In Review: Ghostbusters – Frozen Empire

Review by Tim Robins

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (Even in the trailer!)

After Ghostbusters II, two reboots, and two animated TV series , I don’t know what a Ghostbusters movie is supposed to be any more – and neither do the production team on Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

Forget the haphazard, edgy, throwaway humour of the 1984 original. The Ghostbusters franchise has been remodeled into an easy-on-the-eye adventure, aimed squarely at a family audience. With an overloaded plot, it forgets to include scares, laughs, or a suspenseful storyline. There’s just too much going on. It isn’t even spectacular, with many of the bigger moments already given away in the trailer.

Frozen Empire is a drama of reconciliation between the Spenglers and arriviste Garry Gooberson (Paul Rudd), who’s trying to ingratiate himself with Callie (Carrie Coon), her kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace). The film also integrates the new and returning cast, and the remaining cast of the 1984 original… but not, alas, the 2016 reboot.

Empire magazine went to town trailing the old and new cast

Thrown into this already sprawling cast we get James Acaster as Lars Pinfield, a member of the New York based ghostbusting laboratory, who wears glasses and a blonde quiff, and vaguely resembles Egon in the cartoons. Acaster’s vocal performance, a Micael Caine impression, is distracting. Was his inclusion actually inspired by Taron Egerton’s scally spy in Kingsmen?

The plot sees the Spenglers travel to New York and the famous Ghostbusters HQ firehouse, where the ghost trap has reached capacity and its inhabitants need to be relocated to a bigger facility. Meanwhile, Dr Stantz buys a spooky brass sphere off the shifty and shiftless Nadeem Razmaadi (Kumail Nanjiani). Meanwhile, Phoebe befriends a ghost (Emily Lind) in Central Park. Meanwhile, Trevor hunts down the source of green slime seeping from the FireHouse’s attic containing a sinister force. Meanwhile, Raazmadi learns about his own family history as a ‘firemaster’. Meanwhile, an ancient ice deity, Garaaka, is waiting to reap revenge on humanity.

Meanwhile, I began struggling to remember who is where when the climactic battle arrives. The script manages to keep track of individual character arcs. We are left in no doubt that our heroes are one big happy family, even if this means turning Venkman into a loveable, grandfatherly figure. Try unpacking this movie and what you are mostly left with is a list – and this happens, then this happens, then this happens until that happens.

But the director loses track of his own plot. In a montage we see the Ghostbusters collecting all the brass that they can find in the firehouse, including cutting into the station’s pole and yet, later on, it is fully intact, allowing Raazmadi to slide down it.

Guest stars Nanjiani and Lind are fine, but grab too much attention from the rest of the cast. Their respective backstories contribute to the film’s climax, but getting them there takes a lot of plot machinations and plot jumps that are hard to follow. Still, they fare a lot better than many of the add-on cast, including William Atherton, reprising his role as Walter Peck, and Anne Potts, returning as Janine Melnitz.

Frozen Empire tries hard to be adorable and, in this, it succeeds. The relationship between Ackroyd’s Dr Stanz and ‘Podcast’ (Logan Kim) is particularly fun. The pair run a YouTube channel, “Repossessed”, that ruthlessly tests family heirlooms for supernatural forces. McKenna Grace, Phoebe, successfully carries a lot of the film on her shoulders, being the connection between the Ghostbusters, her ghostly chess partner and the ice thing.

Then there are the Staypuffettes – miniature, possessed doughboys that once were the manifestation of the god Gozer the deDestructor, but are now teeny tiny comic relief. (Why a supposed comedy needs comic relief is a bit of a mystery).

I don’t know whether Ghostbusters was ever intended to be family entertainment in the old-school Disney live action sense, but it certainly is now. Personally, kids would be better off hunting down old action figures and creating their own adventures. There is nothing so dark as a young teen’s sense of humour and imagining parents hearing cries of “this man has no dick! – or “that’s what I’ve been told” is hilarious in itself.

Tim Robins

• Ghostbusters – Frozen Empire is in cinemas now

Ghostbusters – Frozen Empire gear on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

Categories: Features, Film, Other Worlds, Reviews

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