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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ (review)

To many, 1984’s Ghostbusters was lightning in a bottle, and to some, it became a cornerstone of a lifelong dedication to the franchise that sprung from a classic going-into-business story that happened to involve busting ghosts.

From the earworm theme song to the cartoons and the onslaught of merchandise, Ghostbusters had an immense impact on pop culture, making it practically impossible to avoid if you were a kid in the 80s and 90s, and the family-friendly balance of horror, zaniness and wit has ensured the enduring legacy of the franchise.

It therefore came as no surprise that the franchise would enter the nostalgia mill like so many other pop culture icons of its era.

Starting with a 2016 reboot, which – in spite of the claims from a very vocal minority possessing a concerning amount of vitriol – suffered more from an underbaked villain than its casting choices, and was received with mixed reviews and bombed at the box office as a result.

Next came Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and while this was again met with mixed reviews, what Jason Reitman managed to get right after picking up the director mantle from his father was that balance between horror and humor.

Working closely with the Ramis family, something else the junior Reitman got right was the amount of heart he managed to infuse his 2021 effort with.

While there certainly was fan service galore in Afterlife, by moving the ghostbusting from the Big Apple to rural Oklahoma, he found a way to ground the franchise again, giving it a fresh start before moving the new characters into the Manhattan firehouse.

Even though Jason Reitman has stepped away from the director’s chair for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, this latest installment still gets a lot of things right, especially how New York looks and feels through a Ghostbusters lense.

The lore is also satisfyingly expanded, making it a comfortably zany place to spend your time, and there are many good moments throughout the film.

However, whether atmosphere, lore and moments is sufficient to make this a good watch will be a very individual experience.

The main reason for this is that, compared to its predecessor, Frozen Empire is quite frankly messy.

There is an over-saturation of characters and objects, giving that distinctly disappointing feeling of the filmmakers throwing everything at the wall to see what might stick, but never bothering to edit the outcome to make it cohesive with a clear payoff.

As a result of all of these elements being stuffed into a film that is barely 2 hours long, the characters we revisit unfortunately also feel neglected, as there is simply too much going on to ensure satisfying characters arcs all around before we reach the rather anticlimactic finale.

For some, being back in a haunted New York that emulates the atmosphere of the 80s films is enough to have an enjoyable time, but for those who want more from both the legacy and contemporary characters, the film unfortunately falls short.

We know the drill by now – legacy sequels are a part of the Hollywood landscape, and while Top Gun: Maverick managed to both thrill audiences and win critical acclaim, that was clearly an exception to the legacy sequel rule.

Thus, hell has not frozen over if Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is anything to go by, as the latest installment in the Ghostbusters franchise struggles to justify why our heroes are picking up their proton packs yet again.

Verdict: 5 out of 10.

*  *   *   *  *
Produced by Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman, Jason Blumenfeld
Written by Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman
Based on Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Directed by Gil Kenan
Starring Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard. Mckenna Grace,
Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim,
Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts

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