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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire




Rated PG-13 - for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references.
Director: Gil Kenan
Starring: Paul Rudd, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Dan Aykroyd, James Acaster, Emily Alyn Lind, Kumail Nanjiani, Logan Kim, Celeste O'Connor, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Patton Oswalt, William Atherton
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: March 22, 2024

READER RATING:   


Plot Summary

When the discovery of an ancient artifact unleashes an evil force, Ghostbusters new and old must join forces to protect their home and save the world from a second ice age. (from IMDB)


Film Review

Three years following the delayed release of a long-awaited third Ghostbusters movie, we have the fourth entry in the series, and first direct sequel to 2021's Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire sees the Spengler family - the daughter and grandkids of Egon Spengler - moving from Oklahoma to New York City's famed Firehouse headquarters to basically inherit the family business. Along for the move is Callie Spengler's (Carrie Coon) boyfriend Gary Grooberson, played by Paul Rudd, as well as the kids' Summerville friends, Lucky and Podcast. Following the events of Afterlife, the long defunct Ghostbusters business is back in action, with original Ghostbusters Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) serving as more mentors in the role than as actual 'busters. This time around, the Spenglers are not only trying to adjust to living in the big city, but they're trying to figure out life as a kind-of family - with Gary now included - and figure out how to adjust to life as paranormal eliminators. The person having the greatest trouble with this transition is now-fifteen-year-old Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace), who quickly gets benched for being under age.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
From the trailers alone, it looked as though Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is set up to be everything a Ghostbusters fan over the past 40 years has been looking for. In fact, all of the more fantastical elements point to this being basically a live action episode of the 80's animated series, The Real Ghostbusters. Whether that sounds appealing to fans of the far dryer and more down-to-earth 1984 original is hard to say, but the initial critic ratings for this movie have proven pretty negative -- with some reviews certainly pulling no punches. But Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire doesn't shy away from reveling in nostalgia while still trying to forge a new path ahead -- think The Force Awakens with maybe a little less cynicism and taking probably even less risks. Star Wars fans loved seeing the original heroes from the 1977 film on the big screen again, but they didn't like the direction that pretty much each character was taken in. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire plays this a lot safer, which is something I'm quite happy with. In Frozen Empire, the surviving original actors - Aykroyd, Hudson and Peter Venkman's Bill Murray - get a beefed-up presence from their Afterlife cameos, and they help make Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire feel more like a true Ghostbusters story.

As a gigantic fan of the 1984 original, I've never been a fan of the franchise just because of the brand (much like you love a band because of the members, not just because of the name), but because of the characters from the film (and its follow-up cartoon series). That was my biggest hangup with 2016's reboot (which I still have no interest in ever watching. Clips of it were enough for me to know it's not what I want to see). Aykroyd's Stantz has a pretty substantial presence in Frozen Empire, and it helps anchor the story. He gets some great moments to shine, and it acknowledges very well the passage of time and characters getting older. I appreciate this. Having the original characters in this story helps lay building blocks for a potential future, and expanding things to include a research facility is actually a pretty nice touch. It feels like an organic direction to take the franchise in. For those who did not grow up with The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, the thought of milking this franchise further may only seem heinous and superfluous. Heck, let's be honest; money makes the movie industry go 'round. If we all stopped financially buying into sequels and extensions of a franchise, Hollywood would stop making more (well, usually, that is). But in all honesty, The Real Ghostbusters proved that the concept of the 1984 film had legs and a wealth of possibilities. The series survived for 140 episodes. That's pretty substantial, especially for a cartoon series that's based on a single movie. The film's first sequel didn't even come until 5 years after the first movie, and three years after the debut of the cartoon series. It's no surprise that Ghostbusters II had more of the DNA of the cartoon series than it did of the 1984 film. But nothing - nothing at all - has been able to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle of that first movie. Granted, I well aware it's not a perfect movie by any means, but it gave us memorable characters, memorable villains, a hit theme song, beloved ghosts (Slimer and Stay Puft), and movie lines that are still quoted today. There's no denying it's greatly affected pop culture.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
So when Hollywood touches a beloved franchise that's meant so much to so many - or at least a very passionate fanbase - it's a sensitive issue. Already, this film seems to be polarizing audiences. Afterlife sought to create something new while honoring the past. It took the story out of New York for the very first time, and it put the proton pack onto the backs of a pre-teen. It was a daring experiment that the son of the original movie's director attempted in honor of his personal hero. (Sadly, director Ivan Reitman passed away in the time between Afterlife and Frozen Empire, and his son Jason remains a producer for Empire and possible future projects). Afterlife was praised for changing it up by some viewers, and roasted for being too different by others. And of course, the critics cried foul over its reliance on callbacks and nostalgia. Frozen Empire appears to be "more of the same," which isn't necessarily a bad thing. So the question is... is it?

As a devoted fan of the original (It's still my favorite movie. And I recently saw a fan edit of the '84 film that restored a surprising amount of unused, cut or deleted footage, which only made me love it more.), I can't give a definitive opinion of this movie after just two viewings (Yep, I saw it a second time before finishing this review). All I can do is give you my ever-evolving opinions (Even my opinions of the Disney Star Wars sequels keeps changing... mostly negatively). I have seen Afterlife at least 7 times (according to my "Letterboxd" logs), and I mostly still enjoy the movie. But it doesn't feel like a "Ghostbusters movie" to me. It has its elements, but to this 80s kid, it's tough to take Ghostbusters out of New York, and not have the main guys at least more substantially involved. (All the bitter feelings towards Egon really bogged the movie down, too.) Still, in revisiting Afterlife before seeing Frozen Empire, that emotional finale with ghost Egon really got me. It's a pretty good movie and story. However, Frozen Empire is much more a Ghostbusters movie. It has most of the elements you'd expect from one, but advancing the story in the process. Still, director Gil Kenan brings a much more modern feel to the direction and storytelling. Once again, it doesn't feel anything like the 1984 film. But because of Ghostbusters II and Real Ghostbusters having much lighter and more cartoony vibes, Frozen Empire is more in line with that feel. Does it scratch a Ghostbusters movie itch? Yes. Does it have the right ingredients to continue to do so with repeat viewings? It's really hard to say.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
My biggest gripe - as anyone who has already seen it could imagine - is the progression of Grace's Phoebe Spengler character. She went from endearing, adorable, and sweet in Afterlife to more angsty and brooding. I get that that's how teenagers can be, but it's hard to see a character you really enjoyed become one you enjoy less. Furthermore, they give Phoebe a very awkward relationship with a girl named Melody that can almost be taken as a much-needed friendship with someone who "gets" her at a time in her life when she's feeling left out, or a romantic one. The latter, unfortunately, is more obvious to be the case, especially given the direction Hollywood and our own social society has taken. It's actually more likely that a clearer, more definitive direction was actually filmed, but ended up being edited to leave just the tiniest bit of doubt (I'm already seeing comments online from viewers declaring it to be an obvious attraction between the two girls, while some of my own family members claim they just don't see that at all). Either way - regardless of the intent here - it's an awkward batch of scenes that feel really out of place for this franchise and don't fit in the movie or "universe" at all. (For those complaining Frozen Empire is just more of the same, I'd think the Phoebe & Melody storyline would be their favorite part about the movie, but I don't know.) Some other characters feel like the kind that you'd see in a cartoon series, but they fit in with the style of this entry. I saw one comment online that, while Peter, Egon, Ray and Winston are still beloved 40 years since their introduction, it's unlikely that any of the newer characters that made their debut in Afterlife will be 40 years from now. I kind of have to agree with that. While Paul Rudd's Gary Grooberson could be, and Grace's Phoebe might be (although I don't think this movie helps her character any), none of the other characters really stand out that much. I wonder if that would change at all if there are to be future installments.

The villain, Garraka, is a nice addition to the lore. He has some Gozer vibes, and is pretty freaky visually, but I kind of wish he had more screentime and more to do than he does. His (visual) introduction and the climax of the film are all fun, but I'm tempted to say he was a little underused overall. I was also surprised that the "Frozen" aspect of the story didn't really take its most substantial effect till later in the movie; I expected it to be most of the movie, to be honest. The other bizarre aspect of this movie is that a significant amount of scenes from the teaser, trailer, and even magazine movie still photos, didn't make it into the final film. That now-iconic shot of Gary and the Spenglers clad in big red winter coats while perched on a rooftop as Rudd's boyish charm exhibits unbridled joy at some unseen occurence? Not in the movie. Like, at all. Annie Potts' Janine uttering her famous "Ghostbusters, what do you want?" that you see in all the commercials? Not in there either. Paul Rudd's character saying "Like, literally scared to death?!" Nope. I get that many trailers can contain unused footage, but there's a surprising amount here.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
The introduction of the research facility allows for some new technology to enter the picture, new characters to come on board, and the small four-man (and let's not forget Potts as Janine Melnitz, their trusty secretary) operation to expand exponentially. I've always loved the tight-knit blue collar bunch of the original, but it's neat to see things expand more. I also really enjoyed seeing Ray take a couple of the young bucks out on a research mission to learn more about Garraka. It not only gave his character something to do, but it felt natural for his character -- a character who wouldn't be ready to retire and give it all up yet - and touch on the investigative nature of the characters that I think isn't always associated with this franchise. We also get to see a lot more of the Firehouse itself, and it plays the kind of ground-zero role in the film that it frequently did in the cartoon series. (This only made it feel even more like a Ghostbusters story.)

The content for the movie is pretty on-par for the franchise, but it's a little lighter in some areas. Profanity is infrequent with only one noticeable "S" word (I may have heard another from background characters at one point), and a few uses of "h*ll," "G-d," and several of "*ssh*le." There aren't many gruesome visuals to speak of, but in the opening scene, we see a room of frozen people with one of them having their dismembered hand turning the crank of an old gramophone. We see the hand and the arm where it had broken off. We also then see many of the people burst into chunks of ice. Later in the film, a random clerk at a store is turned to ice and we see a large icicle emerge from the wall behind them (with the person off screen). We then see their cubed remains shattering on the floor. For sexual content, aside from Phoebe's same-sex "crush," there's are a couple brief references / jokes to a secret room in a person's apartment being dubbed a "sex dungeon" (but it isn't one). (And it seems extra inappropriate that the jokes are made by teens.) We also briefly see a painting in the same apartment that shows a man and a woman with the man's nipple being pinched by the woman. (All of this is played for laughs, but it's Lucky who seems the most entertained by it.) Otherwise, the spiritual content in the film will possibly unsettle some viewers. The big villain is a demon-looking creature that spits ice and has huge horns on its head and long, spindly fingers. He's definitely a creepy one. Other ghosts are seen that could be frightening, particularly one we see in a glass cell that has big, hollow eyes and large teeth. There's a scene where a human character gets possessed and starts uttering some kind of incantation, which happens before the villain is able to appear. Ray makes a few mentions to Biblical characters in a positive light, but seems to equate things like Moses and the burning bush to him having some kind of "fire master" powers (and not necessarily that the bush burned from God himself). While Ghostbusters has always been about mankind battling evil spiritual forces, there are frequent fantastical references and imagery that might offend or upset sensitive viewers, so I definitely recommend exercising caution if that describes you (or anyone you know).

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire may be a decent follow-up to 1989's Ghostbusters II in tone and feel, but if anyone has been hoping for a return to the form of the 1984 original, this sequel will greatly disappoint. As I write this, fans and viewers continue to be polarized by this movie, with mixed reactions all across the board. (Some are saying it's exciting, others are saying it's boring.) For this diehard fan, only repeat viewings in time will truly tell, but I can definitely say I mostly enjoyed my first two viewings. Unfortunately, it's the kind of action/adventure/comedy/fantasy that doesn't aim to make a ton of sense, so the longer you think about how certain events play out, the more likely you are to spot plot holes, inconsistencies and more. Considering how much imagery being used in promotions isn't even in the final film leads one to wonder how much of the movie was actually left on the cutting room floor. Maybe an extended cut of sorts could fill in the gaps, but as it stands, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a fun franchise sequel... you just can't take it too seriously or think about it too much.

- John DiBiase (reviewed: 3/22/24)

 

 

Parental Guide: Content Summary


. Sex/Nudity: Gary and Callie fist bump when they recall how they slept together ("got some action") while possessed in the previous film; Gary and Callie live together but aren't married, nor do they ever mention marriage. But talk of Gary taking a more fatherly role with Phoebe is mentioned a couple times; When seeing a metallic chamber with weird things inside, Lucky refers to it as a "sex dungeon," to which Nadeem insists it's not. After he says it looks nothing like a "sex dungeon," he looks at chains and admits that doesn't help any. As they examine the room, they realize there's no echo, which leads Lucky to joke that Nadeem's grandmother didn't want to be heard (Nadeem then asks if they could "stop making sex jokes" about his recently deceased grandmother); We briefly see a suggestive painting where a man's nipple is being pinched by a woman and Lucky makes a comment about "nipple stuff;" Dr. Wartzki references hookers while telling a story about a secret society; Phoebe is drawn to a girl named Melody, and even goes out of her way to try to connect with her. There are some more-than-subtle hints that there is an attraction there, but it could also just be the fulfillment of the need for a friend (however, the latter is unlikely); Venkman, seeing Garraka, says "Tall, dark and horny at 12 o'clock," which is a play on the gigantic horns on the demon's head.
. Vulgarity/Language: 1 "S" word (1 possible other one kind of muffled), 3 "h*ll," 4 "*ssh*le," 2 "a" words, 1 "d*ckless," 1 "d*mn," 1 "S.O.B," 1 "Oh my G-d," 1 "Oh G-d," 1 "My G-d," 1 "holy cr*p," 2 "sucks," 1 "What the fudge?"; a reference is made to a recording that has a famous person saying "the F word" on it.
. Alcohol/Drugs: Peter pulls a bottle out of a hidden spot in the firehouse and triumphantly declares it as "courage."
. Blood/Gore: In the prologue flashback, we see a gramophone being turned with a dismembered hand stuck to the handle as it continues to turn and the victim stands there frozen in ice and missing a hand; We see the demon villain plugging horns into its head; We see some frozen people burst into ice cubes.
. Violence: At the start of the film, we see a room of people who have been completely frozen to death. One of them has their hand on a gramophone crank, which has broken free from their arm and is still cranking; Some firefighters touch the frozen people who then burst into fragments of ice; We see the Ecto-1 racing recklessly through the streets of New York as it chases a large ghost. The ghost causes sewer manhole covers to shoot out of the street and land in nearby buildings or in the ground; Phoebe's proton stream tears into some buildings, causing damage; Podcast smashes a woman's watch with a large mallet (for which he says was done "for the views" of his podcast); An orb causes a PKE meter to fry and then it crashes through a glass case; A ghost startles and slimes someone, racing through them; A girl talks about her family dying in a fire and being burned alive; Dr. Wartzki tells the violent backstory of the villain Garraka; A person places their hand on the possessed orb causing their hand to freeze. We later see their hand looks fine but their arm is in a sling; A woman ghost turns frightening and hideous and charges at a man who runs away; A garbage bag possessed by a ghost is chased through a building, causing minor mayhem; A stone lion statue roars at a person and then hops off its base and threatens to harm him. A proton stream then blasts the stone to pieces; A surge of frost causes some building damage; A person uses a machine to separate their own spirit from their body so they can briefly exist as a ghost. Their body then gets possessed by an evil spirit; A person uses a proton wand against Garraka which causes the stream to freeze as it gets to the Ghostbuster. The frozen stream then shatters on the floor; We see a test facility with random possessed objects (like a spastic CD player), and a possessor ghost that flies from one object to another and sometimes bangs an object against a glass window; We see large icicles burst from the ground at a beach and throughout the streets of New York, impaling some vehicles in the process; The doors are blown off a building; The floor in a building breaks up with ice; Characters are frozen and unable to move; A ghost freezes more proton streams; A person wields fire towards a ghost; A person throws a pen at a man's face repeatedly (played for laughs); A person asks the weird question that, if they had to eat a child, would they prefer skin on or skin off (a question that is used to fluster the person); A car is possessed and it backs up fast as people run away and crashes into nearby objects; A person places their hand on the possessed orb causing their hand to freeze. We later see their hand looks fine but their arm is in a sling; We see a few scenes of the mini-pufts doings violent things to themselves or others - like one using a pencil sharpener on its marshmallow arm, another impaled on a straw, another impaled with a pencil, another cutting another one with a laser, etc; A person is almost blasted in the face with a proton gun; and other sci-fi fantasy related violence and action.

 

Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.

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