Film Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife
***Warning: The following contains minor spoilers***
There was not much going on at New York Comic Con this year. It was a nice way to ease back into attending major comic conventions. One of the biggest panels this year was for Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021). Beforehand, there were not many details about what was expected of the panel or who would even be there. Surprisingly, most of the cast was there as well as director/co-writer Jason Reitman, producer (and previous director) Ivan Reitman, and co-writer Gil Kenan. After quite an enjoyable panel, Jason Reitman spoke of his wish that everyone could see the film in a theatre with a large audience just like the one in that room. With a hint planted, it was revealed that the audience would be seeing the new film right then. The night was made.
Reitman cautioned the audience on revealing any spoilers because we were seeing it so early. However, an international trailer for the film came out last week that spoiled the film more so than the previous trailers, strongly suggesting and showing its connection to the original Ghostbusters (1984). With this trailer out there, I can be a bit more liberal with my review.
There is a prologue of several minutes that sets the stage for the rest of the film. It eases you back into the routine of catching a ghost while the person doing all of this is not seen in detail. The capture system fails to activate properly after luring a ghost back to a farm, resulting in his death. Flash-forward and cash-strapped Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) learn that Callie’s father has passed away and left them his farm. With an eviction on the horizon, Callie, Trevor, and Phoebe relocate to Summerville, with Callie alluding to this only being a summer trip but knowing full well that they will have to try to make this place home. While they may be expecting a sleepy, small town, it is anything but considering the anomalies they experience at home and in town.
The film relies heavily on the first Ghostbusters film, and if I remember correctly, there isn’t anything of relevance from Ghostbusters II (1982). Even though I haven’t seen the original film in years, the resemblances and callbacks are still apparent. The grandfather is Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). The similarities are there with his grandchildren; Both Phoebe and Trevor have dark, curly hair and Phoebe wears glasses and is extremely smart and mechanically gifted. What Spengler has been up to on his farm and why he chose Summerville all have to do with what we have experienced in the first film.
Along with the family, each develops a relationship with someone else in the town that brings them into the fold. Phoebe’s summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), has already picked up on the town’s tectonic activity, which is unlike any typical earthquake activity. He is a horrible school teacher but makes up for it with his knowledge of the Ghostbusters’ history, clueing the kids into that piece of history. Mr. Grooberson eventually takes an interest in Callie. Phoebe also befriends a kid named Podcast (Logan Kim) who loves podcasting and, in general, has a hilarious sense of humor. Trevor develops a crush on Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), who works at the local diner, spurning Trevor to take on a part-time job to get close to her.
The ties to Ghostbusters reveal themselves gradually and then eventually come forth fully towards the film’s climax. Having not been spoiled on some of the content like in the latest trailer, there were moments of vague recollection and exclamations in my head of, “I remember that,” or “Wait, isn’t that the same thing from the first film?” The big question is that if this were a wholly new film that only slightly recalled our nostalgia for the first film, would it still work as well? The answer, in my opinion, is maybe. Nostalgia and reliving our childhood memories associated with a film is kind of like a drug, and it can cloud our judgment of whether what we are seeing is truly good or just giving us some of our innocence back. I await what people and kids who have never seen the original have to say about this one.
The film excels on the comedy front. It’s been a while since I have laughed this much or this hard during a film. The bulk of the laughs came from Phoebe, who deadpans terrible jokes and is famous for them. The second is Podcast who is charismatic, wide-eyed, self-assured, and blunt. While the writing is deservedly given the bulk of the credit for creating these scenes, Logan Kim is a burgeoning youth actor who delivers each line perfectly and works well with Mckenna Grace’s portrayal of Phoebe. Mckenna has already made a name for herself in film and television, and Logan should benefit greatly in the future from his fantastic portrayal as Podcast.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife has continued on with the saga over 30 years later and kept the tone and story at the same level. The involvement of Ivan Reitman lends credibility to this addition, regardless of his son Jason Reitman being the director and writer. Some moments are a bit hokey, a little too sweet, but the laughs when they happen are huge. The film is enjoyable without a doubt and will inject a bit of fun and the 80s era into the holiday season. The unmistakable sound of a proton pack turning on and getting that first blast of a stream gave me goosebumps. The ending brought on an onslaught of emotions, including tears. As the credits rolled, I could not wait to see it again, but this time with my father, who I fondly remember watching the original with on the TV. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a successful continuation of long-gestating film series that manages not to muck it up and faithfully continue the story.
P.S. There is a mid-credits scene as well as a scene at the end of the credits.