Film review: ‘GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

The Gen X nostalgia train rolls on with latest resurrection of an 80’s favourite, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.  The original Ghostbusters from 1984 was a fun mix of sci fi, supernatural spookiness and zany comedy.  The film worked in part because of the concept and director Ivan Reitman’s deft orchestration of its various elements but mostly because of the cast: Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, the late Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson and their ability to convey the right amount of goofiness and action/adventure heroics.

What filmmakers since only partly seem to realise is that the film’s appeal essentially lies with that cast and that people want the originals not the cover band.  Unfortunately, what they really seem to want are the 1984 originals.  The latest film represents an awkward attempt to maintain a link to those OG Ghostbusters while looking to extend the franchise through the younger cast members we saw in 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  Not surprisingly, this film is a mixed bag, funny in parts but too often unsuccessfully searching for an identity.

This one sees the new ghostbuster family of Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), wife Callie Spengler (daughter of Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) (Carrie Coon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and daughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace) falling foul of ghostbuster nemesis, New York Mayor Peck (William Atherton) who tries to shut them down despite the city’s obvious ghost infestation.   When a mysterious ancient orb lands in the ghostbusters’ hands and the malevolent power it contains threatens to rain ghostie apocalypse on Earth or at least New York, the team must risk the Mayor’s wrath by embarking on another supernatural caper.

That’s the skeleton of a strangely convoluted and messy plot that struggles to find a direction and establish momentum.  The filmmakers have tried to throw too much into the mix here and haven’t helped matters by lumbering it with faux scientific dialogue and an ill-advised attempt to describe the ghosts according to the laws of physics.

Irritatingly, there are far too many characters here with about 10 ghostbusters and various ancillary players. Consequently, the story is spread way too thin with no character having a chance to make the sort of impression the originals did 40 years ago.  This includes the living members of the original troupe who just pop in and out to no great effect.  Bill Murray in particular makes a very brief and tokenistic appearance.  If there’s a central character it’s probably Phoebe and while her attempts to empathise with a ghost and possibly engage in a same sex relationship with the spirit represents an impressive new angle for the series, she isn’t particularly interesting.

There’s also trouble with the film’s tone as the borderline serious supernatural aspects of the story don’t blend nearly as well with the jokier parts as they did in the 80’s original.  There are a few genuinely funny moments courtesy of a droll Paul Rudd’s laid-back goofball Gary, Kumail Najiani’s trouble making artefacts trader Nadeem and Patton Oswald’s quirky historian and occult expert Dr Wartzski but just not enough.  Perhaps most disappointingly, Carrie Coon is given an extremely thankless role with barely snippets of dialogue, not unlike the mother from Lost in Space.

As sci fi action spectacle the film is passable but doesn’t offer anything more impressive than we saw in the 80’s.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is generally watchable and won’t have diehard fans gnashing their teeth in disgust but this cluttered, exposition-heavy film has few thrills and only flickers of hilarity.

Nick’s rating: **1/2

Genre: Comedy/ Sci Fi/ Horror.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Gil Kenan.

Release date: 21st Mar 2024.

Running time: 115 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm on 88.3 Southern FM.


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