Review: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire


Can I just level with everyone for a minute? So far, I’ve seen well over a dozen movies this year and most of them have been varying degrees of bad. Some of them have been boring and dull. Others were just confusing. Then there were films that I had expectations for that were completely and utterly deflated. I’m pretty certain that there’s going to be a dry spell of poor movies for the next several months and the light at the end of my tunnel is Furiosa because it certainly isn’t Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

Maybe I’ve become more bitter over the past several months, but it just seems like most new movies aren’t doing anything for me. There were plenty of films last November and December that I simply loved. It’s just that most, if not every movie I’ve seen so far this year has had at least one fatal flaw that made me turn away completely from them, and yes I’m even including Dune Part II and Love Lies Bleeding. Fight me.

But what happens if you have a movie that contains only fatal flaws? What if every minute of a film comes across as a complete waste of time that manages to test my patience, roll my eyes, and make me nearly fall asleep in the theater? Well, then you’d have Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, a movie that dares to ask if you can make a movie more soulless than the corpses the spirits of this movie came from.


Ghostbusters: Frozen Kingdom
Director: Gil Kenan
Release Date: March 22, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

Set a few years after the events of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Frozen Empire follows the Spengler family, and I guess Paul Rudd, who have moved to New York City to restart the family business of ghost hunting. They quickly get the ire of Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton), who is still a stick in the mud and argues that Phoebe Spengler (McKenna Grace) shouldn’t be a Ghostbuster since she’s a minor. So with the familial drama established, we also have to set up the obligatory ghostly baddie for the villain, which comes in the form of an orb that is delivered to Ray Stanz’s (Dan Aykroyd) store. The orb contains an ancient spirit named Garraka who has the ability to freeze anything to death, but this drama is dragged out for so long and involves so many different plotlines that you just don’t care by the end of it.

For a movie that isn’t even 2 hours long, I find it so frustrating when a movie like Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire tries to stuff as much content inside of it as possible. It’s something that has become an increasing problem in movies set in major franchises as they feel compelled to check in with all corners of its universe to try to either appease fans or set up potential spin-offs and sequels. Here, nearly every minor character from the previous movie makes an appearance, including Celeste O’Connor’s Lucky and Logan Kim’s Podcast. Do you not remember who they were? They were minor characters in Afterlife that helped establish what life was like out in Oklahoma and show how its isolating environment was vastly different from the hustle and bustle of NYC. They do absolutely nothing here and their inclusion within Frozen Empire is the definition of forced.

In fact, let’s just talk about the setting quickly. I know that a lot of people have become more negative towards Ghostbusters: Afterlife and its appropriation of imagery and beats from earlier entries in the franchise, including a CG ghost of Harold Ramis, and its overreliance on fanservice, but at the very least its radical shift in setting and characters offered a new perspective on the series that was worth examining. Even the 2016 film, which was lambasted on release for starring an all-female cast and potentially giving the male viewers cooties, tried to explore different dynamics and comedy that weren’t present in the original films. It wasn’t successful, but at least it tried to be different.

The cast of Ghostbusters Frozen Empire examines the orb Garraka is sealed in

Copyright: Sony

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is rote and trite. All of the major plot developments, when they do happen, seem to only exist to pander to both old and new fans. Again, while you can argue that seeing the original Ghostbusters pop up in Afterlife served as a passing of the torch to a new generation, there’s no reason for them to still be around. Outside of Ernie Hudson, who has become the financial backer for the Spengler family’s tenure as the Ghostbusters, there’s no reason for Aykroyd, Bill Murray, or Annie Potts to reprise their roles here. You can easily tell that Bill Murray is just here for the paycheck, spouting off a few quips and then disappearing for most of the film. I’m not excited when they pop up here. I’m underwhelmed because this new era of Ghostbusters films is trying to pull the same trick twice. There’s a scene midway through the film where Ernie Hudson espouses how he and the rest of the original Ghostbusters should be enjoying their golden years and not involved in any of this crap, and I can’t help but feel that’s a subtle jab at how even the writers know that their inclusion is pointless.

The film is split somewhat evenly between following Phoebe and her response to being sidelined by her parents due to her age and trying to discover what the purpose of the orb is. None of that tension and drama are effective though because we know exactly how the film is going to play out. Frozen Empire sidelines Phoebe for most of the film, so of course she’s going to come back at the end and save the day. We know the orb has an evil ghost in it, so all of the scenes featuring the characters bumbling around trying to learn more about it feel like padding. There’s no sense of urgency to what’s happening. It all occurs at a glacial pace that will make you wonder when the hell the Ghostbusters are actually going to bust a ghost. You better enjoy a weird side plot where Phoebe becomes friends with a ghost or have fun following the exploits of Kumail Nanjiani’s slacker reseller who learns he’s a fire-bender that will somehow be important in the climax.

The cast of the film is simply too large with too many subplots and beats happening in between them. No time is really dedicated to one person outside of Phoebe, and even then most of her scenes are undercut by how little she has to do. She mostly just mopes and putzes around doing whatever she can to occupy herself. Paul Rudd is trying to learn how to be a good stepfather for two scenes, while everyone else doesn’t have a meaningful character arc. They just exist for comedic schtick, which isn’t exactly great when all of these scenes are rarely funny. One of the continuing gags is how Finn Wolfhard is trying to capture Slimer but fails and keeps getting slimed, but it’s not a funny running gag because the punchline is never satisfying.

Fin Wolfhard gets slimed on in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Copyright: Sony

Speaking of the comedy, it’s undercooked, to say the least. Most of the humor is self-deprecating and surrounds Nanjiani’s character, which does wonders for undercutting the tension when things actually do get serious in the film’s climax. Then you have Paul Rudd who incessantly makes Ghostbusters references, mostly due to his status as the resident Ghostbuster fan, but they’re not even jokes. He quotes the theme song and says “Busting makes me feel good” and that’s it. Joke complete. It feels like no one cared at all when they were making Frozen Empire and everyone was just on autopilot. The only thing the film has going for it is nostalgia, but those moments that should be impactful don’t land because we saw all of them in the last film, which already went overboard on nostalgic imagery and references.

I admit, I’ve never been the biggest Ghostbusters fan, but the majority of Frozen Empire just feels hollow. Each film before it had some sense of energy and life to it where you could tell everyone in the cast either had fun with what they were doing or cared about the final product. Not so here. Much like Madame Web, this is a clear attempt to try to revitalize the Ghostbusters brand into a major franchise with spin-offs and sequels but gives the viewers no reason why they would want to engage with it. Name recognition and familiar faces can only go so far. You need to have action, comedy, meaningful characters, a strong plot, and cinematography that will make you remember the film. Frozen Empire has none of that. Sony has once again proven they have no idea what it wants to do with its franchises and should frankly stop trying to make movie franchises whatsoever. The company clearly can’t handle it.




Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire has nothing worth engaging with and is a 115 minute film explaining why the franchise needs to be put to rest for good. It won't happen, but wishful thinking is nice.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.