wed 17/04/2024

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire review - a modest, well-meant return | reviews, news & interviews

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire review - a modest, well-meant return

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire review - a modest, well-meant return

Comic juice runs low for the stretched '80s franchise, which settles for amiable warmth

OGs on the run: Janine (Annie Potts), Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray (Dan Ackroyd) and Winston (Ernie Hudson)

Who you going to call? Five films into the Ghostbusters franchise, every persuadable survivor from the ’84 original, plus the ad hoc, Paul Rudd-led Spengler clan introduced in the series-reviving Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021). The low-key, humane, borderline dull result bears little tonal relation to that bombastic founding film.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire inevitably ups the ante from the slow-burning Afterlife, with the Spenglers relocated from Oklahoma to the old Ghostbusters’ firehouse base, and an early, careening Manhattan ghost-hunt. Old bureaucratic nemesis Walter Peck (William Atherton), now mayor, again tries to shut them down, while OG Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) funds the Paranormal Research Center, experimenting on possessed Spin Doctors CDs and other ghost ephemera with ‘80s-style tech. Ray (Dan Ackroyd) runs an occult bookshop, where he’s handed an orb imprisoning an ancient demon, Garraka, by Nadeem (The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani), the comically venal, slacker grandson of its late Persian captor. Upon his escape, this pre-Sumerian monster’s new Ice Age starts in the piquant setting of Coney Island.Ghostbusters gang in Ghostbusters Frozen KingdomJason Reitman directed and co-wrote Afterlife, staying on as writing partner to Gil Kenan who now directs, and keeping his regular cinematographer Eric Steelberg. His previous successes – Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult, Tully – favoured acidly funny Diablo Cody scripts and sharply intelligent actresses such as Charlize Theron and Vera Farmiga. Afterlife, too, took a naturalistic tone, showing up the glossy, high-concept ‘80s comedies his Ghostbusters director dad Ivan specialised in, and the cinematic clunkiness, too, of most of the decade’s Saturday Night Live star vehicles, with Harold Lamis and Dan Ackroyd’s Ghostbusters script a rare pinnacle.

Reitman Junior therefore abandoned the frenetic zaniness and Reagan-era urban grunge of dad’s film for a Midwest family romantic comedy in which Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon), the estranged daughter of Egon (Ramis), brought her misfit Chicago kids Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) back to the old homestead, where she was hesitantly romanced by scientist Gary (Rudd). The final reel’s averted ghost apocalypse and reunion with Ackroyd and Bill Murray sprang from this initial, modest warmth.

Where Carrie Coon’s Callie carried Afterlife’s emotional weight, reopening her middle-aged heart as daughter and lover, McKenna Grace, pictured below, now 17 and with an impressive and challenging child actor and screenwriter resumé, does so as a wholesome, intelligent rebel teen who Reitman might have relished outside this franchise. Intimations of young lesbian romance across the ectoplasmic tracks with hip young ghost Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), who meets cute playing nocturnal park chess, is Frozen Empire’s most intriguing move. Melody’s smoky tendrils and matchbook, from a tenement fire which also killed her parents, also shade an otherwise sunny script.Phoebe( Mckenna Grace) in Ghostbusters Frozen KingdomThe septuagenarian originals keep it canonical, but are visibly running out of gas. Bill Murray’s minimal involvement includes one worthy set-piece, a leading question-heavy interrogation of Nadeem (“Would you prefer sacrificed children skin-on, or skinless?”), but Nanjiani gives fresher comic juice.

Like most commercial cinema now, this latest sequel to a less than classic summer hit from 40 years ago serves adult audiences reluctant to let go of their childhoods. The Real Ghostbusters’ long-running cartoon, comics and video games have a lot to do with its endurance and lore, but like Star Wars, there’s little narrative, thematic or in this case comic substance.

Maybe due to Reitman’s backseat role, Frozen Empire has less genuine charm than its predecessor and, following Afterlife’s modest box-office success, may finish this revenant series. It’s not very funny, frightening, exciting or ambitious, and visually flat, New York here a dull metropolis with a corporate, high-rise skyline, gentrified to death. There is something kindly and well-meant in its script and performances, though, a lack of cynicism starting with the cast, which makes it amiably involving.

The septuagenarian originals keep it canonical, but are visibly running out of gas

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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