time to let this series rest in peace.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is screening in theaters now.

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