‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’: Not much left in franchise

After a quick detour to Summerville, Okla., the fifth movie in the Ghostbusters Universe sees the Spengler family back where the story began.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” now playing in theatres, grafts a proton blast of nostalgia to a new supernatural story of tiny Stay Puft Marshmallow Men, Spenglers and an iconic New York City firehouse.

In 2021’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” OG (Original Ghostbuster) Egon Spengler’s daughter Callie (Carrie Coon), her two teenage kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), move to Egon’s abandoned Oklahoma farmhouse. When apocalyptic entity Gozer the Gozerian enters the scene, the family, along with mentor Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) and some familiar faces — Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) — team up to keep the world safe.

This image released by Columbia Pictures shows, from left, Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, James Acaster, Logan Kim and Dan Aykroyd in a scene from “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.” (Jaap Buitendijk/Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

The new film sees Callie, the kids and Grooberson, now Callie’s boyfriend, bustin’ ghosts in New York City. Using Egon’s tools, they zoom through the streets in the classic Ectomobile, and operate out of the firehouse made famous in the first film. Zeddemore now owns the building, which has become dangerously overstuffed with trapped ghosts.

On top of that, when the fast-talking Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani) sells Stantz an ancient orb, it releases Garraka, an ice demon with the power to harness an army of escaped ghosts and trigger a new Ice Age. “The Death Chill,” says Stantz. “Your veins turn onto rivers of ice. Your bones crack. And the last thing you see is your own tear ducts freezing up.”

This image released by Columbia Pictures shows Bill Murray, left, and Paul Rudd from “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.” (Jaap Buitendijk/Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

To stop this “unimaginable evil” the Ghostbusters, old and new, must once again band together.

Another face from the past also resurfaces. Forty years after their first run in, former EPA inspector Walter Peck (William Atherton), is now NYC’s mayor, and still holds a grudge. “The Ghostbusters are finished,” he says.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is busting at the seams, and not just with ghosts. A jumble of old and new characters, mythology and fan service, it’s overstuffed and yet feels lacking.

Aside from Mckenna, Aykroyd and Emily Alyn Lind as Melody, a lonely ghost who befriends Phoebe, none of the other characters make much of an impression, other than looking cool while posing with proton packs. It’s fun to see Hudson in an expanded role, but Murray doesn’t really appear. It’s more like he arrives, leaving a trail of Venkmanesque one-liners in his wake.

This image released by Columbia Pictures shows a scene from “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.” (Columbia Pictures/Sony via AP)

Rudd, Annie Potts and most of the new proton pack slingers, however, all take a backseat to the busy story.

Fans will get a kick out of Slimer’s return, a haunted pizza is funny and the new Ice Demon, for the brief time it occupies the screen, is a creepy and cool addition to the Ghostbusters menagerie of meanies. But the script, penned by director Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman, doesn’t deliver the laughs. There are amusing moments, but the broadly comedic tone established by the classic “Ghostbusters” movies has been replaced by an earnest, nostalgic flavour.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” isn’t exactly a bust, but there isn’t as much life left in the franchise as die-hard fans may have hoped.

2 ½ out of 5 stars

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