Keith’s Movie Korner: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ offers lukewarm entertainment

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

A franchise that began in 1984 as the number one film in the box office that year returns with its fourth installment (the 2016 movie was a reboot in an alternate universe). “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” provides nostalgic entertainment with most of the living original cast members reprising their roles alongside the new blood introduced in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” While it is fun to relive the memories of the original, this film never really finds its own identity to achieve the same level of success.

After overcoming the supernatural events in rural Oklahoma, the Spengler family returns to where it all started, the New York City firehouse to resurrect the ghostbusting business. Gary (Paul Rudd), Callie (Carrie Coon), and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) all get to don the familiar uniform and proton packs while Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) is forced to watch from the sidelines due to her young age. This doesn’t stop the rebellious youth from striking out on her own, subsequently causing more trouble than the family can handle themselves.

When Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) stops by Ray Stantz’s (Dan Akroyd) shop to pawn an ancient artifact, it unleashes a malevolent power that threatens to bury the entire city under ice. Ray quickly reconnects with his former ghostbusting buddies Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and even Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) to help the Spenglers take down this otherworldly god before he raises his army of dead to conquer the world.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is made as a dedication to the late great Ivan Reitman who passed away in 2022. Surprisingly, this sequel is not directed by his son Jason Reitman, who previously did a terrific job helming “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” Instead, Gil Kenan takes over the directorial duties, who had previously destroyed the remake of “Poltergeist” in 2015. Fortunately, Gil does a significantly better job here, respecting and honoring the foundation laid by the original. He not only features the old cast in prominent roles, but also puts a concerted effort to revisit the jokes, locations, and even old ghosts from the classic. The nostalgia creates some fun moments throughout this movie, but relying on it to carry the story is a mistake.

When “Afterlife” successfully resurrected the dead franchise, the future looked bright, but unfortunately this film sets it back a step or two. The problem is Gil overburdens the scale of this production with too many characters and too many subplots, creating a clutter of intertwining and overlapping storylines that become uninteresting. It makes the audience feel like they’re in an episode of “Hoarders” minus the people to help clean and discard the unnecessaries. However, there is enough ingenuity with the cinematography, visual effects, and amusement to prevent this from being a complete flop.

This is a massive cast with little opportunity for individuals to shine during their limited screen time. The older cast members certainly do their job to scratch that nostalgic itch but do little else, while the newer cast members returning from the last film digress in their roles a bit. Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon provide no depth to their characters whatsoever, and even Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”) takes a step back in a watered-down performance. Only Mckenna Grace progresses her character, demonstrating a darker perspective of a 15-year-old girl who gets ignored and repressed because of her age.

The real stars of this film come in the form of comedic actors Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick”) and Patton Oswalt, both of whom also appeared in “Eternals” together. These actors may not have many scenes, but they steal every scene in which they appear. They provide their own brand of comedy that generates genuine laughter and prevents this film from being taken too seriously.

Sure, the dialogue can be cheesy at times, the scenarios a bit too silly and outlandish, and the overall storyline way too busy, but it still provides enough entertainment value by reliving its past and opportune moments of humor. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” does not instill a lot of confidence in the franchise’s future, and it would not be surprising to see it go dormant again for another few decades. As long as you go into it with limited expectations, you might find this film to be a worthy option for a family trip to the movies. 

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March 2024