Time is not on nostalgia’s side. There are instances when you can capture lightning in the bottle like with Matt Reeves’ “Planet of the Apes” films. A story that build on the legacy of its inevitable, apocalyptic future while creating a fresh, powerful narrative to fill in the gaps. Then…there’s the “Terminator” franchise. One that has seen at least three different failed reboots, all promising to be a true successor to the original duology. 2016’s “Ghostbusters” at the time seemed to be going the way of the T-800, once formidable but now irrelevant. Sony, however, will not let this property die quietly. Not while there’s a pulse left in this aging cash-cow.
Regardless of the studio’s intentions, director Jason Reitman has made a more than valiant attempt to breathe some life into this 80’s classic. And it lives! It’s hard to be cynical at “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”, even if you came in half-expecting to dismiss the film. This rings especially true if you’re a huge fan of the iconic supernatural comedy.
The film’s plot picks up decades after the end of “Ghostbusers II”, it seems like everyone has moved on with their lives. The attack on New York (because the city seems to be a lightning rod for aliens and monsters) has faded into distant memory. Egon Spengler, though, has not. There’s an old evil in the town of Summerville that the ageing doctor was battling, one that ultimately claimed his life. In the wake of his death, he leaves his old farm to his estranged daughter, Callie and her two kids: Trevor and Phoebe. The two grandchildren along with the help of a kid named Podcast and one, very thirsty science teacher must now uncover Egon’s final secret to save the world. It’s time for them to answer the call!
To be honest, it all follows the standard cookie-cutter procedure of a new generation of heroes discovering the legacy of their predecessors. The story is fairly predictable and simply serves as a vehicle to rush through one exciting action sequence to the next. In spite of its paper-thin plot, we couldn’t help but have a blast with the film because of Reiter and Gil Kenan’s excellent writing. They use every bit of interaction and dialogue to establish characters through humour and wit.
Even if one joke doesn’t quite land, the next one is already being set in motion. There are moments when the characters interact, especially between Phoebe and her hilarious partner, Podcast, that made us feel like we were back in that old firehouse. Hearing Venkman, Spengler and Stanz crack wise. Even when things begin to get hairy, our characters never feel like they have to suddenly become self-serious action heroes. That being said, the film goes to great lengths to capture the warm, parasocial joy of the 80’s, when kids would roam around a spooky town having adventures. We get that the 2020s haven’t exactly been stellar but it’s a bit much at times.
Then, there’s the fan-service. This film was made to tug at the heart-strings of 80’s man-children and it works like a charm. With Harold Ramis’ passing in 2014, the chances of possibly watching the original four come back for one last hurrah seemed to be dashed. Something that “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” addresses with a surprising amount of heart and decorum. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that fans of Ramis and the franchise can finally have some closure on this matter.
While the film does lean into its nostalgia, its more than capable cast members manage to bring fresh, new energy to “Ghostbuster: Afterlife”. Carrie Coon delivers a chuckle-worthy performance as Egon’s quippy, down-on-her luck daughter alongside Finn Wolfhard who plays her equally snarky son, Trevor. The breakout star here, though, is undoubtedly Mckenna Grace as Phoebe. The young actress exercises extraordinary restraint, knowing when to oscillate between being quietly aloof, awkwardly silly and emotionally charged without retreating into stone-wall stoicism or over-the-top histrionics. If she’s the face of future films going forward, then we’ve got high hopes.
We’d also love to see more of Logan Kim and Paul Rudd as well. Kim’s Podcast as Phoebe’s precocious, excited partner in ghostbusting was an absolute delight whenever he was on-screen. While the entry point of their friendship feels a tad rushed, Kim more than makes up for it with his contagious, bubbly personality. Paul Rudd’s Mr Grooberson is essentially Paul Rudd as a school teacher and that’s perfectly fine. He has excellent chemistry with Coon whenever the two characters flirtatiously cross paths.
Now, the original “Ghostbusters” had a tradition of incorporating elements of horror and comedy whenever our heroes encounter spectres. This latest sequel continues the tradition, excelling more in generating exciting and amusing sequences of physical comedy than genuine scares. One particular scene that stuck out to us was this prolonged bit with little marshmallow monsters cooking and killing each other in a million different ways. It was strange, morbid and weirdly adorable. It’s moments like these when “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” reminds us of what made the original so memorable.
The final act however involving the obligatory showdown with the film’s big bad with a ton of CGI effects flying everywhere did take us out of the experience a bit. That being said, it quickly won us back with a rather, tender moment that will no doubt leave some fans in tears. Ending on an incredibly heartfelt tribute that’s pretty cheesy and sickeningly wholesome. Depending on your relationship with the franchise, you may find it a little too sentimental. Nonetheless, we loved it.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” brings the franchise back to glorious, ghoulish life! A love letter to fans of the 80s classic and a fun, frightful ride for newcomers. Animated by wonderful performances by a talented cast of actors and sharp writing, Reiter and company honours the legacy of the film’s predecessor. Hopefully, Sony will be able to have the confidence to take sequels forward in a more independent direction in line with Reiter’s vision. For now, fans rejoice!
You can catch “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” at your local theaters on 2nd December and if you’re looking to get some premium seats, be sure to click here to learn how you can win some free tickets today!
"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" Review
"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" brings the franchise back to glorious, ghoulish life! A love letter to fans of the 80s classic and a fun, frightful ride for newcomers. Animated by wonderful performances by a taleneted cast of actors and sharp writing, Reiter and company honours the legacy of the film's predecessor.
"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" Review