Life & Culture

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, review: This icy kingdom certainly left me cold


Partners in glacial crime: Ernie Hudson (left) and Bill Murray

Ghostbusters:Frozen Empire

Reviewed by John Nathan 

In the week a long-running movie franchise is reported to have selected Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the next Bond, another franchise revealed what happens when formula film-making is continually reheated like an old-fashioned recipe. It is not the taste that becomes stale, it is the very idea.

And so it is that like a mushroom vol-au-vent a rush of nostalgia can only take you so far with this latest iteration of the Ghostbusters franchise.

This fifth instalment follows (or repeats) the Paul Rudd-led 2021 version (strapline Afterlife) that itself followed the all-female reboot (Answer The Call). That one became the target of a good deal of online trolling from, one assumes, middle-aged men who wished everything they loved about the 40-year-old first movie could live on for ever.

They at least won’t be disappointed. Dan Ackroyd is back and so is Bill Murray, who is a good enough reason to see most things he is in. But Murray fans don’t rush. He is barely there.

The plot is all Ackroyd’s. His Ray Santz is now a retired paranormal expert who keeps his hand in as a haunted objet d’art dealer. One day he is sold a mysterious sphere by the feckless descendant of an ancient Ghostbusting sect (a very funny Kumail Nanjiani) who would rather hawk his grandmother’s trinkets than honour the heritage into which he was born. Redemption beckons.

The orb is, of course, a gene lamp-like prison incarcerating the baddest demon of all. This one can turn a summer’s day into depths of winter with a windchill that can freeze a dragon’s nasal hair.

Stranger than the demon, however, is that Rudd and Cathy Coon as head of the Spengler family of Ghostbusters generate almost no chemistry at all. Thankfully their brilliant but grounded daughter Phoebe played by the excellent Mckenna Grace has an enjoyable subplot in which she strikes up a friendship with teen ghost Melody (Emily Alyn Lind) who died in fire at the age of 16. There are conflict of interest issues.

There is fun to be had here particularly in the company of Ackroyd. However, Murray delivers the kind of cameo that happens when bored actors perform while playing mental Sudoku. As for the special effects the demon is an outsized Nosferatu, only less scary. Shards of ice impressively shoot out of the ground as his cold front makes its way over Coney Island, scattering bikini-clad bathers as it advances. But like them Frozen Empire will likely leave you cold.

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