REVIEW: Ghostbusters - brain-busting and all rather dull

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (12A), (115 mins), Cineworld Cinemas
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (contributed pic)Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (contributed pic)
Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (contributed pic)

There really aren’t many films that have been stronger in the sequel. Mamma Mia probably. Paddington certainly. Otherwise, it’s been generally diminishing returns when films spring to life again. Sadly, with the latest in the Ghostbusters franchise, those returns have dwindled to virtually nothing.

The first film – and can it really be 40 years ago? – was what they would probably now call event cinema, a high-impact movie which genuinely offered something strikingly different. Suffused with wit and invention, it sent you out into the night thinking that yes, you really had seen something. This time round, you sit there waiting for the credits.

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The return of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire really ought to have given the film some sort of lift. It doesn’t, and in a way it makes it worse. They wander through the movie as ghosts from a far superior film – ghosts that really have been busted.

Perhaps the greatest mistake in the new film – and probably one rooted in its supremely convoluted plot – is its near total lack of menace. This is precisely the kind of film that needs to be driven by jeopardy. There isn’t any. At least not for the first 90 minutes. And then New York City freezes over, and finally the film picks up the pace for a final 20 minutes which is just about OK. Frankly by then, though, it’s difficult to be terribly interested. This is a film which takes far, far too long to go nowhere terribly much in particular.

We’ve got the younger gang and we’ve got the older gang, but there’s precious little connection between them – despite the threat they are supposedly all facing.

The gist is that the Ghostbusters are in trouble. Dashing round New York trying to catch ghosts, they smash up the place far too much. The cops are on their case, wanting to shut down their old fire station base. Other things are stirring too. More than a century before a whole room of people were frozen to death by a demon who’s about to re-emerge. Apparently the demon was in an orb which was guarded by someone’s grandmother. And then he isn’t. And now we are all in trouble… except there really isn’t much sign of it. More noticeable is some pretty rank acting. It’s weird how two performances in particular could have made it this far – off-set just a little by some nice work by Mckenna Grace as daughter Phoebe Spengler, the rebel in the pack, a young girl who gets more than a little distracted by a deceitful ghost who latches on to her. The hope is that she can undo the trouble she unwittingly causes.

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But otherwise, you’re just left baffled by a film which promised so much but which is so profoundly lacking in any kind of forward momentum and in which so many special effects amount to so very little in the end. It’s a terrible thing to say, but the fact is Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, for all the millions of dollars thrown at it, is actually really pretty dull. There’s a little boost when we finally get the famous song right at the end. Maybe it should have been thrown in right at the start for old time’s sake. But really, who you gonna call? No, probably not Ghostbusters…

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