Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (dir. Gil Kenan)

By: Adam Freed

A fine line emerges between having a second helping of something delightful and partaking in too much of a good thing. In the case of the fifth film in the Ghostbusters franchise, and the direct sequel to the rejuvenating Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) Gil Kenan’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire provides all of the warmth and comfort of a reunion with old friends, without any of the remorse that comes from excess.  Written by Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters (1984) director Ivan Reitman, the film clearly has its heart in the right place.   

Frozen Empire hosts a crowded cast lead by Paul Rudd, who as Gary, a warm and welcoming former science teacher turned step father to Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor Spengler (Finn Wolfhard).  Both teens are descendants of founding Ghostbuster Egon Spengler, who famously saved New York twice in the 1980’s.  The franchise also welcomes back original cast members Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson, who not only play a larger than expected role, but are able to capture much of the comedic charisma produced in the original two films of the series.  Frozen Empire graciously takes its time in the presentation of a supernatural plot allowing space for audiences to wrap their minds around even the most absurd of spectral phenomena. No one sells a silly supernatural premise like Aykroyd, who even in his later years exudes a believable childlike wonder in discussion of all things existing beyond the earthly realm.  Gil Kenan’s film runs the gauntlet of expected fan service, expertly weaving welcome references to past works into this original story.  

Despite the enormity of the film’s cast, the breakthrough star of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is McKenna Grace.  Grace’s Phoebe is a fifteen year old Ghostbuster (suspend disbelief) who feels like an outsider in her own family.  Harnessing much of the teenage burden of wanting to grow up long before her time, Grace’s performance is surprisingly rooted in a day to day reality with which most teens will be able to relate.  In search of answers for many of life’s frustrations, the youngest Spengler befriends a teenage specter by the name of Melody, and despite their cross generational differences, form a unique bond that serves as one of the film’s primary plot devices.  There are countless reasons why this film shouldn’t work, and yet it does. 

Adding to the impressive collection of recognizable screen talent are Kumail Nanjiani & Patton Oswalt, both of whom play for laughs with middling success.  Nanjiani’s Nadeem quickly becomes central to the film’s story as he unwittingly unleashes a fresh brand of horror upon New York City as he selfishly attempts to sell his grandmother’s heirlooms shortly after her passing.  Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire surprisingly overcomes a phalanx of reasons why it shouldn’t be successful, and despite everything that it may have working against it, provides enough cause to call the Ghostbusters one last time.

Target Score: 6.5/10 - Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire threads the delicate needle of hosting a soirée for friends both new and old in order to present a supernatural party that honors what was, while still successfully driving the fortysomething franchise into the 21st century.