‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ Movie Review: Fun But Underwhelming

Ghostbusters could be considered one of the 1980s most iconic films. It holds a place of nostalgia for many, thanks to the cast involved. Putting actors like Bill MurrayHarold RamisDan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson together proved to be a recipe for success. The combination resulted in a film that has stood the test of time. Forty years later, the franchise has faced a rocky road with its sequels. The newest sequel, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the latest in a long line of follow ups. 

This includes a direct sequel in 1989 (Ghostbusters II) and a woman-led spin-off in 2016 (Ghostbusters). Flash forward to 2021, director Jason Reitman (Son of Ivan Reitman, the director of the original film) delivered a legacy sequel for audiences. Forgetting the 1989 and 2016 films, Ghostbusters: Afterlife attempted to honor the original’s legacy. It served as equal parts an homage and a franchise reset for a new generation. While it was met with a middling response from critics, fans appreciated its attempts to honor what came before. That resulted in a financial success, with a sequel Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire now in theaters. 

[The following is a spoiler-free review of Ghostbusers: Frozen Empire.]

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire Still
Still from Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire continues what Ghosbtusters: Afterlife started

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire attempts to continue to honor what Ghostbusters: Afterlife started. The Spengler family (the next generation of Ghostbusters), Phoebe (McKenna Grace), Callie (Carrie Coon), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and Gary (Paul Rudd) have answered the call of their late father/grandfather Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis). Their new role involves a move to New York City, now busting ghosts on the regular. Once an ancient evil is awoken, Ghostbusters of new and old (Dan AykroydBill Murray, Ernie HudsonAnnie Potts) have to join forces. Their mission involves protecting the world from this newfound threat. It could send New York City and the world into a second ice age if unsuccessful. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’s biggest success resides in the casting choices. Both the original stars and the Afterlife cast blend seamlessly together. There’s a sense of excitement seeing all of these people together on-screen. The results are endlessly entertaining when these actors simply get to riff with one another. That particularly rings true when both old and new Ghostbusters join forces. Not only is it nostalgic, but it also feels organic. None of their banter rings inauthentic, keeping the essence of the original films. That element is perfectly conveyed in the ghost-chasing sequences themselves.

There’s excitement in those sequences, whether in the classic car or on the ground. The ghosts themselves have a quality that isn’t necessarily scary but effectively unsettling. This particularly shines via the film’s big villain. No matter how much banter flies between characters, there’s a palpable sense of danger. Its freezing abilities are quite threatening, which adds a surprising tension. That tension is an exciting counterbalance to the humor viewers may expect. The problem with that mostly effective tonal balance resides in one factor. It comes into play at an unfortunate late point in the film. 

The screenplay is underwritten

Co-written by Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan (Who is also directing), the screenplay is simply underwritten. This involves needless amounts of scientific exposition from characters. Balancing both horror-filled history and science is a staple of this franchise. In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the scientific jargon overtakes the fun audiences expect. The excitement of the whole franchise involves getting the team together to take down a menacing ghost. That initially involved minimal set-up to get there. In the 115-minute running time, Frozen Empire suffers from a large amount of set-up.

Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, James Acaster, Logan Kim, and Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

That amount of set-up can be attributed to the film having an abundance of characters. Having close to 11 key players forces each one to have a moment in the spotlight. For some, it still gives them moments to shine and entertain. Actors like AykroydRudd, and Hudson are particular scene-stealers. Whereas folks like Bill Murray and Patton Oswalt are nothing more than glorified cameos. It makes the return of some of these iconic stars, and new characters have an underwhelming impact. Whereas actors like Aykroyd easily slip into the role, particularly in interactions with newcomers like Kumail Nanjiani. The biggest problem resides in the story, which focuses on the drama surrounding the Spengler family. 

Audiences have been in this dramatic space before

Obviously, no spoilers will be given regarding what this drama is. What can be said is that audiences have seen it before. It primarily involves certain new and old family dynamics seen in countless other films. In the right hands, those character beats can succeed with moments of freshness and originality. Whereas here in the screenplay they simply go through the motions viewers expect. In turn, it makes the film lack a sense of cohesion with the goal of fulfilling its running time. Some viewers could become quite bored with that melodrama, as it defeats what the advertising has promised. 

There are some intermittently exciting and generally entertaining ghost chase sequences. The problem is that they happen in such a sporadic fashion without a proper build-up. Once the big climatic finale happens, it delivers the fun fans expect going in. Seeing both the new and old characters hits the nostalgia buttons rather impressively. Simultaneously, it ratchets up the tension of the threat ahead to an effective degree. The problem, unfortunately, resides in this happening too late in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire to leave an impact. The results end up delivering a finished product with a reach that simply exceeds its grasp.

Bill Murray and Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters Frozen Empire - film review
Bill Murray and Paul Rudd in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. Image courtesy of Sony Pictures.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a frustrating mixed bag of a film. While it is great to see these worlds collide, some characters get overshadowed by others. What keeps the film from being a total slog involves the cast interplay. Once both generations of Ghostbusters collide on-screen, the banter makes things very entertaining. The problem involves those moments being few and far between, with most getting saddled with dull exposition. When these forces join together in the finale, it delivers the excitement fans want. That can be enough for some diehard fans of this beloved 1980s franchise. Others who have just been introduced to this world might be sorely disappointed with the results. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is now in theaters.

Are you going to see Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire? Do you suddenly and inexplicably feel the urge for ghost pepper Cheetos? Let us know on X @MoviesWeTexted.

You might also like…

The Fall Guy Movie Review - Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt

SXSW ‘The Fall Guy’ Movie Review – Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Anchor a Fantastic Action Film