'Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire' Is Dead Behind the Eyes

Directed by Gil Kenan

Starring Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson

Photo: Jaap Buitendijk

BY Josh KorngutPublished Mar 26, 2024


The latest Ghostbusters adventure gets right to the point, chasing slimy beasts up and down the somehow decongested streets of Manhattan. However, from the word go, there is an obvious lack of soul in this follow-up to the Jason Reitman-helmed 2021 reboot. Some of its ensemble offer serviceable performances, while others are cardboard cutouts left with little to do. And a queer-coded subplot is the film's most exciting aspect, but it predictably disappoints when the subtext never surfaces into text.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire finds the Spengler family from the previous chapter living and operating out of the legendary NYC firehouse while clumsily exterminating ghosts and ghouls from the downtown core. When a routine busting goes awry, 15-year-old Phoebe (McKenna Grace) finds herself removed from her family's force, leading to a relatable bout of depressive teenage disappointment.

In her isolated wallows, Phoebe encounters Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), a lonely teenage ghost who lost her own family in a fire, leaving her floating alone in the city's empty streets. In classic Buffy fashion, the ghost and the ghostbuster have much in common, and an unlikely friendship blossoms. But everyone knows you can't trust a ghost, and Melody soon catalyzes a frosty supernatural event about to bring the city into a new ice age.

While the latest uninspired entry in the dead horse franchise isn't boring, exactly, its storytelling and characters lack the substance to make it interesting. The only two serviceable performances come from Grace's Phoebe and the reliably funny Kumail Nanjiani, who plays an ordinary New York survivalist with a destiny he never could've imagined. Nanjiani subverts expectations when his initially sleazy character finds himself entrenched in a world he doesn't understand but provides him with a newfound purpose. He's also fun to watch, no matter what he's up to. I wish there were more of him on screen.

On the other hand, there's Paul Rudd, who seems to be forced from scene to scene by gunpoint. He comes across as bored and on nice-guy autopilot. But the worst offender here is a stiff and insincere Finn Wolfhard, who reprises his role of Trevor. Thankfully, the editors have left most of his performance on the cutting room floor.

The most fascinating element of the film is Phoebe's newfound friendship with ghost girl Melody. I had my gay gaze focused keenly on these two, and I can say with some confidence that their dynamic is purposefully queer-coded. Longing glances and adorable chemistry between the girls could have been lovely and important, but that's as far as this quarter-baked attempt at representation goes.

A massive movie like Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire was likely never going to have proper queer representation, which I guess is fine, but I resent the filmmakers for their feeble attempt at having their cake and eating it too. We are no longer in the Hays Code era, so either be authentic and brave or don't pander. It's a bad look.

While Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is entertaining enough due to solid performances from Grace and Nanjiani, its flat story and a boring rehash of familiar beats for nostalgia's sake sucks all the life out of this uninspired sequel.

(Sony Pictures)

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