It’s been five years since the most serious of Ghostbuster fans were afraid they’d have to proclaim the franchise’s time of death after Paul Feig misfired with his reboot.
But now, what do you know? There’s a new Ghostbusters movie from Jason Reitman, the son of the original film’s director Ivan Reitman.
This five-year turn around is a record for a series that couldn’t conjure up a third movie for thirty years, and even better still, this new installment is in the right hands – or the most deserving anyway.
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest Ghostbusters gatekeeper, but I knew I had to go and see Afterlife once all the hype reached a zenith where everyone with an objective brain, and others too who don’t dump on the 2016 version, had nothing but good things to say.
Can so many folks on so many different sides be wrong? I submit they aren’t, as I also believe Sony has truly returned to square one and successfully redeemed the franchise with Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
A Plot Back From The Dead
32 years after the events of Ghostbusters II, Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids move out to the small town of Summerville, having inherited property from her father, who just to be Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) of the once-famous Ghostbusters.
However, after having helped save New York in the 80s, Spengler spent the last few years of his life trying to stave off a resurgence of evil spirits in Middle America.
Inevitably, Egon’s young and precocious granddaughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace) starts looking into his past and, along with learning of the Ghostbusters’ past exploits and discovering all his dusty tech, uncovers what her grandpa had been obsessed with in the years prior to his death: he found Gozer’s fallback resting place in a mountain outside of Summerville.
Eventually, Phoebe’s investigation drags her mom, brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), friend Podcast (Logan Kim), and teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) into the fight against evil, in the process birthing the next generation of Ghostbusters and leading them to team-up with the original band.
Don’t Cross The Streams
While Ghostbusters: Afterlife manages to find a balance of old and new, landing on its feet to some earned cheers, it still does a few questionable things along the way.
My biggest issue is for this film’s premise to work, the OG Ghostbusters have to fracture and refrain from speaking to each other for decades. Though this idea reflects reality and the friction between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray, it stretches one’s suspension of disbelief to have the characters of Venkman, Stantz, and Zeddimore not believe Egon about a coming apocalypse – especially after all they’ve been through.
The same idea was present in Ghostbusters 2, it only went so far, and here it feels lazy. It’s too easy to say they self-destructed, and not because of Venkman’s ego or because one of them went AWOL for any given reason.
The other problem is the kids show too much of a natural aptitude for using all of their devices. Some supernatural aid is required in them finding the traps and getting the Ecto-1 running again, yet before you know it they are off hunting malevolent spirits.
As such, it’s obvious the film’s writers, Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman, had to skip some things and get other stuff out of the way to give us what we all came for.
Shock Of The New
And it’s not all more of the same. Jason Reitman manages to add a few new elements to the stew, not the least of which is Gozer’s big underground temple.
First off is the new ghost creature known as Muncher, who, while effectively a replacement for Slimer, has his moments.
He’s been called out for not being as cool or interesting as Slimer, but the original green ghost was never all that interesting either until the cartoons. In films, he was just a gag and never a sidekick or pet.
Even Stranger Things Afoot
However, not all of the film’s gags rely so heavily on visual effects. Rudd as Summer school teacher and tectonics enthusiast Mr. Gruberson is a very entertaining addition to cast, with the caveat that the ageless Rudd does another fine rendition of himself as Ant-Man (The Baskin-Robbins product placement kind of drives that connection home).
Unfortunately for him, his tried-and-true formula isn’t what the movie is built around or where it excels, nor is it centered on the kid from Stranger Things like you might think.
The real heart of the story is Egon’s granddaughter, Phoebe. Grace really steps up here to transform herself, effectively becoming the character with all her smarts and snarkiness. She’s shown promise before in the Conjuring and Annabelle movies, but this might be her breakout performance. And while I can definitely see people saying Phoebe is another case of a “stunning and brave” girl who looks like a nonbinary tomboy, I urge everyone to give her a chance.
Our Ghostly Verdict
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a crowd pleaser and, like Dune before it, adapts and expands on its source universe without deforming it or wagging the finger at its audience over some contrived peccadillo
By the end, I’d hope you remember what you love about Ghostbusters so much. I did, because as you’ll see, they’re still ready and willing to believe you.
- Pure nostalgia
- Builds on series lore without reinventing the wheel
- Enjoyable Easter Eggs, including the mini Stay-Puft Men (who are getting more flak than they deserve)
- The kids master the Ecto-1 and the Proton Packs without much help in short order
- The Ghostbusters wouldn't have drifted apart from Egon that easily (but that's just my opinion)