Film Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ (2021)

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Stars: Finn Wolfhand, McKenna Grace, Carrie Coon
Director: Jason Reitman
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing

“There hasn’t been a ghost sighting in 30 years.”

37 years after the release of the greatest film ever made, the Ghostbusters franchise breathes new life with the latest installment, Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Reverting back to the continuity of the first two films, Afterlife sees single mother of two, Callie (Carrie Coon), relocate to the small town of Summerville, Oklahoma, after both a breakdown of financial stability and the passing of her estranged father: Egon Spengler. 

Callie and her two children, Phoebe and Trevor, played by Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace respectively, try their best in adjusting to their new lives, but in a small town with next to nothing, what can a penniless family do? Whilst Callie takes a liking to super casual summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson – a Diet Coke Dr. Venkman played by Paul Rudd – Trevor looks for work at the local diner with his fellow teens, and Phoebe sets out on a journey of self-discovery with the pursuit and engagement of her mysterious heritage. 

After discovering a host of Ghostbusters artifacts – everything from the trap to Ecto-1 –  lurking up and down, inside and out, all over a spooky farmhouse left by Egon, Phoebe and her new-found friends (a kid called Podcast! Logan Kim), not only find the tools used by her grandfather, but they find and unleash the spiritual monsters and beasts he fought too. Do they have the talent? Initially aided by the eager and eccentric Grooberson, plus the help of a phone call with Ray’s Occult, a new generation of characters are challenged to save the world against a familiar enemy. 

It has been presumed that Ghostbusters: Afterlife comes equipped with a vibe familiar to the likes of The Goonies and/or Stranger Things. For the first half of the film, Afterlife works wonders with its world building and small-town mannerism, whilst also presenting a fan-service and refreshment of the franchise that isn’t too forceful nor cringe-worthy. Certainly this portion of the film is aimed at the older or more seasoned viewer. Then, in the second half, the kids take full charge. 

Whilst excellent, the swing to the new characters can be problematic for those expecting the movie to be led by Rudd’s Grooberson. Instead, as his character slightly diminishes, his character transitions from Venkman Lite to a Louis Tully. The shift not only adjusts the direction of the film and even the Ghostbusters franchise, but it represents a much needed passing of the torch from 40 year-old lifelong fans to a younger audience who can provide something good, something decent, and something pure to the fandom.

The only notable downside to Ghostbusters: Afterlife – aside from the passing of Harold Ramis – is that it misses where the original film(s) succeeded greatly: the iconic backdrop. New York City is the most famous city in the world, and in the 80s it had its iconic filth. Summerville isn’t quite NYC. Oklahoma isn’t quite New York State. There is an almost surreal notion of seeing Ecto-1 drift within the American countryside and not on the city streets. However, it should be remembered that the purpose of Afterlife isn’t for a bunch of kids to copy the iconic moments and imagery from almost 40 years ago, but instead, to establish their own, be it in this film or the next.

Director Jason Reitman – son of original Ghostbusters director, Ivan  – has done the excellent job of balancing fan service with fresh content. With Afterlife, there is a feeling now that the Ghostbusters franchise can proceed to live a new life with a new interpretation and vision. A trilogy with the new generation of characters is perfectly feasible. Reitman has bridged the gap between old and new.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is out now, exclusive to cinemas.

4 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Sony Pictures Releasing, Fair Use

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