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Film Review: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

FILM REVIEW
GHOST BUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE
Rated PG-13
115 Minutes
Released March 22nd

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman. Kenan also directed the movie, and Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, the director of the original Ghostbusters, which came out forty years ago in 1984 and was and remains a classic that almost everyone has seen at least once. This new film is dedicated to the elder Reitman, who passed away in 2022. For my purposes here, I’ll call the original Ghostbusters “the OG” because I’m going to do some comparing. 

The story in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is centered around a family that is made up of the descendants of the late “Dr. Egon Spengler,” who was played by the late Harold Ramis in the OG. This is a realistic family unit, not your impossibly perfect family. Some of the characters from the OG are brought back into the new story, including Ernie Hudson as “Winston Zeddemore,” Annie Potts as “Janine Melnitz,” Bill Murray as “Dr. Peter Venkman,” and Dan Aykroyd as “Dr. Raymond Stantz.” 

These actors sadly seem to have only peripheral roles in the story, however. There are also some new characters who are memorable. Kumail Nanjani, as “Nadeem Razmaadi,” is a great “innocent” who gets wrapped up in this ghostly mystery completely by surprise. He has the best comedic timing and expressions in the film. Also notable is Patton Oswalt, who brings great energy to the new role of “Dr. Hubert Wartzki.” The relationship between teen “Phoebe Spengler” and a young ghost the same age, played beautifully by Emily Alyn Lind, is touching, but most of this story and its characters seem to splat out in all directions as if spewed from the “Slimer.”

There are some great scenes, though the movie lacks a thread tying the story together and is also missing an underscoring comedic style. As I recall from watching the OG 40 years ago, there was a constant fun, sarcastic banter between the characters and action that drew laughs every moment. This Ghostbusters is fun, and there are some excellent creative passages, but it doesn’t stick close enough to reality to make it almost plausible, as did the OG. What made the OG a classic was that it created its own universe, which was eerily adjacent to real life. It wasn’t about monsters or evil empires, popular ideas that the new Ghostbusters seem to have been compelled to add. The other ingredients of the OG that were nearly impossible to match were the music of legendary composer Elmer Bernstein and the visuals of the great Laszlo Kovacs, not to mention a gloriously original idea.

Comparisons aside, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is fun, the kids at my screening had a good time, and the movie has had a successful box office so far. It has all the elements of a popular film: a family, hot young stars, nostalgic original stars, and a typically formulated blockbuster name with a colon “Frozen Empire.” But it doesn’t have the charm or originality of the OG. I would like to have seen more ghosts and less over-the-top monsters. After all, it is supposed to be about GHOSTBusters.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

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