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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Review: A High-Spirited Homecoming That Recharges The Franchise’s Proton Pack

 Dan Aykroyd and Annie Potts stand together in uniform in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.
Dan Aykroyd and Annie Potts stand together in uniform in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

One of the biggest debates surrounding the Ghostbusters franchise is whether or not it was built for such purposes in the first place. Some are of the mind that the 1984 classic was never truly “meant” to be a franchise, and even those who think the opposite would argue that the direction 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife went in was not the correct way to fulfill that promise.

From where I’m sitting, I’ve never seen a movie in this franchise that I didn’t like, and that hasn’t changed after seeing Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. With the world of paranormal extermination coming back home to New York City, the Spengler family and friends embark on a new journey to save our world from realms beyond.

This time, a second ice age and a spirit that can kill merely on fear alone are in the mix, and as is readily apparent in the marketing, it’s going to take both Busters old and new to save the day.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and McKenna Grace in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon and McKenna Grace in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Release Date: March 22, 2024
Directed By: Gil Kenan
Written By: Gil Kenan
Starring: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, McKenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O'Conner, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts
Rating: PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references
Runtime: 115 minutes

Writer/director Gil Kenan continues the franchise that he and co-writer/director Jason Reitman successfully revitalized with Ghostbusters: Afterlife; and he hasn’t missed a step. If anything, Frozen Empire might be the movie that OG fans had wished was the true beginning of this modern phase. Exhibiting a tone and setting being closer to the late Ivan Reitman’s classic franchise starter, it isn’t merely a nostalgic throwback, it’s a rekindling of a legend.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a confident continuation of this multigenerational story.

We continue to follow Phoebe (McKenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and Callie Spangler (Carrie Coon), as well as her serious boyfriend Gary (Paul Rudd) and their friends Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and Podcast (Logan Kim) in their adventures of ghostbusting. Having relocated to the classic firehouse base in New York, the family business is up and running…and being threatened once again by Walter Peck (Wiliam Atherton).

In that synopsis alone, you can see how Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a proper crossroads between the classic films and the next generation’s adventures. While Afterlife before it employed the surviving legacy cast (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts) as cameos, this sequel uses the gang in a more substantial context. And thankfully, it’s not a compartmentalized affair, allowing the first class of Ghostbuster to mix it up with the young crew.

Through this practice the Ghostbusters series has now become a multigenerational affair, and not in a way that’s dependent on awkward humor or fish out of water gags. At the heart of this story is an effective family drama involving Phoebe growing up with ambitions of being a Ghostbuster, but straining against both the law and her mother’s want to keep her safe. It’s a thread that could have been explored a little deeper, but considering it doesn’t slip into the usual family melodrama you might expect, it still plays like a charm in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

The humor in the Ghostbusters sequel is a fitting compromise between the raunch of the past and the more recent family-friendly approach.

Now here’s where the original fans are probably going to give Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire the most points for improvement: the humor. I’ll admit, while I did really like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, that is the more family friendly blockbuster of the two legacy-quels we have so far. That’s not to say that Frozen Empire is entirely devoted to the Peter Venkman-style raunch of the classics; but there’s definitely some more adult one-liners and references that are slyly included to entertain parents.

Off the top of my head, I’m not sure if anyone has really singled out just how fantastic Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd’s chemistry happens to be on screen. But it’ll surely be highlighted after Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, as they’re two of the most consistent laugh drivers in this continuation. Rudd in particular seems to have fun as the goofster, with Coon playing it perfectly straight against him for the most part. Though The Gilded Age star does get her moments to get a bit goofy herself, which makes for even more delightful moments.

Adding comedians like James Acaster, Patton Oswalt, and Kumail Nanjiani to the cast also helps bolster Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’s ranks. Each of them support the main team in their own ways, with unique styles of humor adding to the stew that is this new picture’s landscape of laughter. While the emotion that carried Afterlife is still somewhat present in Frozen Empire, this sequel is definitely more of the blockbuster comedy that 1984’s Ghostbusters happened to be.

Forty years strong, the Ghostbusters franchise is growing up with its current fanbase while continuing to welcome back the old faithfuls.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a confident homecoming that continues to progress into the legacy franchise’s modern era with a knowing stride. Dedicated to Ivan Reitman’s memory, due to his passing between films, this second outing brings this modern contingent closer to the spirit of the original he helped shepherd into history forty years ago.

While there’s definitely more of a family friendly vibe, Frozen Empire experiments more with balancing the tone alongside some more mature jokes, and feels like a progression rather than merely playing it safe. Though the overall story could use a little more effort in balancing the emotional with the fantastical, the vibes are definitely there.

That, in particular, is important, because you can throw all of the easter eggs or legacy cast members into a legacy-quel such as this, and it would ultimately fall flat if it doesn’t feel like a Ghostbusters movie. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire captures that spirit in an energetic and entertaining way that makes it the sequel that’s come the closest to recapturing the total magic of its origins.

Seeing the Ghostbusters saga return to theaters does indeed make me feel good, especially if it continues to develop in the ways that Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has. It feels like this variant of the series is growing with its audience, while also keeping the touches that made that original unexpected blockbuster so charming. If Sony’s ready to greenlight another adventure, I’m ready to believe I’ll be there on opening night.