What’s the Story: Single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) are evicted from their home and move to the small town of Summerville, Oklahoma, where they are currently staying in the old inherited farmhouse of Callie’s recently deceased father, Dr. Egon Spengler. While adjusting to life there, Phoebe discovers strange happenings inside the home connected to her grandfather’s past that could be a mystery preventing a ghostly apocalypse.
Who would’ve thought the world was ready for a proper continuation of one of the most popular franchises in Hollywood. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is considered the third movie, and when I first heard they were making this, I was surprised by how little the anticipation was for me. When we’re talking about 1984’s Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman’s sci-fi hit is one of my favorite comedies of all time. Topped with a great story and a cast of hilarious talents about scientists busting ghosts in New York City, it doesn’t get old in my mind, especially with a flawless performance from Bill Murray as Peter Venkman. Ghostbusters II came out in 1989, and I thought it was okay. But there have been talks of the third installment for ages, and it was whether or not the actors were willing to come back to reprise their roles with a good story in hand. Probably the closest we got was the 2016 all-female reboot directed by Paul Feig. And you know what, I’m in the minority where I happen to like it. That’s not to say it’s perfect since there were issues that bogged it down, but it stands as a fun movie in its own right that got undeservedly bashed by everyone before it came out.
But since that got mixed-to-positive reviews and a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, it didn’t perform too well at the box office (thanks, haters) and still no word of a follow-up to that, unfortunately. So with those mild expectations going into Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I guess all I wanted as a fun sequel that could capture the magic was what was given to its audiences previous with those first two movies, proving this needed to exist amid movie properties that are kind of dying out. Thankfully, this was a good time, which is a good thing to say for a long time that’s been a long time coming.
But who better than to take on a franchise as popular as this none other than Jason Reitman, the son of Ivan. An interesting choice because he must’ve been on set while his dad was filming these movies and Jason, was around his dad’s age when he was probably shooting this. The thing that made me curious was that this would be the first time going in the direction of a big blockbuster since the Academy Award-nominated director has been known for his smaller comedy-dramas, such as Juno and Up in the Air (my two favorites). For what he brought here in telling a new story, you can tell there was a lot of pressure to make this work, but he pulled it off. He takes on this certain vibe that belongs in the era of classic ‘80s movies produced or directed by Spielberg. It was important for Reitman to show off that feeling of fun and adventure when you’re watching people interact with strange, supernatural beings. Even if you haven’t seen anything out of the first two, it manages to stand on its own, allowing it to feel almost free.
With every Ghostbusters movie, you need to have an excellent cast to make it work. Luckily, we are in a time where I’m glad Mckenna Grace is becoming more well-known since she practically steals this as Phoebe Spengler. If a protagonist comes across as intelligent, awkward and makes lame jokes, those qualities are enough to make me care for the character. As she’s new in town, you allow yourself to be attached to Phoebe when we learn more about who she is with her love of science and when she gets hold of PKE Meter and an old proton pack later, learning more about the Ghostbusters history. Grace also gets along great with her co-star Logan Kim as Podcast, who wasn’t as annoying as I thought. As for the adults, the always underrated Carrie Coon is reliable when she goes from being funny to dramatic. But you can always count on Paul Rudd to be the spotlight. For me, I knew I was going to love his performance as science teacher Gary Grooberson, and he was just so delightful in nearly every scene he carries. Finn Wolfhard and Celeste O’Connor are enough as Trevor and Lucky, respectively, but I thought they weren’t given a lot to do until later on. And if you’ve been keeping up with who else pops up, then you already know without me spoiling, and it still ends up as a surprise.
Can a story like this be enough to last through its runtime? The script, written by Reitman and Gil Kenan (Monster House, 2015’s Poltergeist) didn’t make this out as a copy of what came before; it continues the legacy that will have its young watchers wanting to see what was mentioned in here, making them want to be the originals after this. Reitman gives us the chance to take us back into the world where he wants to share his take on family matters and what it will contribute as a homage to the first two, even if it could’ve been used more originally. Those who grew up wanting to take a joy ride in the Ecto-1 or catch some ghost with a proton pack of their own And unlike before, I can see a couple of moments that could scare kids. I also thought the CGI mixed with the practical effects looked pretty impressive. There’s always something unique about the visual effects work within the franchise that fits, and I couldn’t help but to find the mini Stay Puft Marshmallow Men freakin’ cute in sequences that’s so reminiscent of Gremlins.
As for the humor, did this leave me laughing entirely? Not really, since a few of them were hit-or-miss. But jokes that hit got a reaction from me, especially when Rudd’s character shows his class movies instead of doing science stuff. And when the action happens, there’s no denying in saying they were exciting. Unfortunately, that nostalgia overload might be the downfall to the experience for some. Some of the references and Easter eggs were pretty cool, while on a few occasions, those were a bit forced or just weren’t as funny. But what I didn’t expect to appreciate about watching this is that it serves as an appropriate tribute to the late Harold Ramis/ Egon and I did question how anyone would be able to make a third Ghostbusters movie with him. For what Reitman and his team were going for, they succeeded in mind where it ends on a good note.
Overall, Ghostbusters: Afterlife actually surprised me. Though not without its flaws, it’s the sequel longtime fans have been waiting for with Jason Reitman’s Amblin-style direction to wisely capture the spirit of the franchise. Since it’s received mixed reviews so far, I’m on the side of those who liked it. If there’s a chance for this to do well at the box office and positive reactions from everyone else, I wouldn’t mind the possibility of what’s to come next.