New Ghostbusters is fun but over-complicated

It’s been 40 years since Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters combined irreverent comedy with special effects-heavy blockbuster thrills, and since then there have been numerous attempts to recreate its blend of sarcasm, sincerity, scruffiness and spookiness. In 1989, there was Reitman’s so-so sequel, Ghostbusters II; in 2016, there was Paul Feig’s reviled all-female reboot; in 2021, there was a legacy sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was directed by Reitman’s son, Jason Reitman; and now there’s a sequel to that sequel, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, which is co-written by Reitman Jr and directed by Gil Kenan. In some ways, it feels closer to a proper Ghostbusters film than any of the other reboots and sequels so far.

One key factor is the setting. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was set in rural Oklahoma, where a science teacher named Gary (Paul Rudd) met Callie (Carrie Coon), the daughter of one of the founding Ghostbusters, Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis). Together with her two teenage children (Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace), they brought the Ghostbusting business back from the dead.

This time, Kenan and Reitman have made the wise decision to return the franchise to New York where it belongs: even better, Gary and the Spenglers have relocated to the converted fire station which the first Ghostbusters used as their headquarters, and which is still haunted by a certain slimy spectre. The new generation is also up against the disapproving bureaucrat, Walter Peck (William Atherton) from the 1984 film, but they end up with a more fearsome adversary, an ancient demon that has been trapped in an enchanted brass ball for thousands of years and which, inevitably, won’t be trapped there for much longer.

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