The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

By George & Josh Bate

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire review

In 1984, Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman came together to make Ghostbusters, a goofy comedy with a unique supernatural twist that ultimately became a renowned classic. As Akroyd has discussed in the years since, none of the actors or production team expected the film to blow up in the way that it did. The movie quickly developed a following that remains to this day.

The popularity of Ghostbusters lead to a sequel, one that didn’t have the same impact as the first. Attempts to revive the franchise began in the 2010s, first with a remake from Paul Feig, which garnered controversy in part for its cameos with the original cast, all of whom played different and far less important characters in the film. Jason Reitman then took on the reigns in 2021, nearly 40 years after his father made the first film. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was the first sequel in the franchise to be (almost) universally liked, with a solid critic and fan response along with a decent box office intake.

Afterlife’s success has led to another sequel, once again with the new lead characters who are joined by the original team. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, out in theaters on March 22, follows the team as they bust ghosts in New York City, right where the original film was set. The new Ghostbusters crew (including characters played by Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, and McKenna Grace) team up with the 80s crew, with returning actors Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson, to stop a new villain from whose actions threaten to send Earth into a second Ice Age.

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire review

The main question regarding Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is if it has a genuine reason to be made. Afterlife passed this test, with a surprisingly endearing story honoring the original film and Harold Ramis in particular. The decision to make the new characters relatives of Ramis’ hero sparked a new generation of Ghostbusters and, notably, proved to be a hit with fans. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire takes that success and runs with it, moving the franchise back to the familiar with the firehouse setting in New York City and a new, even bigger threat.

Unlike its predecessor Afterlife, the new Ghostbusters film falls considerably short. From a narrative perspective, Frozen Empire depicts an unnecessarily jumbled story with little emotional substance. It no longer feels like a tribute and love letter to the original movie as Afterlife did, and the beats of seeing Bill Murray and co. show up again don’t hit in the same way they did in the 2021 film. Harold Ramis’ presence isn’t felt nearly as much as it was in Afterlife as well, which not only hurts the audience’s emotional connection to the new film but weakens the character arcs of his family, who are the new generation of Ghostbusters. In the previous movie, McKenna Grace embodied Ramis’ character’s persona, whereas in this film, they feel largely disconnected bar a visual resemblance.

The attempts to push forward with a new cast of characters are still admirable, though. In a manner similar to the Star Wars sequel trilogy, these new Ghostbusters films have pushed brand new heroes into the spotlight rather than exclusively telling a new story with the same lead characters as before. In Frozen Empire, the old guard are still around (Akroyd especially so), but the filmmakers do well to not let their presence outshine the new generation.

Ghostbusters Frozen Empire review

The casting of these new Ghostbusters remains as successful as it was in Afterlife, too. Despite having an arc not nearly as strong as the previous film, McKenna Grace still brings a charm to Phoebe that is reminiscent of the wacky vibe of the original movie. Paul Rudd is another major standout, doing well with a side role and making the most out of the material given to him. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will know that Rudd’s comedic timing is usually excellent, and it’s no different here. Some of the scenes feel flat until Rudd’s character speaks up and chimes in with a witty remark. Beyond the humor, his arc of turning into a dad to his step kids is also the strongest character development in the film.

While the characters are a strong part of Frozen Empire, there are negatives to the ensemble as well. The new movie is extraordinarily overstuffed, packing far too many characters into a story that struggles to balance all of its players. This gets to a point in which it’s hard to keep track of which characters are even in the room as big climactic events are occurring. A prime example of this is the final battle, as the villain approaches the firehouse with his ice age storm and begins attacking the heroes. The proceedings get so jumbled that it’s at times unclear who he’s actually fighting against. Bill Murray is there, as is Dan Akroyd, but Phoebe is not (until later on), and Ernie Hudson largely glides by in the finale without making much of an impact. It’s important to note that Hudson’s relatively light screen time, especially towards the end, is to no fault of his own, as he still adds a crucial element to the dynamic of the original Ghostbusters crew.

Regarding legacy characters, Frozen Empire yields mixed results. The old Ghostbusters crew aren’t saved for small, yet key moments like they were in Afterlife, nor do they play integral starring roes. Instead, the legacy characters are included rather haphazardly, making them feel like often unnecessary additions to a bloated ensemble. This is perhaps best exemplified with Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman character. Murray pops up in the middle of the film out of nowhere for an amusing interaction with Kumail Nanjiani’s character, and then perplexingly vanishes until the final battle. While Afterlife intelligently utilized the old Ghostbusters crew for emotional effect, Frozen Empire is less certain as to how to manage all of its characters.

One of the most unique aspects of Afterlife was the change in setting, moving the story to a remote Oklahoma town rather than having the events take place in downtown New York City. While the nostalgia is certainly there with the franchise’s return to the Big Apple, there’s oddly a lack of charm in Frozen Empire’s setting, and the countryside seen in the previous outing is greatly missed. Afterlife felt like it was progressing the Ghostbusters franchise forward, whereas Frozen Empire in many ways feels like a step backwards. The story is generally interesting and it’s great to see these characters again, but the movie does little to add to the world or the heroes fans have come to know and love.

VERDICT: 6/10

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a fun and light-hearted action comedy that unfortunately lacks the charm and spirit of the original 80s film and the heart and novelty of its predecessor Ghostbusters: Afterlife. A bloated ensemble with far too many characters and a jumbled plot detract from what is otherwise an engaging adventure with plenty of nostalgic beats and amusing moments. Frozen Empire may not have the spark of other films in the franchise, but there’s certainly a lot to enjoy about this entertaining, albeit standard, Ghostbusters adventure.

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