Reboots of classic films or franchises often go for viewers’ nostalgia to drive ticket sales, Ghostbusters: Afterlife does much of the same, similar to how Doctor Sleep (the recent sequel to The Shining) did. That’s to say that it provides an original story that is still connected to the original film, but also gives the audience time to get invested in the characters and plot, therefore earning its dose of nostalgia, at least for the most part.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows a mother and her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), who move to their absent grandfather’s small, isolated town following his death. Soon after they arrive, Phoebe starts to realize who their grandfather was and why continuing his work may be necessary to save the world from a ghostly apocalypse. With the help of her summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), and her new friend, Podcast (Logan Kim), Phoebe starts busting some ghosts.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is what the 2016 reboot should’ve been, a reverent and respectful continuation of the source material, instead of the disrespectful, unfunny mess that film ended up being. This film gets the franchise back on track, even if it’s mostly dissimilar to anything the franchise has done before.
Yes, this film does go back to the originals’ roots a bit too much, evident with the inclusion of mini Stay Puft marshmallow men and a cheesy, unnecessary utterance of the iconic “who ya gonna call” line, but those are mostly forgivable. Those moments feel like they were made more for the trailers rather than to be included in the actual film, as they have little to no actual importance to the plot.
The third act is also an exercise in replicating the original’s skyscraper Gozer confrontation, this time obviously not taking place on a skyscraper, though. It’s similar to Doctor Sleep’s return to the Overlook Hotel in its third act; in that it’s earned because the rest of the film is emotionally investing and (mostly) original. So, think about that film’s use of nostalgia, not something like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes, it would’ve been cooler if they did something completely different and new, like the rest of the film does, but it works because of the satisfying and meaningful end result, which I will not spoil.
I was worried about this film going in, not just because it’s a modern Ghostbusters film, but because it’s a film anchored by children’s performances. Thankfully, all of the kids are fantastic in this, especially Grace’s performance as Phoebe. She carries the majority of the film’s scenes and emotional moments with the poise a much more seasoned (and much older) actor would’ve. She could be a star in a few years, so look out for her.
Her friend in the film, Podcast, is also fantastic. Despite the character’s name being a bad joke and a tone-deaf attempt to make this film more relevant towards today’s youth, Kim’s still great in the role. He’s funny, at least most of the time, and serves as the Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) of this Ghostbusters story.
Disappointingly, Wolfhard is probably the weakest link of this cast. He’s not all that funny, isn’t given much to do until over halfway through the film and just doesn’t have the charisma to be a Ghostbuster in the future, if the studio chooses to continue this story.
The two main adult actors in the film, Rudd and Carrie Coon are both great in their respective roles. Rudd as a seismologist and science teacher, and Coon as the loving but overwhelmed mother of the two main children. Their chemistry together is fantastic, as it is with the rest of the cast as well.
Surprisingly, Rudd isn’t given a lot to do comedically here, but it works because he might’ve come off as too much, if that was what Director Jason Reitman went for. When everyone else in the movie is cracking jokes, you need at least one grounding force. His character serves more to introduce the original Ghostbusters to the main characters and reintroduce them to the audience.
Coon isn’t always likable in her character, but I don’t think she was supposed to be; she’s a concerned mother and that’s always going to get in the way of her kids’ actions and, by extension, the plot.
This film, and its plot, are a massive love letter to the late Harold Ramis. It features many touching moments paying tribute to him and gives his character, Dr. Egon Spengler, a proper sendoff.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is, at its heart, an 80’s movie. However, it’s a different kind of 80’s movie than the original, being more like The Goonies, but still. The effects, for the most part, look like they did in the original film, which may sound like a negative, but it’s a definite positive. The proton packs look and sound like they did thirty-plus years ago, the demon dogs are impressive practical puppets instead of CGI and the ghosts look much like they did back in 1984. It all feels authentic to that time, even if the film takes place in 2021.
Despite its title, Ghostbusters: Afterlife proves the series is far from dead. With a killer cast, a (relatively) original plot, callbacks to the source and a fun, fast-paced story, it’s a must-see on the big screen. It caters to everyone, whether you’re a mega-fan or a newcomer to the series, and is exactly what a reboot should be. For a film I had little anticipation for, I left the theater excited for whatever the filmmakers decide comes next.