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‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ is a Fun but Hollow Trip to NYC

“Frozen Empire” is destined to become a film caught by bored airplane passengers and elderly cable watchers.
The+firehouse+freezes+over+in+New+York+City+in+Columbia+Pictures%C2%92+GHOSTBUSTERS%3A+FROZEN+EMPIRE.%28Courtesy+of+Sony+Pictures%29
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
The firehouse freezes over in New York City in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE.(Courtesy of Sony Pictures)

 

Ever since Jason Reitman brought the original Ghostbusters back to theaters with “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” a perplexing trend has swamped the marketing of the ’80s property. Every trailer is edited with epic music and majestic shots of recognizable props and classic Ghostbuster landmarks. While this has been a trend with all the reboots that have been released in the last decade, it makes more sense with films like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Jurrasic World” that have lent themselves to grand advertising since inception. 

The original “Ghostbusters,” which was released in 1984, was a small-scale comedy about a bunch of shmucks who discover they could capture ghosts and decide to cash in. The most “epic” that film ever became was in its finale with the now iconic Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man stomping through the streets of New York, which was treated as just another joke in the movie. 

Now 40 years later, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is hyper-aware that it’s representing a recognizable property, and it’s more concerned with creating new tech and monsters to add to its licensed mythology than building a structured narrative. While this doesn’t result in a complete mess, there’s something noticeably inauthentic about the picture as a whole.

A Story Left Unthawed

“Frozen Empire” follows the Spengler family introduced in “Afterlife,” now full-fledged ghost-exterminators in New York. When an ancient demon with the power to freeze the world threatens the Big Apple, the Spengler family must join together with friends new and old to take it down.

The film’s greatest weaknesses lie in its story and pacing. The filmmakers have mentioned before how “Frozen Empire” was inspired by the 80s cartoon “The Real Ghostbusters” and it shows not just in its wide variety of creatures and ghouls but also in the episodic nature of its scenes. For the first hour and a half of the film, the story jumps from one scenario to another while slowly building its main villain in the background. These setups range from Finn Wolfhard’s character trying to evict Slimer from the firehouse to “Evil Dead” shenanigans in the NYC public library with a ghost that can possess inanimate objects. These individual sequences can be entertaining but make for a film that often meanders and has no real direction. It’s less like a single full-length feature and more like a collection of short films. 

Once the movie finally gets around to its main premise, it’s a race to the finish line, the climactic battle with the admittedly cool-looking demon ending before you realize it has begun. Alongside being an unsatisfying conclusion, it is also strangely serious, the stakes being far too high for what should be a simple, fun comedy. In the original “Ghostbusters,” there are no deaths or murders but here, it can be assumed hundreds if not thousands die. 

Another aspect that feels particularly unusual within this universe is the massive, high-tech lab the film spends a large portion of its runtime in. Every object in sight is glistening with a clean, modern look and has the iconic logo slapped onto it. It’s as if the dusty, working-class heart of the original “Ghostbusters” has been ripped apart for a shiny, new one that can be sold on shelves. 

A Redeeming Cast

What makes “Frozen Empire” at least mildly entertaining is its characters. The new leads, played by Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd, are all endearing and frequently funny. They feel like solid replacements for the original cast. As for the senior Ghostbusters, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts bring a nostalgic charm that is hard to deny even if they show up randomly and just stand around when on screen. New cast member Kumail Nanjiani has a few chuckle-worthy lines but is an odd addition to the world. Developments with his character would fit more within the MCU than inside a Ghostbusters movie. 

In general, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is not all that bad, having quite a few entertaining moments throughout that keep you engaged for its entirety. That being said, there is always a lingering uncanniness that looms over the film. Whether it be the onslaught of product placements, the grand presentation of the Ghostbusters as a brand or the resistance to a well-built plot, something always feels a bit off. Because of this, “Frozen Empire” is destined to become a film caught by bored airplane passengers and elderly cable watchers. It seems that for Ghostbusters to become a franchise, they had to become an empty spirit of what they once were. 

 

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@grahamcool8

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About the Contributor
Graham Jones
Graham Jones, Assistant Arts Editor
Graham Jones was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and moved to Utah to study film. Despite his passion for cinema, Graham joined the Chronicle to engage with the University of Utah community and pursue his love for journalism. Outside of the student media office, Graham can be found buried deep into the pages of a graphic novel or lip-syncing to the greatest hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

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