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Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire

Content Caution



In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya’ gonna call?”

Well, the 1980s commercial told folks to call the Ghostbusters. But lately, the Ghostbusters having been causing even more havoc and mayhem than the ghosts they’re trying to catch.

It’s been three years since the Spengler family (mom Callie, 15-year-old Phoebe, 18-year-old Trevor and stepdad Gary Grooberson) relocated from Oklahoma to New York. They’ve set up shop in the original Ghostbusters headquarters, a derelict firehouse complete with a ghost containment unit in the basement. And they’re answering the calls of New Yorkers in need of supernatural extermination services.

Unfortunately, the proton accelerator backpacks (proton packs for short) capable of capturing other-dimensional souls aren’t so great for this dimension. Yes, the proton streams latch onto wayward spirits; but they also tear through matter, such as brick buildings, glass windows, and, erm, historical stone lions.

Walter Peck (an Environmental Protection Agency inspector who tried to have the original Ghostbusters arrested in the ‘80s) is none too pleased with the current team’s work. He charges the Spenglers with a number of violations—including child labor, since Phoebe is still a minor—threatening to shut them down for good.

Callie and Gary bench Phoebe as a preventative measure. But Phoebe, who’s always been a bit quirky given her love of science and ghost-hunting, isn’t having it. She doesn’t just want to be a Ghostbuster: she believes it’s her calling.

Phoebe begins to act out, disobeying direct orders from her parents and even befriending a teenage ghost named Melody. But her rebellion couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Former Ghostbuster Dr. Ray Stantz has come into possession of a mysterious ball with the highest PKE (psychokinetic energy) reading the Ghostbusters have ever seen. They quickly learn the brass orb contains an evil and ancient spirit called Garraka, whose sole purpose is to escape his tiny prison, raise an army of the dead and send the world into the next Ice Age.

As if that weren’t bad enough, after 40 years of storing ghosts, the Ghostbusters’ ghost containment unit is a bit full. Secretly, other former Ghostbuster Winston Zeddemore has built a bigger, better unit across town. But it’ll take years to transfer all of the spirits. And if Garraka manages to escape first, he could use the trapped souls for his own wicked plot.

The Ghostbusters need Phoebe on their side. Otherwise things are gonna get a bit chilly…

Positive Elements

Much like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Frozen Empire has strong themes surrounding family.

Phoebe is angry with Callie and Gary for making her quit ghostbusting until she’s legally an adult. The teen has always struggled to make friends. And being part of the Ghostbusters not only made her feel connected to her family (her granddad was one of the original Ghostbusters) but it also made her feel like she was fulfilling her purpose.

As the plot unfolds, Phoebe rebels against the decision to pull her from the team, even inadvertently helping Garraka. But eventually, Phoebe realizes that her parents weren’t trying to be mean or even to protect themselves from legal retribution. Rather, their dealings with Peck helped them realize that they were maybe putting Phoebe into the role of an adult instead of letting her be a kid. And they just want her to be able to choose her own path and have a normal teenage experience.

So, instead of blaming her parents for what’s happening, Phoebe learns to take responsibility for her selfish actions. And she embraces her family wholeheartedly, warts and all.

Gary struggles with his new role as a stepdad, especially since he started out as Phoebe and Trevor’s somewhat inept teacher. He awkwardly labels himself their “stepteacher” and says they can call him by his first name if that’s more comfortable. But his inability to discipline the teens, especially Phoebe, exasperates Callie, since it makes her the bad guy.

However, as the film progresses, he and Callie talk through these problems. Callie encourages him to act like a parent. And though there are some tough moments, he learns that being a parent sometimes means that you have to make a decision that your kids won’t like, for their own good. He also encourages Callie to fight for her family’s home when police try to take it away. And by film’s end, Phoebe starts to appreciate Gary’s efforts.

The young ghost Melody, we learn, feels responsible for the deaths of her family, since she lit the match that started the fire that killed them and herself. In her eagerness to see them again in the afterlife, she makes some selfish decisions that put many people in harm’s way. However, when push comes to shove, she makes the right choice to help the Ghostbusters.

Several people act self-sacrificially to save the ones they love. Folks work together to save humanity.

Spiritual Elements

Obviously, this film deals with ghosts and other spiritual entities. And though that’s spiritual backdrop is never addressed from a biblical point of view, there are a few references to the Bible, namely the stories of Samson, Solomon and Moses, which are all treated as mythical.

Essentially though, we’re told spirits remain on Earth because they have “unfinished business.” But if they wrap up those loose ends, they can “move on.” A few people ask what “moving on” means. One person points up, as if to heaven, in a questioning gesture. But the favored theory is that the ghosts’ particles lose their bonds and rejoin the “fabric of the universe.”

We learn ghosts are tethered to the human dimension by emotionally charged objects from when they were still alive (in Melody’s case, the matchbook that started the fire that killed her and her family). The Ghostbusters invent a machine that can separate spirits from physical objects in order to capture them.

Wanting to be closer to Melody, Phoebe uses the spirit separation machine to perform a “ghost walk,” which temporarily turns her into a ghost.

Unfortunately, Garraka (who’s referred to as a god at some points) has the ability to control ghosts. He speaks to them from his brass prison, doling out orders. So when Phoebe becomes a spirit, he’s able to possess her. He also has the ability to create and control ice, which he uses to great turmoil. He causes several tremors. And his grand plan for Earth involves using an army of ghosts to literally scare people to death.

The Ghostbusters learn that Garraka was first imprisoned in the brass orb (a metal reportedly good for trapping evil spirits) centuries ago by the Fire Masters, a group of people with pyrokinetic abilities. And one of their descendants is shocked to discover he can control fire. (In awe, he calls himself a god, but this is played more for humor, and he doesn’t seem to actually hold himself in such high regard.)

Some spiritual entities, such as Melody, look the same as they did in life, albeit in a transparent, glowy sort of way. A few are even cute, like the mini-Stay Puft marshmallow men. But some, such as the Possessor (so named because it can possess any inanimate object), don’t have corporeal forms. And still others are quite monstrous in appearance. Several are part of jump-scare scenes and have a frightening, demonic demeanor that may upset younger or more sensitive viewers.

[Spoiler warning] When Garraka escapes the orb, he appears as a shadowy, skeletal, demonic being with great horns and bluish-white glowing eyes.

Sexual Content

It appears that Phoebe is attracted to Melody as more than a friend (and vice versa). After all, the point of Phoebe performing a ghost walk—which allows her to exist on the same dimensional plane as the spirit—is so she and Melody can touch. In fact, just before Phoebe is possessed by Garraka, it seems as though the two teens are leaning in for a kiss.

Callie and Gary reference having sex, grossing out their kids. Several people joke about a “sex dungeon.” Someone crassly comments on a suggestive picture hanging on a wall. Gary quotes a questionable lyric from the Ghostbusters theme song: “Busting makes me feel good,” and, of course, we hear the song played. There are a few other sexual innuendos throughout the film as well. Someone says the mini marshmallow ghosts may be breeding. A teen boy calls the orb containing Garraka the “devil’s testicle.” People at the beach wear swimsuits.

Violent Content

We’re given an early preview of Garraka’s powers via a flashback to 1904, when the Manhattan Adventurers Society accidentally released the spirit. Firefighters who respond to the emergency call find the adventurers frozen to death—not unsimilar to the effect of liquid nitrogen. One man’s hand, which broke off his body, still turns a phonograph crank. The bodies eventually all shatter into pieces. We see a few other people nearly fall victim to this power (known as the “death chill”) later on.

Garraka uses his powers throughout the film to freeze people and objects. He creates ice spikes that shoot out of the ground (luckily no humans are impaled, but several cars get totaled). And other ghosts are quite destructive, too. They break objects, smash doors and one even sends a few manhole covers flying into traffic.

Unfortunately, the Ghostbusters aren’t much better in terms of the collateral damage they inadvertently unleash. Their proton packs tear through nearly everything in the beams’ path, usually buildings. Luckily, nobody is hurt by the streams, but only just (a Fire Master uses his powers to bend the streams away from some would-be victims when a ghost possesses one of the packs). And this fuels Peck’s desire to shut down the Ghostbusters.

We also have the ghostbusting part. Sure, the ghosts are already dead, so wrapping proton streams around them and shoving them into containers roughly the size of a shoebox probably isn’t doing much damage. But then there’s the miniature Stay Puft marshmallow men. They’re practically indestructible, and they seem to have a penchant for self-harm. (One runs its arm through a pencil sharpener, reducing the limb to goo. Another burns its face with the cigarette lighter of a car.) Podcast, another teenage Ghostbuster, delights in smashing the squishy ghosts with a mallet.

Dr. Peter Venkman (another one of the original Ghostbusters) tries to ascertain if a man has been possessed by a spirit, asking the man questions about killing puppies and eating a child. He then tries to provoke the man to anger, repeatedly hitting him in the face with a pen.

We see car chases and crashes, though nobody is seriously injured. Gary suggests a film about cannibals for family movie night. Melody somewhat nonchalantly discusses the details of her death. (She and her family perished in a fire.) Someone mistakes a human pinky for a rotting carrot.

Crude or Profane Language

There is a single use of the s-word. We hear a few uses each of “a–,” “a–hole,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused twice.

Someone says, “What the fudge?” A man claims to have a recording of a former first lady using the f-word. Phoebe’s parents are shocked after an offscreen encounter in which she evidently uses several foul words.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Peter reveals he hid a bottle of whiskey at the Ghostbusters’ headquarters and cheekily asks if anyone would like some “courage” before a big fight. A man says he quit smoking, and his buddy says he’s proud of him for that.

Other Negative Elements

When Phoebe is benched, her parents encourage her to act like a normal teenager—even to rebel a little. (Though they later admit they meant something akin to getting a tattoo, not starting a ghostly apocalypse.)

Phoebe and Trevor are occasionally rude and disobedient to their parents. The siblings are scolded when they refer to Callie by her first name instead of calling her “Mom.” And Phoebe challenges authority a few times, even getting arrested once.

Some police officers neglect to help the Ghostbusters. Ray parks illegally and barges into a library he’s been banned from. Gary has some ill-advised suggestions for family movie night. The character Podcast lies to his parents that he is at Space Camp when he’s really working with the Ghostbusters. Some folks break into a condemned building.


Ghostbuster: Frozen Empire is the latest in the Ghostbusters franchise, and it’ll likely feel like satisfying fan service for folks familiar with the 1984 classic.

In some ways, this reboot feels a bit more wholesome than the original. That might be because instead of being a story about four single guys, it’s a tale about a family. But don’t be fooled by the teenager-filled cast: Much of the content here still might be a nonstarter for your family.

Like the original, there’s a bit of language to watch out for. Suggestive innuendo is frequent. A possible same-sex romance begins to bud. And, of course, there are demonic, godlike beings trying to end the world as we know it, pretty much from start to finish

So although strong family ties play an important role in this sequel, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire still warrants caution for most families.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.