Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Is an Unapologetic Crowd-Pleaser

It may not have the heart of the 1984 classic, or even 2021’s Afterlife, but ’bustin’ still feels very good.

Inverse Reviews

In the 1984 film Ghostbusters, Dr. Ray Stantz chastises Dr. Peter Venkman for his lack of real-world experience. “You’ve never been out of college,” Stantz says. “You don’t know what it’s like out there... they expect results!” The idea that people like Stantz and Venkman have never done anything resembling real work is a great metaphor for a Ghostbusters sequel. Because the foundation of the beloved franchise already exists, a new film in the series doesn’t have to do any real work to become a crowd-pleaser. If you’re cynical about a lack of original blockbuster movies, then the ghost of Ghostbusters — the new film Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire — might leave you cold.

But because Frozen Empire never pretends to be anything but what it is, it’s probably a waste of time to be too hard on this movie. This sequel didn’t need to exist, but it’s working very hard to make you like it, and only the iciest of hearts won’t crack a smile at least once.

How many Ghostbusters are in this movie? A lot.


Although Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is the fifth Ghostbusters movie overall, it is, in many ways, the second film in a new franchise. As a direct sequel to Afterlife, the movie is very much focused on the Spengler family, with Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe Spengler (granddaughter of Egon) once again taking center stage in the narrative. Now living in Manhattan in the old Ghostbusters firehouse, the ad-hoc family of Spenglers, including Finn Wolfhard as Trevor, Paul Rudd as pseudo-step-dad Gary, and the excellent Carrie Coon as Callie Spengler, are doing their best to rid the city of whatever specters and free-floating vapors happen to slither and slime their way into the city. But just like in Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II, bureaucracy threatens to shut down the fun, and because Phoebe is technically a minor, she’s prevented from doing any actual ghostbusting early on. At its core, the story of the film, like its predecessor, becomes Phoebe’s journey, from benched ’buster to sympathetic friend of a wayward ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) to the ’buster who saves the day again — mostly because she knows a thing or two about metallurgy.

That said, there are a ton of characters in this movie, and analyzing all the subplots involving each of the individual and distinct members of the Ghostbusters team (11 in all??) would take much longer than the movie’s speedy runtime of almost exactly two hours. In some ways, the sheer number of creatures and ghostbusting tech makes you wonder if this shouldn’t have been the pilot episode for an Apple TV+ series. Comedians Patton Oswalt and James Acaster make memorable appearances, but your average moviegoer may not actually remember they were here at all. There’s just so much going on, that it’s hard to linger on any of these folks, and, for those who have analyzed all the trailers, there were certainly several sequences omitted from the final cut of this film.

But what about nostalgia bait? Isn’t that why this movie exists? Well, seeing the surviving ’busters together, including Venkman (Bill Murray), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), and Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), is cute but not as fan service-y as the trailer might make you think. At the risk of making it sound like the Ghostbusters world-building is really convincing, not having these characters appear in this story would have been deeply weird. Like Afterlife in 2021, Frozen Empire adheres to a strange cocktail of playing it very safe and trying to make a movie about characters who are very much not part of the original cast.

Kumail Nanjiani brings the laughs and the charm to Frozen Empire.


The stand-out among the new-ish characters is easily Kumail Nanjiani as Nadeem, a slacker who eventually realizes he’s descended from an ancient kind of Ghostbusters called “Firemasters.” Whenever the movie realizes that Nanjiani is getting bigger laughs than Murray, it’s appealing to its better angels. Whenever callbacks are central to understanding a scene, the movie isn’t exactly giving into horrible demons but merely on autopilot. Paul Rudd’s in-universe Ghostbusters fandom generally helps to bridge this divide, making him the human version of crossing the streams to seal a cross-dimensional rip.

Rudd can’t carry the movie, and Coon can’t either, and neither can any of the legacy actors nor even Nanjiani nor Grace. Instead, despite the most emotional and best-written bits being focused on Phoebe and the Spengler family, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire works because, like the Ghostbusters themselves, it feels like a team effort. There may not be much originality here, but this trip in Ecto-1 is loaded with charm. At the end of the movie, the bureaucratic Walter Peck (William Atherton) again tries to shut the Ghostbusters down, but the cheering crowd basically drowns him out. Critics who hate this movie will be very much like Walter Peck; he may have a point, but he’s also just no damn fun.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire hits theaters on March 22.

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