MOVIE REVIEW: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” stars McKenna Grace (Gifted, Troop Zero), Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, Avengers: Infinity War), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things [TV series], It ), Logan Kim, Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Celeste O’Connor (Freaky, Irreplaceable You), Annie Potts (Toy Story 4, Pretty in Pink), Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Tommy Boy), Bill Murray (Rushmore, The Monuments Men), Ernie Hudson (The Family Business [TV series], The Crow), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash , Being the Ricardos), and Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Avatar). It is directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), who also wrote the screenplay with Gil Kenan (A Boy Called Christmas).
A single mom (Grace) and her kids move into a creepy manor in a small, desolate town after it is willed to her by her recently deceased father, who apparently was a Ghostbuster.
Thank goodness we were given a direct sequel of the original films, as opposed to another off-shoot (I have still yet to see the 2016 “Ghostbusters,” and will be just dandy to never bear witness to it). Do we need sequels? No. But in this case, with the original director/producer’s son Jason Reitman taking the helm, I am at least at ease with where this could go.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is not what you would expect it to be. The fun, creepy thrills that entertained us in the first two outings have been re-engineered to fit a more serious, family dramedy tone. There’s still humor, but “Afterlife” is very much a feature made for modern auteur audiences. One that would rather see these stories in a less gothic, 80’s view, and more so a “Stranger Things” kids-are-alright lens.
I enjoyed the picture. Plain and simple. The story has immense heart behind it (all paying tribute to the late great Harold Ramis) and a new cast of characters who entertain. Its narrative is small, as is the town it takes place in (which has a great aesthetic, by the way). We follow a few kids as they try to navigate life with their single mom, only to discover that their grandfather was indeed a Ghostbuster; Egon Spengler, that is. It’s a slow-burn film, as we unravel what Spengler left behind and what became of the Ghostbusters as a whole. The villains are that of the original 1984 “Ghostbusters” (fit with Gozer and the demon dogs), which feels like a retread for sure, but at the very least the lore of this realm is explored a little more.
What’s most surprising about “Afterlife” is it doesn’t feel anything like a “Ghostbusters” movie, but rather a family drama. The characters that make up the story are interesting, with the focal character being Phoebe (Grace), the youngest Spengler kid. She has a nifty, nerdy look to her, and the journey she takes in fitting in with her family (particularly her grandfather she never knew about) is a good one. I liked how it correlated with her mom, who had an even more broken relationship with Egon. The way this family has been affected by the absent Ghostbuster bled into the main theme of togetherness and forgiveness, all of which did enough to melt my heart by the film’s conclusion. Clearly, Reitman set out to make something respectful to the original. His dad Ivan Reitman (who recently passed away) oversaw this production as producer, adding all the more to the bloodline and heart that made the 80’s classics so iconic. Sure, “Afterlife” doesn’t measure up to the original, but its homage and respect to its predecessor is one to be admired.
I loved the look of this feature. The cinematography and backdrop of it all is very cool, and when you throw in a beat-up Ghostbusters vehicle that drives through tall countryside grass, you’ve got me even more hooked. It’s a beautiful looking movie with a small enough cast to make it personal. Finn Wolfhard and Paul Rudd are the bigger names that take the screen (besides the juggernaut cameos), and they do a solid job all in all. My favorite is McKenna Grace, but Wolfhard pulls off the “care less” teen attitude well and Paul Rudd does what Paul Rudd does best (his scene at Walmart is quite humorous). All in all, its a good core group of people; though they did remind me how much I missed the O.G. Ghosbusters when they showed up at the end (which can’t be a spoiler at this point).
By its end, I looked back on “Afterlife” fondly. It’s a love letter to this franchise without trying to be them. Is that the right approach? For the most part. They do repeat a few elements to mixed results. I wish the villains were different and certain story elements weren’t rehashed, but at the very least they changed up the placement of everything (setting it at an old mining shaft, with a weird throwaway cameo by J.K. Simmons). And while I would’ve liked some Ghostbusters shenanigans and wit, I’m glad that they didn’t step on any toes with what they set out to do. I’d rather these new characters have their own struggles and obstacles than fit the mold that Spengler, Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddemore left behind. It makes for better storytelling, and gives something to past and present generations to enjoy. If you are concerned about this one, don’t be. Reitman and his team to the Ghostbusters justice. FINAL SCORE: 86%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: