Comedy Movie

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Like Slimer shoving snacks in his ravenous maw, “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” tries to cram way too many characters, storylines and iconic images into its two-hour runtime.

Director Gil Kenan’s film does a vaguely better job of balancing the old and the new than its predecessor, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” It finesses the fan service in a way that the 2021 reboot/legacyquel/whatever you want to call it did not, offering familiar images and bits of dialogue in breezier fashion while also moving these characters, and this story, in a slightly different direction.

Kenan (“Monster House,” “A Boy Called Christmas”) takes over directing duties from Jason Reitman, son of the late, legendary Ivan Reitman, director of the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” and to whom this film is dedicated. Kenan and Reitman once again co-wrote the script. There are more laughs to be had here, mostly thanks to Paul Rudd and Patton Oswalt showing up and being their reliably likable selves. But this new series of “Ghostbusters” movies continues to stray far from the scrappy, anarchic vibe of the series’ origins, instead offering weightier emotional stakes and a misplaced reverence for franchise lore.

The remaining stars of the 1984 megahit return in hopes of reminding us of what we loved about that movie as kids. Bill Murray saunters in and makes a few blasé quips as Venkman. Dan Aykroyd spews rapid-fire scientific jargon as Stantz. Ernie Hudson is the voice of reason as Zeddemore, who has established his own high-tech paranormal investigation lab. And it’s a pleasure to see Annie Potts come back as the sweetly sarcastic Janine. Those beloved figures from 40 years ago must share the screen with the descendants of Spengler: Carrie Coon’s Callie, her science-whiz daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), and her perpetually annoyed son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, who barely gets anything to do). Thankfully, “Frozen Empire” refrains from trotting out Hologram Harold Ramis again in the name of shameless tearjerking.

Rudd, whom we previously saw as Oklahoma science teacher Gary Grooberson, has now joined the Spengler family in New York City as fellow Ghostbuster/stepfather figure. They’ve taken over the historic firehouse and are now zooming around in the old Ecto-1, chasing spectral creatures with the new, high-tech gear Phoebe has crafted. The opening chase scene is admittedly a lot of fun, offering genuine thrills as well as sufficiently snappy banter. But the rest of the movie never matches that level of energy or enjoyment.

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