Arts and Entertainment

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire—A Refreshingly-Hilarious Reboot

In spite of some writing flaws, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a hilarious watch with a wonderfully talented cast.

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The fifth and most recent movie in the Ghostbusters series, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024), is a comedic sci-fi film with well-executed character relationships and an extremely talented cast of actors. While the movie still has its shortcomings, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire helps show that the Ghostbusters franchise is not to be left in the past.

The film follows the Spengler family as they face one of their most serious threats yet: an ancient, ghostly superpower. In its prequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the Spenglers lived in a small town in Oklahoma; however, in Frozen Empire, the Spenglers have returned to the iconic Ghostbusters firehouse. While ghostbusting, the Spenglers and their friends come across an ancient relic that appears to contain an immense ghostly power. All while battling their own familial conflicts, the Spenglers and friends attempt to uncover what lies inside the ancient relic—that is, until the power within releases itself and the crew is left to fend for the rest of New York City. 

A major failure of this film is its clunky transition from Afterlife. There is no explanation given as to how the Spengler family made it back to the city, let alone the rest of the cast. This is especially problematic as it goes against the initial characterization of the Spenglers as a family struggling with their finances. Additionally, the pacing of Frozen Empire was inconsistent at best, as the majority of the film was spent building up to the final battle, making the film’s climax feel disappointing. That being said, this uneven pacing can be partially forgiven, as much of the buildup was spent developing the characters from Afterlife as they each grew into their new familial roles or, in some cases, into adults.

A character who struggles with maturing into an adult is Trevor Spengler (Finn Wolfhard), who grapples with a fear of ghostbusting on his own. Trevor—among others in the film—overcomes his personal challenge unexpectedly, resulting in viewer confusion and the characters seeming one-dimensional. On the other hand, Trevor’s sister, Phoebe Spengler (Mckenna Grace) sees the most exploration in her development as the teenage daughter of the Spengler family who has a passion for ghostbusting. Throughout the film, Phoebe has numerous solo scenes within which her feelings of loneliness and frustration over her lack of autonomy are expressed. The inclusion of these scenes contextualizes her future actions and makes her more relatable to the audience.

One unique plot point of Frozen Empire is its portrayal of the struggles associated with assimilating into a pre-established family dynamic. This can be seen in Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), who attempts to find his own place as a stepfather within the Spengler family. Such a struggle is hard to find within popular culture, and Frozen Empire’s choice to include this discord is not only refreshing but also shows the creators’ dedication to character writing.

Featuring famous names like Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt, the acting in this movie is very impressive. Rudd demonstrates the high standard for acting perfectly; in one instance, he is able to expertly perform the apprehensiveness of a new stepfather while maintaining the image that his character truly has the best intentions for the family, a quality that not only propels the narrative but also helps viewers become emotionally invested in the film. 

Not all actors were able to achieve this deep connection to the character, however, such as Kumail Nanjiani, who played Nadeem. While Nanjiani had perfect comedic timing, it was difficult to picture his character as anything but the stereotypical “funny guy,” as Nanjiani failed to depict any motivators for Nadeem other than genuinely having no care in the world. Though the depth amongst the actors was variable, each actor was able to deliver their jokes expertly, helping lighten the mood when the film began to grow too scary or tense. 

Despite being the newest addition to the Ghostbusters filmography, this film establishes a nostalgic feeling through its usage of the original Ghostbusters theme song by Ray Parker Jr. While this might be expected of the series, Ghostbusters (2016) suffers as a result of using a cover of this song instead of the original. Apart from the theme song, however, the musical elements of the film are satisfactory in facilitating audiences’ emotional responses but are not particularly noteworthy. On the other hand, Frozen Empire also skillfully uses iconic locations throughout New York City, such as the famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Library between 40th and 42nd Streets. This not only clearly establishes the setting but also places Ghostbusters among classically “New York” films, instilling a comforting feeling for viewers.  

Overall, despite being a comedy movie, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is able to stand out from the crowd thanks to its incredible cast and successful comedic touches. Unlike some other films within its genre, the production team of Frozen Empire has ensured, through their expert comedy skills, that the film remains effortlessly funny and easy to enjoy. While its comedy helps brighten an otherwise deep film, it does not detract from one of the film’s most admirable aspects: its portrayal of families. Whether or not one is a fan of the Ghostbusters franchise or if they are a first-time viewer simply looking to be entertained, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is definitely worth watching.