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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review

November 19, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Ghostbusters: Afterlife - Mckenna Grace Image Credit: Sony
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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review  

Directed By: Jason Reitman
Written By: Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman; Based on the characters created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Runtime: 120 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references

McKenna Grace – Phoebe
Finn Wolfhard – Trevor
Carrie Coon – Callie
Paul Rudd – Gary Grooberson
Logan Kim – Podcast
Celeste O’Connor – Lucky
Annie Potts – Janine Melnitz
Bokeem Woodbine – Sheriff Domingo
Josh Gad – Muncher

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review.

For all the fans of Ghostbusters that have been waiting for a “true” sequel to the iconic 1980s cinematic franchise, that sequel has finally arrived in Ghostbusters: Afterlife After multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Afterlife took a much longer journey to the screen than originally anticipated. That’s considering all the false starts and stops with past sequel attempts over the years. However, the film is finally on the cusp of its theatrical release, exclusively in theaters as it truly warrants.

For Ghostbusters: Afterlife, director Jason Reitman, the son of original Ghostbusters filmmaker Ivan Reitman, opted for a story about generational legacy, centered on the broke and indebted family with a connection to a familiar name. Callie (Coon) is the single mother of teen boy Trevor (Wolfhard) and amateur science enthusiast Phoebe (Grace). No longer able to pay the rent and bills, Callie packs up the family and travels to a dirt farm left to them by a late relative in a town smack deep in the middle of Nowhere-ville, Oklahoma. Phoebe soon uncovers that the town is experiencing strange phenomenon. There are several earthquakes when the town is nowhere near a fault line or tectonic plates. In addition, strange and ominous ruins are located in a restricted mine that’s been closed for decades just outside the township.

In short, the strange phantasmagoria this town is experiencing is the precursor for a cataclysmic paranormal event. And in such an instance, who ya gonna call? Well, Afterlife is about Phoebe learning that she, along with her with supernatural-obsessed podcast host classmate, nicknamed Podcast (Kim), are likely the best recruits for the job. After discovering a connection between what’s happening in Oklahoma and the Manhattan highrise from the 1984 film, thanks to summer school teacher and Ghostbusters aficionado Gary Grooberson (Rudd), it’s time for Phoebe to answer the call of her birthright to fulfill a family legacy.

As the heart of this story, McKenna Grace is great as Phoebe. She’s a young person trying to find a way in the world when her mom doesn’t encourage her scientific acumen, and she has few, if any, friends. Afterlife is Phoebe’s journey of discovering her heritage, along with embracing her gifts and talents. For a Ghostbusters movie that seeks to pass the torch on to the next generation, that’s an important message; and Grace nails the character, considering her familial relations.

Carrie Coon, as Callie, is essentially the stealth protagonist of the story as she comes to grips with the lost father she never really knew. She’s a dedicated, yet struggling, single mother. Callie is doing her best, but some of her childhood wounds have never truly healed. This results in Callie’s confusion in not quite understanding the best way to encourage Phoebe’s talents. Coon is impressive and incredibly believable in this film.

There are a few flaws concerning the film. At times, Afterlife leans a bit too hard in considering itself the direct sequel to the original Ghostbusters. The plot gives off the implication that Ghostbusters II either didn’t happen or was erased from existence. For a film that prides itself as a love letter to the original Ghostbusters, it’s a bit saddening to see the second film so widely ignored.

Secondly, the plot brings up many questions with regards to its multiple mysteries. Unfortunately, many of those questions are never summarily answered. These answers are likely being left for future installments, which is rather frustrating. Obviously, the filmmakers are confident there will be future installments, and it’s fine to set up future stories. At the same time, to raise so many immediate questions without directly addressing them feels like a bit of a bait-and-switch tactic.

As the secondary members of the new team, Afterlife could have spent a bit more time developing the characters of Lucky and Trevor to raise their stakes in the film. Most of their development comes from Trevor having a crush on Lucky. There’s a hint of Lucky being a fourth-generation resident of the town and maybe wanting to leave or having dreams of something more. The film needed a bit more development for their subplots and stakes in the story to underscore their place as new members of the gang.

That said, Logan Kim, as one of the new main cast members, fits in great with the overall world and narrative. As an intrepid kid obsessed with mystery and the supernatural, he nicely rounds out the duo with the more science and fact-based Phoebe. Their newfound friendship nicely pushes the plot of Afterlife forward and gives the film a fun sense of energy and discovery.

The music and score for the film by Rob Simonsen are fantastic. Simonsen wisely opts to use plenty of the late Elmer Bernstein’s themes and music from the original film as the backbone of the score here, which is greatly appreciated. So often do franchise reboots, revamps or sequels jettison or ignore the music for iconic franchises that helped make them iconic in the first place. This is a case where nostalgia for the original works and pays off beautifully. Not to mention, the eerie 1950s sci-fi siren in parts of the score perfectly compliments the setting of the old rural Oklahoma town and the mood of the rising supernatural phenomenon.

What works best about Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that Reitman has created a film that not only honors the legacy of the iconic, classic original film but also creates a solid new entry to introduce the franchise to new generations. However, he did not rest on the laurels of the original and try to make a complete carbon copy. Afterlife features a refreshing set of new characters and is hopefully the start of some fun, new ghostbusting adventures.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the long-awaited true sequel to the franchise that fans have waited years to see. While the film does lean heavily on nostalgic elements for the original, writer-director Jason Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan have crafted an interesting story about lineage and legacy with a nice set of new characters to repackage Ghostbusters for a new generation. While framing the story around a new set of characters, the film still honors the original film in an incredibly satisfying way.