Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire review - "Doesn't touch the original movies but likeable enough"

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire
(Image: © Sony Pictures)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Too many characters and callbacks plus a formulaic plot means Frozen Empire doesn’t touch the original movies, but it’s a likeable-enough brand extension.

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Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) introduced a new ghoul-capturing gang to the franchise that began with Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, and the late Harold Ramis. Now comes the inevitable reboot sequel, co-written by Reitman and Gil Kenan (2015’s Poltergeist), who takes over directorial duties. Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire shifts the action from Oklahoma to the saga’s spiritual home, New York, picking up with the family of Ramis’ dearly departed Egon Spengler.

Callie (Carrie Coon), kids Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and their ex-science teacher Gary (Paul Rudd) are now all living in the firehouse where it all started. Driving that famous converted white hearse, they’re keeping the Big Apple free of ghosts – much to the chagrin of Walter Peck (William Atherton), the ex-Environment Protection Agency rep who is now NY mayor (his appearance being one of many throwbacks to the original movies).

The firehouse’s ghost-containment unit looks like it’s about to break down; but an even bigger issue emerges when a no-hoper named Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) sells a mysterious brass orb to Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz, who’s still running his occult shop. Turns out the orb contains an evil spirit that can seemingly turn things to ice and is just desperate to escape and run amok. Soon Stantz and the Spengler family are joined by old chums Winston Zeddemore (Hudson) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), as Manhattan faces another meltdown.

Pleasing as it is to see so many familiar faces back in action, Frozen Empire’s line-up does become a little unwieldy, with the core cast also joined by Phoebe and Trevor’s friends Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), one-time Ghostbusters receptionist Janine (Annie Potts) - now a fully fledged ’buster, overalls and all - and a new techie, Lars (British comic James Acaster). Classic ghosts Slimer and the shushing librarian also appear, while Emily Alyn Lind (Gossip Girl) pops up as a 16-year-old spirit who makes a connection with Phoebe.  

On the plus side, the script is sharp (Acaster, Rudd, and Nanjiani are all very funny) and the main spectral antagonist, complete with bony fingers, is decidedly creepy. But from its underuse of some of the OG cast to its predictable plot beats, Frozen Empire reaches only a modest level on the excite-o-meter. Still, there are some solid action sequences - notably one where the gang chase a sewer-swerving dragon - making this a watchable, if not essential, series entry. 

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is in US theaters and UK cinemas from March 22. 

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Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.