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  • Tyler Harlow

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Starring: Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Celeste O'Connor, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, James Acaster, Emily Alyn Lind, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, William Atherton

Director: Gil Kenan

Based on the 1984 Film "Ghostbusters" written by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis

Since the events that transpired at her father's farm, Callie Spengler (Coon) has moved with her kids Phoebe (Grace) and Trevor (Wolfhard) to New York to continue the family business of Ghostbustin'. Also along is her boyfriend Gary (Rudd), who has taken to not only his new job as a Ghostbuster, but as a surrogate father. After a mission goes horribly wrong and leaves the city a wreck, Mayor Peck (Atherton) finally sees his chance to shut them down for good and Phoebe finds herself sidelined as a Ghostbuster. After Ray Stanz (Aykroyd) purchases a mysterious and ancient orb from Nadeem (Kanjiani), a mysterious force is unleashed on the city that threatens to put everything the team has built on ice.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was a surprise hit of 2021, with Director Jason Reitman stepping behind the camera to direct the newest installment of the franchise his father Ivan made famous in the 80's. Able to capture the nostalgia of the original while telling his own emotionally-driven story caught me off-guard. While it was far from perfect, I liked it much better than I was expecting to. It struck the right balance and was able to tell an entertaining story.

Reitman has turned directing duties over to Gil Kenan (Monster House, Poltergeist) and for me that is one of the many missteps this legacy sequel makes. Reitman was able to keep everyone organically involved in the plot while building on the relationships between its young stars and the adults. Kenan isn't able to do that nearly as well. but it can't be fully blamed on him. The script is all over the place and despite running less than two hours, it feels like the movie doesn't know what story it wants to follow and ends up leading to a rushed conclusion.

There is simultaneously nothing and everything happening in the film, often at the same time. The fact that we don't see New York attacked by ice until the last 15 minutes or so should tell you something, especially since it was a focal point of the advertising. Instead, we have characters being sidelined for good portions of the film. Finn Wolfhard literally ends up in a subplot tracking Slimer around the firehouse that has no bearing on the main story, and then he turns up at the end for the finale. Mckenna Grace's Phoebe literally gets forgotten by her family and wanders around the streets of New York City and befriends a ghost played by Emily Alyn Lind. While that subplot actually does have bearing on the story, it takes far too long for the script to get there despite its endgame being telegraphed heavily. It comes off as a little creepy too.

Which brings me to my next disappointing aspect, which is that a lot of supposedly smart characters end up making incredibly dumb decisions. Phoebe's trust of the ghost is one but also Aykroyd's Ray sits on the mysterious orb for far too long. After witnessing it display a massive amount of spectral energy he just casually hands it over to his team to investigate without any sign of worry or urgency. Lock that up and run tests! Don't give it a chance to escape! It's also unfortunate that the ultimate big bad is CGI rather than having an avatar portrayed by a human.

The movie is at its best when it remembers it's a Ghostbusters movie. In fact, the movie opens quite strong with the aforementioned destruction of the city chasing a massive sewer ghost. It's a cool chase sequence where Phoebe gets to ride sidecar while Trevor tries to capture the ghost in a drone-inspired trap. If only the movie had kept up this energy.

The cast is great when the movie decides to focus on them. Paul Rudd is his usual charming self however his relationship with Carrie Coons' Callie doesn't get explored as much as it could have. And of course the actors from the original Ghostbusters make extended cameos. However the real star of the show is Kumail Nanjiani. He brings a lot of the humor to the film and seemingly has chemistry with everyone. I really hope that any future installments include him. Not only does he have a fun arc but he has a couple surprises up his sleeve that could provide a lot of entertainment down the road.

All of this being said, I actually did enjoy watching it. It's far from perfect, follows too many plot tangents and I wish Reitman hadn't relegated himself to just screenwriting duties. But when the movie embraces what it should be, it's a blast.

Grade: C+


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