Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire: 3 stars out of 4

I genuinely enjoyed “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” back in 2021, both as a continuation of the franchise and as a tribute to original cast member Harold Ramis. At the same time, the film made it clear that another key cast member was MIA: New York City.

The Oklahoma setting for “Afterlife” was fun, but it also demonstrated how important New York City was to the Ghostbusters aesthetic. The upbeat, wise-cracking urban setting, which seemed to meld 80s proto hip-hop with a classic “New York, New York” Sinatra-style vibe, provided an unmistakable backdrop for the paranormal comedy. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the original “Ghostbusters” probably acted as my default image of New York City until I finally visited myself in 2012.

All of this is preface to good news: “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is far from a perfect film, and even farther from the best Ghostbusters film. But it returns the franchise to New York, and that makes a big difference.

“Frozen Empire” picks up sometime after the events of “Afterlife,” which saw the original ghost-hunting crew pass the mantle to the surviving family of their dearly-deceased founding member, Egon Spengler (Ramis). So Spengler’s daughter Callie (Carrie Coon), his grandson Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and his granddaughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) have relocated to the Big Apple, along with Phoebe’s former science teacher Gary (Paul Rudd)—now romantically attached to Callie.

They’ve purchased the old Hook and Ladder 8 fire station the original Ghostbusters used back in the 80s, and have been busy reviving the old days as they chase the spirits around town. But despite the group’s history of saving the world multiple times, their destructive tendencies and a familiar adversary in the mayor’s office have kept the crew stuck somewhere between heroes and pariahs.

The plot gets going when original Ghostbuster Ray (Dan Akyroyd) discovers a mysterious orb through his business researching paranormal objects. The orb contains a Gozer-like baddie, and once freed, New York finds itself in paranormal peril one more time.

Overall, the basic formula is intact, and some character issues with Phoebe—whose age makes her both the youngest Ghostbuster and the one least legally allowed to operate a proton pack—play out parallel to the orb story. The results probably won’t surprise anyone, but as a somewhat episodic installment of the franchise, “Frozen Empire” does the job.

Fans will be happy to see the return of lots of familiar faces, including Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, though the beloved characters are acting in predictable supporting roles to the new crew. Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz is the most consistent character, which will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Stanz character, or with Akyroyd, who’s paranormal passions are well-documented.

Paired with some solid effects, the familiar faces and nods to the past make “Frozen Empire” feel welcome if not ground-breaking. The aforementioned New York vibe helps a lot, as well as periodic nods to the original 1984 soundtrack.

Sad to say, “Frozen Empire” may not leave longtime fans desperate for the next movie, at least not in the way the recent “Dune” sequel has, but it isn’t the kind of film that will fuel the fires of Internet vitriol. “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” just feels happy to be here, and fans should generally share the same sentiment.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” is rated PG-13 for various CGI scares, scattered profanity, and comic violence.

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