Review: GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE -There’s Shameless Fan Pandering, But Who You Gonna Call?

3 out of 5 stars

Nostalgia is a hot commodity. For years it helped drive a large section of the music industry and in recent years it’s taken a firm grip on Hollywood. Legacy sequels are an IP to mined and the studios have gotten out their pick axes and gone to work. Star Wars, Blade Runner, Spider-Man, Batman, Tron and Top Gun have all been updated for new audiences – but the major draw for these new incarnations has been in bringing back legacy characters – and everyone from Tom Cruise to Harrison Ford and even Michael Keaton and Jeff Bridges have dusted off the duds of an iconic character and taken them around the block one last time. Probably the most controversial of all legacy sequels has been the 21st-century incarnation of Ghostbusters. 

The original Ghostbusters was a massive cultural phenomenon – and it’s a film that holds up well and still works 40 years on. Ivan Reitman’s 1984 pic is a wonderful example of a blockbuster done right. The script hits the perfect note and the casting is just off-the-scale great. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and William Atherton are all fantastic. Throw in some wonderful production design and a cracking score (and theme tune) and you have an iconic classic. 

In 1984, Ghostbusters grossed over $242 million at the US box office and more than $295 million globally. That’s a lot of ectoplasm – but the sequel in 1989 didn’t quite deliver the goods (it was the first film I saw at the cinema that disappointed me). For years there were rumblings of a second sequel, but it never materialised.

Paul Feig’s controversial all-female reboot in 2016 saw a section of Ghostbusters fans fire up their proton packs and take to social media and complain. There was racism, sexism and all sorts of nastiness thrown in every direction that soured the endeavour for everyone involved – and it stands as a perfect example of toxic fandom. Now, it was a film that was completely unnecessary, but it was quite an entertaining pic – aside from the OTT CGI finale. 

2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife managed to get the balance right. A legacy sequel that introduced new characters in the form Egon Spengler’s (the late Harold Ramis) family. It saw Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace discover Egon’s ghostbusting equipment and once again face off against the evil Gozer. It balanced nostalgia with a solid premise and although some disliked how it tied into Ivan Reitman’s films, Ivan’s son, Jason managed to keep the new incarnation of the franchise on the right side of enjoyable. It even did the unthinkable and brought Bill Murray back to the franchise (something which stopped Ghostbusters 3 for years). Some critics might have sniped, but the film grossed a healthy $204 million at the global box office. That might have been short of the $229 million take of Feig’s film, but the $75 million budget was almost half what that 2016 pic cost. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire sees the Spenglers (and Paul Rudd as Coon’s love interest) take up residence in the former firehouse that is Ghostbusters HQ as they bust ghosts across New York City. It might not have the heart of its predecessor, but Frozen Empire is a fun entry into the Ghostbusters franchise. Nothing will ever top the original film, but it finally feels like director Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman have figured out the way to make Ghostbusters movies which entertain an audience. 

The plot starts when Kumail Nanjiani’s Nadeem sells the remnants of his grandmother’s apartment to Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz. Amongst the belongings is ‘The Devil’s Testicle’, an orb containing Garraka – a demo that wants to unite all spirits and unleash evil into the world. Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to stop the spirits and save the world. 

Frozen Empire not only sees the return of Aykroyd, Hudson and Murray, but it also sees the return of Annie Potts‘ Janine and William Atherton’s Walter ‘Dickless’ Peck (as well as a few other old faces) – something which will please Ghostbusters fans of old. 

Look, Frozen Empire isn’t high art, but it is solid franchise filmmaking. The new generation acquits themselves well – Mckenna Grace is the standout – as she was in the previous film – but the big kick is once again seeing the old guard busting ghosts and getting a little more to do than they did in Afterlife (although you get the feeling Murray showed up on set for a couple of days at most). 

There’s plenty of whiz-bang action and proton blasts, but this feels like a smaller, more intimate film – something which makes it all the more enjoyable. At its heart, Frozen Empire is about family and friends and that’s something which permeates the pic and makes it hard to dislike. 

It would be easy to sit and tear down Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire for being blatant franchise filmmaking, but in an age when every film series needs to be connected to about 30 other films, there’s an old-fashioned and earnest quality to what Gil Kenan’s film has to offer. Good performances, entertaining effects and a plot which doesn’t over-reach mean that this is an enjoyable couple of hours and another film in the series doesn’t seem like a bad prospect. 

Ultimately, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire – is an enjoyable sci-fi-comedy romp. It doesn’t top the 1984 original (what could?), but it entertains. The new cast embraces the spooky thrills and the old guard get moments to shine. Is there shameless fan pandering? Yes, but who you gonna call?