Don’t call them: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ is so flat that it manages to make Paul Rudd unlikable

When a film manages to make Paul Rudd unlikable and squirm-inducing, you have a major problem.

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania was terrible, but Rudd wasn’t unwatchable; the film was a trainwreck because of everything going on around him. But in Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, you just sort of want him to shut up.

That’s one of the many problems making this movie a big nothing-burger—yet again indicating that they just need to stop making Ghostbusters movies. The sequel to the original in 1989 stunk. The reboot with Kristen Wiig was a disaster. Ghostbusters: Afterlife, in 2021, was just sort of useless and flat, and Frozen Empire is even worse—flat, uninteresting and, most distressingly, monumentally unfunny.

Remember how Ghostbusters (1984) was a comedy? Remember how it was so brilliant, in part, because it didn’t really take its science seriously? How everything the protagonists pulled off was part of a big joke, and everybody was in on it?

To say the franchise has lost its way would be an understatement. Actually, to even call this a franchise is a little nutty. Ghostbusters should’ve been a one-time thing. Bill Murray wanted nothing to do with the franchise after the first one. He’s participated in all of them, but you can tell he’s in a special kind of pain. Lord knows, watching these films causes a special kind of pain.

This one has something to do with yet another ancient entity—one with the ability to scare you to death by freezing you. Ancient artifacts, a roster of uninteresting characters played by the likes of Patton Oswalt and Kumail Nanjiani, and the old New York City firehouse being occupied by the family of the late Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are the things writer-director Gil Kenan and co-writer Jason Reitman have thrown together to try to extend this mess for another film.

The Spenglers now include Rudd’s Gary Grooberson as a stepdad figure, romantically involved with Callie (Carrie Coon) and trying to mentor Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) as they inexplicably have taken up the chore of ghostbusting in Manhattan. They don’t make any money; they live in the old firehouse now owned by Winston (Ernie Hudson); and they occasionally seek advice from Ray (Dan Aykroyd).

Aykroyd and Hudson have slightly bigger roles than they did in Afterlife, while Murray has, again, what counts as a glorified cameo. Murray’s performance here says it all. He obviously doesn’t care that there is a movie being made around him; he’s simply accepted a paycheck, and the magic is gone. He’s tired and uninteresting.

A bunch of plot threads, including one involving Phoebe and a new ghost friend (Emily Alyn Lind), pad the running time to take Frozen Empire to its two-hour running time, which feels more like four. Rudd reduces himself into a whiny, shamelessly mugging character who lacks any real purpose. He was supposed to be the comedic anchor for these movies. Heck, he was actually funny in the preview trailer—but the funny stuff didn’t make it into the final cut. In the final movie, he’s just a bland plot device.

There’s no happiness in seeing the OG Ghostbusters teaming with the new folks. Either make a film about the OG Ghostbusters and go all in on the old guys, or make it about the newbies, with a new story. The last two films prove you can’t have both.

Bill Murray was right: Ghostbusters should’ve never been sequelized. It’s not meant to be a franchise. After decades of wishing otherwise, I’m finally giving in and admitting that it seems to be hopeless: This so-called franchise sucks.

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