“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is lukewarm at best

By Janie Walenda

What do you want out of a “Ghostbusters” movie? Personally, I am here for the theme song and to see a bunch of goofballs fight ghosts. By this forgiving metric, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is a success. But in a film that is stuffed to the brim with characters and side plots galore, it’s hard to find any concrete thing that the film excels at. It’s certainly a weaker entry than its predecessor, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” which stands as one of the best adventure comedies I’ve seen in recent years.

The excess of characters is this film’s greatest fault. At its bones, the Spengler family’s struggles and growth is a compelling story and set it apart from the status quo of the series. Phoebe Spengler and her actress, McKenna Grace, are worthy choices to build a franchise around. Phoebe is an endearing protagonist whose room for growth is explored in this film, and Grace has both the comedic and dramatic chops to prove herself as a versatile lead.

It’s unfortunate that a talented roster of actors got lost among a bloated ensemble and an overstuffed plot that tries to give every character something to do. Paul Rudd has several genuinely heartfelt moments as Gary Grooberson, Phoebe’s science teacher turned potential step-dad, and Carrie Coon made good use of the minimal work she was given as Callie, Phoebe’s mom. While objectively Phoebe’s older brother Trevor’s sideplot with the ghost in the attic is a waste of time, it does have a solid payoff and some good comedy from Finn Wolfhard. More than anything, it gave me a glimpse into the movie I wished I was watching: a wacky family comedy about the day-to-day shenanigans of Ghostbusters.

One of the many side quests from throughout the film

Instead of that movie, however, we follow two other characters from the 2021 “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” four new characters, and five characters from the original 80s films. This leads to a laughable amount of tan jumpsuits during the final battle and little-to-no character development for anyone. Neither of the side characters from “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” needed to be there, although to her credit Celeste O’Connor sold a moment of terror very well. Out of the new characters introduced, James Acaster and Kumail Nanijani are comedic highpoints of the film despite having paper-thin material to work from.

I am a fan in general of how “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” handles its legacy characters, as they realistically pop up at different points throughout the film. After only having small cameos in the past film, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson are clearly having fun bringing Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore back to the screen. It’s also fun to see Willem Atherton return to his villainous role as Walter Peck, now mayor of New York City. But no actor, no matter how talented, gets a chance to shine in this overstuffed ensemble film.

The plot, action and comedy are all passable, with nothing terrible or excellent enough to be worth mentioning. Ultimately, there’s not much to say about “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.” It’s enough fun that I do want to see more “Ghostbusters” films, but it’s also flawed enough that the franchise could very well fizzle out.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is currently playing in theaters

Janie Walenda is a junior Global Business major and an A&E editor for Cedars. She is overly passionate about animation, caffeine and weirdly enough Dracula.

Images courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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