Ghostbusters: Afterlife

The 1984 Ghostbusters is one of my favorite films of all time. I remember seeing it in the theater downtown with my friends. My friend Darin made the “They go up” joke about the stairs before Bill Murray did. I’ve rewatched it a ton of times and love it every time.

Now, the sequels and reboots have not been as great, although I do believe that Ghostbusters 2 is better than people remember. It is not up to the first film, for sure, but if you are not comparing it to the original, Ghostbusters 2 is not bad. I also did not hate the 2016 Ghostbuster reboot that received so much hate for the sin of casting a whole team of female Ghostbusters that it barely had a chance. It was okay.

So when the announcement came about a new Ghostbusters movie, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I was happy, but cautious. Then the pandemic pushed the film back several times and there were moments when it seemed as if we would never see the new film, a sequel to the original films, set in the 1984 universe.

I am happy to announce that Ghostbusters: Afterlife, directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the first two Ghostbusters movies, Ivan Reitman, is a lot of fun and takes the series in a new direction while showing love to the original film and the characters from within it.

Life has been hard for Callie (Carrie Coon), as she is having money problems and faces eviction. She then discovered that her father, who had deserted her when she was but an infant, had passed away and left her an old, spooky house in Oklahoma. Callie packed up her son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and headed for the small town in Oklahoma.

Turned out that Callie’s father was Egon Spengler and he had apparently deserted his friends and family and retreated to this farm where nothing ever grew, a place where people around town called his the Dirt Farmer. Although, as it always was with Egon, there was more to what was happening than we saw, and supernatural occurrences once again began to occur.

Phoebe went to summer school, where she met teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) and they hit it off over the strange happenings of earthquakes in a city where there should not be earthquakes. Gary was also a fan of the 80s Ghostbusters and geeked out over a ghost trap that Phoebe had discovered in her grandpa’s house.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife felt like the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the Ghostbusters franchise. There are several beats that are similar or homages to the original Ghostbusters movie. tweaked just a little with the new cast of kids that are now involved. There are plenty of returning things/story elements in Afterlife, which I thought might bother me, but honestly felt nicely organic in its uses.

Mckenna Grace absolutely carries the new film on her shoulders. Her Phoebe is a wonderful character, the outcast girl who has trouble making friends but loves the ways of science. She could have easily been a cliché but the film takes it time introducing us to Phoebe, her quirks and her personality. Later in the movie, you totally believe in every minute of her story because you care so much about her.

I also loved her new friend, Podcast (Logan Kim), who is making his feature film debut, and he does a tremendous job. He is very funny and works with Phoebe beautifully.

Finn Wolfhard was fine too, but he was honestly the one who had the least to do as Phoebe’s older brother Trevor. He does maximize his screen time and does what he can to build his character. He has some chemistry with Celeste O’Connor, playing on screen potential girlfriend Lucky. They do not get enough time together to really focus the film around them, but Afterlife does not push them to the forefront.

I loved the Paul Rudd character in the first half of the film, but he becomes a stand in for the Rick Moranis role.

This was an example of the film trying to recreate too much of the same beats as the first film. There are some things that I don’t mind about reusing the ideas, but this almost felt like Paul Rudd doing an imitation of Rick Moranis, and that betrayed the interesting character that he was at the beginning.

The tone of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is somewhat different than the original. This played more serious in many ways, with less straight up comedic bits as the first one did. I did not mind that either, since there were some solid humor involved. And yes, the dad jokes by Phoebe neve failed to get a sincere laugh out of me.

The final half hour or so was utterly fantastic and surprisingly emotional. I never expected to get misty-eyed in a Ghostbusters movie, but I did experience some “feels” in that third act. Something happened in the third act that could have felt desperate, but worked surprisingly well. No spoilers.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks great, with some fantastic CGI. It is filled with moments that border on nostalgia for the original Ghostbusters film. It has some wonderful moments of fan service that goes extremely well with the story that they were telling.

At this point, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is my second favorite Ghostbusters movie and I hope that there is more of this to come.

4.2 stars

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