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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Movie Review

 By Paul Rudoff on Mar. 25, 2024 at 11:00 AM , Categories: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

This will be a SPOILER-FILLED REVIEW of Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire. If you still haven't seen the film and are avoiding spoilers, don't read any further. Now that you've been sufficiently warned, let's continue...

[ PLOT SUMMARY ]

After discovering her family heritage in Summerville, Oklahoma, Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) move to the old firehouse in Manhattan, New York that was formerly the headquarters of the Ghostbusters. Along with Callie's boyfriend Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), the Spenglers restart the family ghostbusting business, much to the chagrin of Mayor Walter Peck (William Atherton), an old nemesis of the original Ghostbusters. Family friend "Podcast" (Logan Kim) and original Ghostbuster Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) broadcast an internet show called "Repossessed" out of Ray's old bookstore, where they examine artifacts for possible paranormal possession. Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani) brings in a brass orb that houses an ancient evil, Garraka, whom Dr. Hubert Wartzki (Patton Oswalt) warns will command an army of ghosts; such as those housed in the old containment unit in the firehouse basement. Growing pains are felt among the Spengler family, with 15-year-old Phoebe and 18-year-old Trevor both wanting to be treated like adults. The dysfunctional family dynamic leads both youngsters to make new friends. Phoebe meets Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), a spirit she plays chess with in the park; while Trevor has encounters with Slimer, a gluttonous ghost living in the firehouse attic. The Spenglers, father figure Gary, "Podcast", Nadeem, original Ghostbuster Ray, Ghostbusters Engineer Corps lead Lars Pinfield (James Acaster) and intern Lucky Domingo (Celeste O'Connor), and the returning team of Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), all join together to stop Garraka from using his Death Chill to fulfill the prophesy of bringing about a second Ice Age.

The movie has been rated PG-13 for supernatural action/violence, language and suggestive references.

[ SPOILER-FILLED THOUGHTS ]

Okay, here's the deal. I typed up a bunch of quick notes, but I don't really have it in me to try to get this to all flow together nicely as a standard article. Why should I even bother since, in 2024, written content isn't considered as important as videos and podcasts. So, I'm just going to bullet-point this somewhat randomly. Consider this a list of thoughts, opinions, observations, and nitpicks.

All of the trailers and TV spots showed too much of the movie. If you watched them all, don't expect too many surprises. Hell, one of the spots even showed the final shot of the film!

The movie opens with a prologue set in the early 1900s, which is followed by the title screen, where the name has reverted back to "Ghost Busters" as two words stacked on top of each other, with "Frozen Empire" underneath as two side-by-side words. I'm pretty sure that arranging the words like that is a graphic design faux pas. Also, I thought that since Ghostbusters II, it's officially "Ghostbusters", not "Ghost Busters". I never liked the two stacked words because it looks very "formatted to fit this screen", and not "widescreen theatrical". For decades, IMDB listed the original film as two words because of that stacked on-screen title. I wonder if IMDB will do the same for Frozen Empire.

No reason is given as to why Callie decided to move from the farmhouse in Summerville to the firehouse in Manhattan. Yes, I know it's "to be Ghostbusters", but it's not like New York is the only place that has ghosts. Muncher is still out there in Summerville, as are the Miner, Fire Ghost, Bug Eye, and all of the other spirits that came out of the Shandor Mines. We also never learn what became of the farmhouse. Did Callie sell it? Is it a secondary residence to escape those frigid cold New York winters...or summers, given the events of Frozen Empire?

We are still never told "Podcast"'s real name.  To still call him "Podcast" is Feig levels of stupid.

The movie settles a stupid debate among fans after Afterlife came out. Yes, Ghostbusters II is canon, as are a few real-world things. That segment with NY1 newsanchor Pat Kiernan put a smile on my face. Pat also played himself in Feig's film, which is supposed to take place in an alternate universe. So, are there two Pats out there, or is Pat the thread that ties the prime universe and the Feig universe together? Will we see Jillian Holtzmann in the next Ghostbusters movie featuring the Spengler family?

A few times, Phoebe goes off by herself to play chess in a public park at night. The first time this happened, it came completely out of nowhere and just seemed totally illogical. Why would someone with the intelligence of Phoebe think it wise to go into an empty public park in New York City in the middle of the night? Why would she want to play chess - a game that requires two people - by herself? I guess Phoebe really wanted to meet Olivia Benson.

The relationship between Phoebe and Melody reminds me of Kat (Christina Ricci) and Casper in the 1995 film Casper, which featured a cameo by Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz. Has the reference come back full circle? I wonder if Melody's previous friend was a little boy named Cole Sear.

Unlike Afterlife, there were only five songs listed in the end credits: "Ghostbusters Original Themes" by Elmer Bernstein, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr., "Home on the Range" (Gary and Ray quote it), "Love is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia (played in the diner), and "Melao" by CaiNo x JUN R.O.T.S (usage unknown). Not much there to put together a "secret soundtrack" with, as none of these songs (aside from the Bernstein themes) appear on the official score/soundtrack album. Also interesting to note that the Atarashii Gakko song isn't there, even though they were at the NYC premiere. I wonder if it was used during the end credits of the Japanese version of the movie.

Walter Peck is back, and he's now the Mayor. How he achieved this high government position is never explained. His role was actually pretty minimal - he's not a major antagonist - and was one of the parts I liked most about the film.

The Mini Pufts are back, but serve no purpose to the story. They're there for a few sight gags, but mainly they exist for merchandising and marketing purposes. They usage to show the effects of the orb could have been accomplished by adding some new ghosts to the movie in their place. This movie needed more ghosts.

The Slimer & Trevor scenes are reminiscent of the Ghostbusters II deleted Louis & Slimer scenes. The scene where Trevor sets out a trap covered in Cheetos in an attempt to catch Slimer is a direct homage to a deleted scene where Louis set out a trap with fried chicken pieces hanging above it in an attempt to catch Slimer.

Pukey, and his "ectoprojecting" ability, feels like a reference to Feig's film. I guess Gertrude Aldridge isn't the only vomiting ghost out there now.

The Library Ghost is a cameo whose entire appearance was seen in the trailers and TV spots. Sony never should have showed any footage of her and left her as a complete surprise. At least Sony, to my knowledge, didn't spoiler the other cameo at the library, though it was so oddly placed. It happened outside the library, but it should have happened inside. Why was that person waiting outside?

In fact, ALL of the ghosts in the movie were shown in the trailers and TV spots. There was not a single new entity that was left as a surprise. So, when Garraka unleashes every ghost from the containment unit (as spoiled by the trailers), if you were expecting to see the Scoleri Brothers, you will be disappointed.

The Slimer and Library Ghost special effects were physical, yet looked fake. I think it's because they were inserted digitally instead of optically, like in 1984. Optical insertion diffuses the image a little bit, which made them both look more ghostly in the original film.

While those effects didn't do much for me, I have to say that this film features some of the best green screen work I have ever seen. At no point would you have realized that the cast never shot one single scene in New York City. (A second unit crew with stunt doubles shot the Sewer Dragon chase and all of the background footage that was inserted behind the cast.) Afterlife featured some green screen shots that looked fake, such as close-ups of Phoebe in the gunner seat during the Muncher chase. Here, the blending of the filmed footage with the backgrounds was absolutely seamless.

Much like how Ghostbusters II cribs the story structure of Ghostbusters, there are a few parallels between Frozen Empire and Afterlife. A family member helps Phoebe steady her aim while firing the Proton Pack. Phoebe and friends get in trouble with the law, and get taken to a police station. While there, Phoebe acts defiant against an authority figure. A ghost dissipates as it crosses over to the other side at the end. I'm sure there are more parallels; these are just the ones that stuck out most to me.

Lucky now has a fascination with sex dungeons. I always loved that girl... wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more :-)

A common shot in the various trailers and TV spots shows the firehouse freezing over. In some trailers, this shot has the No Ghost logo, lights, and doors on the building. In other trailers, those accoutrements are missing. Matthew Jordan thought the latter version was "unfinished". Well, I can report that in the movie, there is no sign, lights, or doors in that shot. They were added for the trailer (and promotional photo) because out-of-context, people would wonder why they were missing.

One of the major issues I had with Afterlife was the overuse of Elmer Bernstein's music. That issue is carried over to Frozen Empire, though not as severely. While the Afterlife score was 90% Bernstein, it seems that composer Dario Marianelli's Frozen Empire score is only 65% Bernstein. Aside from a brief nostalgia moment or two, it shouldn't have even been that high. Randy Edelman created a completely original score for the second film, as did Theodore Shapiro for Fieg's film, so why does Rob Simonsen and Dario Marianelli have to take so much from Bernstein?

Too many of the moments with the original cast felt forced and unnatural. Some of their dialog was a bit groan-inducing. Although it's not as bad as Afterlife, it still feels a bit like "bad fan fiction". The movie didn't even need all of the original cast. Peter and Janine could have been cut out of Frozen Empire and it wouldn't have affected the plot one bit. Perhaps when the franchise moves past the need to bring everyone back, it can truly feel like its own thing and stand on its own legs.

The trailers made it seem like the death chill was going to be epic, freezing all of New York. Instead, the movie focused on just what happens at the firehouse. We never see Mayor Peck deal with the crisis, or any of the citizens around NY freezing. It never truly felt like an end of the world event.

Yes, the movie ends with the dedication that you expect. Also, there is a mid-credit scene (a stand-alone bit of humor), but no post-credit scene.

In the end credits, I saw a credit for the puppeteer of Garraka, but I saw no credit for the voice of Garraka. I wonder if his voice, or that of Slimer, might have been an uncredited cameo by Jason Reitman; mirroring his father's uncredited voice work in the original film.  I also wonder if that was Gil Kenan's voice heard near the end calling Peck "dickless". These just seem like perfect places for director and writer cameos. (UPDATE - Turns out I was almost correct. Gil voiced Garraka, as he confirmed to Brooklyn Magazine.)

When they were making the original film, Ivan and crew were worried that audiences would not believe a giant marshmallow man. Well, that is now one of the most believable elements in the entire franchise.

Director Gil Kenan and actor Kumail Nanjiani both have stated that The Real Ghostbusters animated series was a point of reference for the movie. Kumail stated that "the filmmakers wanted to make a long episode of the animated series". Well, I can definitely confirm that Frozen Empire has more in common with The Real Ghostbusters than it does the original Ghostbusters movie. This movie is very over-the-top and cartoony, especially the Nadeem character, played by Kumail. Near the end of the movie, Nadeem exhibits special powers that would feel more appropriate for the worlds of Avatar the Last Airbender and Street Fighter than Ghostbusters. If you watch the original 1984 film, and then this one right after, it will illustrate how far this franchise has swung in a vastly different direction.

Despite its flaws, some of which I just ran down, it is an improvement over Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It still feels a bit like "bad fan fiction", and Nadeem's special power doesn't belong in a live-action Ghostbusters film (it is more fitting for a cartoon), but it's still a fun bit of entertainment.

If you still have not purchased tickets to see Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, do so now. If you'd rather wait a few months and buy it on physical media, pre-order listings have just gone live at Amazon: Standard 4K/Blu-ray, Steelbook 4K/Blu-ray (Parkas in Front of Firehouse), Blu-ray/DVD, and DVD.

There will also be sets containing Afterlife and Frozen Empire: 4K/Blu-ray with Ice Mold, Blu-ray, and DVD.

Walmart has a few exclusives: Steelbook Blu-ray/DVD (Pop Art-ish Style), and 4K/Blu-Ray with Skateboard.

6 comments

Comment from: Tyler [Visitor]

Hi Paul,

I felt lukewarm about this film. Ghostbusters as it stands now is a almost a complete farcry from what it once was. Although I didn’t really hate this film. It just could have been better.

I will say though, from what I remember, Podcast tells Phoebe that his parents thinks he’s at Space Camp. His parents actually do call and he has to fake that he’s there and plays a recording. They don’t know he’s with the Ghostbusters.

As for Phoebe playing chess in the park (yeah, that was not very bright), that was another callback to Afterlife. I think she was hoping to contact Egon again and when her Ghost Friend showed up, you could see she was disappointed as that is not who she was expecting. That’s what it looked like to me.

On a personal note: thank you for archiving all of this Ghostbusters History. This is one of the first fan sites I ever visited and still continues to be. It is a tremendous resource of information and little known facts about the franchise. Thank you for all that you do. It is very much appreciated sir!

Mar. 25, 2024 @ 17:34
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks for the kind words, Tyler.

Good point about Podcast and Space Camp. I completely forgot about that, but now that you reminded me, it does ring a bell. I removed that part of the review.

Yeah, I think I would much rather have a theatrical animated Real Ghostbusters film.

- Paul

Mar. 25, 2024 @ 18:55
Comment from: Tyler [Visitor]

You’re welcome Paul. My pleasure.

Mar. 26, 2024 @ 00:37
Comment from: Wesley Skelly [Visitor]

• The Mini Pufts are back, but serve no purpose to the story.

They are used the illustrate how the orb is effecting other ghosts

• A common shot in the various trailers and TV spots shows the firehouse freezing over. In some trailers, this shot has the No Ghost logo, lights, and doors on the building. In other trailers, those accoutrements are missing. Matthew Jordan thought the latter version was “unfinished". Well, I can report that in the movie, there is no sign, lights, or doors in that shot. They were added for the trailer (and promotional photo) to deceive people.

Not to deceive but to show it’s the ghostbusters fire house. A for the trailer version if you will.

Mar. 26, 2024 @ 01:58
Comment from: PEDRO [Visitor]

I have to disagree with you on it being like an episode of the animated series. It visually had nothing to do with the animated series. Overall good points though.

Apr. 1, 2024 @ 20:19
Comment from: Aggy [Visitor]  

The problem with Frozen Empire is simple: then new actors (Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon,Finn Wolfhard) lack the comedic energy of originlal cast (when they were young/middle aged). The new guys are simply unfunny, Rudd is simply pathetic trying to be funny…

Mckenna Grace plays it all deadly serious and her scenes looks like from totally different movie. But she’s not very good either. She looks like an overgrown child actress, who is too old to play like a liitle innocent girl.

Aykroyd is ok as always, but also a bit too serious.

The best performances here ware from Murray and Kumail Nanjiani. At least they understand IT IS A COMEDY.

The original GHOSTBUSTERS have their own tone. The were never copycats of GOONIES or STAND BY ME. They were never LGBT version of CASPER.

Apr. 3, 2024 @ 03:58

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