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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire – A Failed Stewardship

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is a film that held great promise. It was coming off a successful reboot of a beloved franchise. It reunited everyone who made the first one so successful, and it followed a similar structure of Ghostbusters 2, which made me feel like we should be getting, if not a great movie, at least a fun one. Instead, what we were given was a boring movie that felt like it was lazily made and lacked any emotional connections or any reason to care about what was happening. That’s not even the worst of it. The worst thing about Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire is that it’s a comedy that is not funny.

Even though I wasn’t a part of making this film, the fingerprints of a studio movie by committee are all over the final version of it. I don’t know how much power director Gil Kenan had on set. He was one of the screenwriters, and he also wrote the screenplay for Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I don’t know how much control (or demands) the studio had on the project, but the lack of focus, the lack of direction, and the lack of humor only suggest that it was a lot.

I don’t really want to get into a rehashing of the mess that this movie was. I walked out of the theater after it was over just feeling kind of “meh” about it. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. My first impulse was to give it a C-rating. But then my daughter and I recorded our podcast about it, which incidentally drops on Tuesday at 8 am Pacific. Click here if you want to check it out. As we discussed the film and I thought about it more, I began to get kind of angry. Ghostbusters, while not the greatest franchise of all time, is still a beloved franchise from the 80s. I was a teenager when the first Ghostbusters movie came out, and the original and its sequel were staples of my early movie-watching fandom.  The reboot from two years ago put the franchise on the verge of finding a new audience with this generation and presented itself with the rare opportunity to have a literal passing of the torch from the previous generation’s cast to the new generation’s cast.

And they utterly botched it.

The current stewards of the franchise derailed any momentum that was generated from the first movie by clinging to the nostalgia that helped propel Afterlife to being a hit. I can only guess that the test audiences who watched the film gave the highest scores to the scenes that brought back the surviving original cast members Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson. So instead of handing the reigns to current superstar Paul Rudd and up-and-coming stars Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace, they force-fed us more Akroyd, Murray, and Hudson, along with adding some Annie Potts and William Atherton. To be kind, they all look tired.

There were many frustrating things about this movie. They wasted Wolfhard’s Trevor. He literally has nothing to do in the movie, and the subplot of him trying to prove that he’s man enough to take care of himself goes nowhere. Paul Rudd’s Gary is equally impotent as a man trying to fill in as the father for the teenage children of his new wife. The filmmakers did nothing but bring surface-level attention to it. You can tell that Rudd is trying to give a good performance but knows he has little to nothing to work with. McKenna Grace gives what can best be described as a bored performance. She is a terrific young actress who must have been directed to bring no emotion to this performance because that appears to be what she gave.

This was a film in which the filmmakers threw a bunch of crap against the wall to see what would stick, and nothing did. As stewards of this beloved franchise, they have failed. They have taken what was a promising start and completely derailed it by not letting filmmakers make a good film.

This was a bungled mess and fans of this franchise deserved better.

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