November 29, 2021

Review: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” Revives the Franchise

They should’ve called this one Ghostbusters Nostalgia: remember what you loved about the 1984 original? Here it is again, but slightly different!

Everything about Ghostbusters: Afterlife certainly fits in with that subtitle. Instead of young male physicists, the titular Ghostbusters are and Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Trevor Spengler (Finn Wolfhard), grandchildren of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler, and their friend who is simply named Podcast (Logan Kim). They discover the remnants of the team’s initial iteration, just as a supernatural event begins to rock their small town.

Afterlife is fun, and succeeds in what it endeavors to do. The characters aren’t spectacular and don’t offer anything particularly new to the franchise, but their on-screen interactions make every scene interesting to watch. McKenna Grace, especially, does a wonderful job, proving that she’s one of the best young talents of her generation.

My biggest gripe with Afterlife is that it can’t really stand on its own — it needs to lean on the 1984 original, both for retconning and for story support. This is a common trend for many “rebootquels” that have come in the last ten years especially, but Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not even trying to hide it. The villains and plot points are taken from the original, both have a love story with two of the leads that goes nowhere, and they both have a lot of fun action and quotable lines. Except for the fact that Afterlife stars children instead of the infinitely more amusing SNL alumni.

However, it wouldn’t be a fair review if I didn’t give credit where credit is due. It’s no surprise that the original Ghostbuster actors return in Afterlife (the late night talk show circuit has confirmed as much), but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the fact that one of them, Harold Ramis, died in 2014 and thus, of course, is unable to return. However, they didn’t simply have him die a peaceful off-screen death and never mention him again except in passing; they make Egon Spengler the focal point of the story, and include an emotional, if clunkily executed, sendoff at the very end. They know that the Ghostbusters will never be the same without Ramis, and I like that Afterlife is essentially designed as a feature-length tribute to him and his iconic character.

Is Ghostbusters: Afterlife a perfect film? No, but it’s extremely rare that you come across those, and Afterlife deserves to be looked at with all things considered. Being the third (or technically fourth) in an almost 40-year-old franchise, Afterlife stays fresh while still cleanly recycling what we all love about the original. The visual effects are still top-notch, the weird cameos are well-dispersed, and Paul Rudd’s in this movie too, because why not. Just like Ryan Reynolds in Free Guy, he doesn’t go “full Rudd,” but it’s always fun seeing the Sexiest Man Alive on screen doing his own thing.

If there were to be a sequel to Afterlife, I hope to god it doesn’t emulate Ghostbusters II, but if there’s anything that Afterlife proves, it’s that the series is headed in the right direction, and there’s life in this franchise yet. [Grade: B]

Director: Jason Reitman

Writers: Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman

Starring: McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim

Rated: PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references

Available: Theaters
Fun Fact: Instead of going to therapy, director Reitman (son of 1984 director Ivan Reitman) decided to face his demons about making a Ghostbusters movie by...making a Ghostbusters movie.

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