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Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ earns a cool reception

‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ makes an earnest attempt, but doesn’t quite tie it all together.

A scene from 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire'
A scene from 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' courtesy of Sony Pictures
A scene from 'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' courtesy of Sony Pictures

‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ makes an earnest attempt to tell a broad story, but doesn’t quite manage to tie it all together.

Trying to reboot a beloved franchise is a difficult job. There’s so many factors to take into account, not the least of which is finding a way to not offend existing fans, while attracting new ones willing to carry the legacy forward. It’s a daunting and unforgiving task, in which a mistake could destroy any hope for the series’ future. The first Ghostbusters picture in 1984 inspired countless iterations, including sequels, animated series and limitless merchandise. Now, the story has been revived with a fresh cohort of paranormal hunters who still get the occasional hand from the OGs. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is their second big screen expedition.

The Spenglers (and Gary Grooberson) have moved into the old fire station, a.k.a. Ghostbusters headquarters, and are busting ghosts full time — with varying difficulty. Callie (Carrie Coon) and Gary (Paul Rudd) are juggling parenting with their new occupations, newly-18 Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) no longer has to find his own direction in life and 15-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) is deemed too young by a familiar city official, even though she’s the brains of the operation. When an ancient god hell-bent on destroying the world is unleashed and threatens to turn everything to ice, they’re going to need all the help they can get, including a guardian’s novice descendant (Kumail Nanjiani) and the original Ghostbusters crew (Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray).

There’s a lot going on in this movie, yet it still manages to feel like it’s missing something. From the family perspective, Gary is trying to figure out his role as stepdad, Trevor is navigating the new responsibilities of adulthood and Phoebe struggles with the constraints of being a teen. Spectrally, there’s a Casper-like friendly ghost, others wreaking havoc and inciting property damage, the return of the adorably suicidal mini Stay Puft marshmallows, and the big, powerful baddie that inspires fear in other spirits. Meanwhile, the original ghost busting team prove they never really left (for better or worse), and a random guy inherits fire magic and a fancy metal costume. These are a lot of great ideas, but there’s a total lack of cohesion between them, creating a fragmented and uneven viewing experience.

The narrative jumps between so many different stories, it’s impossible to become invested in the overall picture. To make matters worse, there’s also a number of poor choices, particularly in the last act, which make the critical error of portraying the characters as fools that provoke the audience’s ridicule. This is an unfortunate turn of events since their first outing showed promise and the cast are so well-suited to their roles. The special effects are still top-notch and the tiny marshmallow men continue to steal the scene with their bizarre fascination with self-harm. Consequently, there are definitely moments of enjoyment and hints at what could have been — but by falling into the trap of trying to do too much, the movie ends up doing not enough.

Director: Gil Kenan
Starring: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and Finn Wolfhard

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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