Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on March 20, 2024 in / No Comments

 

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireThis new batch of Ghostbusters films has a wonderful way of making you grin like a goofy idiot, from the opening frames to the final credits. In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, co-writer Gil Kenan takes the directorial reins from fellow co-writer Jason Reitman and, for better and worse, doesn’t deviate much from the blueprint of Ghostbusters: Afterlife (also written by Kenan and Reitman). Both of these films have a gentle manner about them, as if still easing older franchise fans into this new era, steering clear from the offensive with the objective of keeping followers emotionally attached and spellbound by the story it tells.

In the case of these two sequels, I’ll take it, especially as both are anchored by Mckenna Grace’s endearing performances. Throughout the 40 years of the Ghostbusters franchise’s existence, there hasn’t been a character who’s rooted us so deeply into the lore as Grace’s Phoebe Spengler, granddaughter of Ghostbusters co-founder Egon (Harold Ramis). Within these two films, Grace and her character have given us a precious and precocious hold on the humanity of this series. Even though the original cast – Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts – welcomed us into the Ghostbusters world, they always felt more like caricatures, broadly painted with the humor of the era in which they were created.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireHaving a talented actor like Grace allowing us to perceive these events through Phoebe’s slightly off-kilter persona and mannerisms gives us more to appreciate how absurd, wonderful, dangerous, and bewildering this life can be, both as someone living in the world and as a fledgling paranormal combatant. Phoebe’s not only challenged as a Ghostbuster here, but also faced with the hell of being a teenager who’s found her passion and being denied the chance to pursue it. Thanks to Walter Peck (William Atherton) – yup, Mister “Dickless” himself, having risen from a lowly Environmental Protection Agency inspector to becoming the Mayor of New York City – Phoebe’s been sidelined after the film’s opening scene-setting ghost chase.

The previous film gets recapped quickly in this sequence, reacclimating us with Phoebe’s mother Callie (Carrie Coon), brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and former science teacher (and Callie’s romantic partner) Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) in their new NYC post out of Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8. Now living and working in the old Ghostbusters headquarters, this family-plus-one has adjusted well to their new digs and jobs, joined by Phoebe’s friends Podcast (Logan Kim) and original Ghostbuster Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) across the way at Ray’s Occult Books, where the two host a YouTube channel examining objects for psychokinetic energy (PKE). It’s here where Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) brings in a brass sphere, seen ominously in the film’s cold open; we don’t know what it is, except that Ray’s PKE meter goes off the charts during his inspection.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpirePhilanthropist and former Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore (Hudson) has been parlaying his wealth into a paranormal research lab, where the sphere is taken and examined; we’re also reintroduced to Trevor’s friend Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), likewise transplanted from Oklahoma and now working at this lab alongside Lars (James Acaster). One of their projects: a new containment unit designed to replace the old one, now starting to show signs of massive wear and tear. (You’d have seen it coming if you stayed past the credits of Afterlife.) Kenan and Reitman’s Fast & Furious approach of bringing every possible permutation of the gang back together again is completed with the further involvement of former Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz (Potts), whose acerbic delivery hasn’t softened since we met her forty years ago.

It doesn’t take long for Nadeem’s sphere to start causing trouble, provoking the series-standard history reveal and how it ties to Nadeem’s heritage. The standard Ghostbusters mechanics are all at play here; it’s exciting and largely follows the similar action beats and comedic patterns the series is known for. Crowd favorite Patton Oswalt throws his delighted hands into the fray as a New York City Librarian helping the team find the answers they need. Also a series newcomer, Kumail Nanjiani positively shimmers in his comedic role as some rando schmuck selling off his grandmother’s knickknacks for ever-increasing amounts of money. Both of them are brimming with energy, like they can’t believe they’re getting to be part of the Ghostbusters legend, and they don’t waste a second of their time.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireBut these comedic adornments and the flashy action are all in service of Phoebe’s journey. She’s alone now as she ever was; Trevor and Lucky are reunited, Podcast is off doing podcast things with Dr. Ray, and her mom and Greg – like, euuugghhhh – leaving her on her own to deal with her frustration at being kicked off the team. Hoping to reconnect with her grandfather, she sets up pieces at a chess table at Washington Square Park, and the pieces start to move, just like in the previous film… only to show that it’s a teenage ghost who’s stuck on this side, wanting to see her family again. Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) becomes the friend Phoebe so sorely needs at this emotionally disruptive time, actually listening to her and being with her, something that her family doesn’t even do. It’s heartwarming to see Phoebe being comfortable with herself, but it’s also heart-wrenching to see the extent she’ll go to keep this relationship – to me, it seems deeper than “just friends” – going.

The growing pains of the teenage years have seldom been put under a magnifying glass with this much solemnity. Usually, characters are written broadly to appeal to as many audience members as possible, and most films will be satisfied with that. Here, Phoebe’s dealing with a very specific kind of pain; it’s somewhere between being treated as less-than with knowing that you’re more-than, knowing that you don’t fit in with everyone else, and finding one person who takes the time to “get” you but not being able to share physical space with them. Everything’s been put out of reach for her, and when she takes the chance to cross the boundaries and grab hold, all hell breaks loose.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Frozen EmpireThis is Phoebe’s movie all the way, even amid the proton pack blasts and the threat of an unknown Big Bad bearing down on them like a nor’easter. No one carries the emotional weight or stakes Phoebe’s made to carry, and Mckenna Grace nails her role beautifully, giving 100% natural feeling to Phoebe and her circumstances. Sure, the action, cameos, jokes, and references to the other films will, no doubt, have fans pepping up with mirth and keep them in the game, but Grace elevates this film beyond just being a normal sequel. Gil Kenan wisely focuses on Phoebe and ties her path inexorably with the film’s plot, merging the two for maximum emotional impact and high-flying action.

Rated PG-13 by the MPA for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references. Contains a mid-credits scene. Running time: 115 minutes. Released by Sony Pictures Releasing and Columbia Pictures.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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