Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 4 min.

Release Date: November 19th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jason Reitman Actors: Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Paul Rudd, Bokeem Woodbine, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts

 


 

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aving just been evicted from her apartment, Callie (Carrie Coon) gathers her two children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and heads to Oklahoma where her estranged father left her his estate. When they arrive in the sleepy Southern town of Summerville, the family quickly discovers that the “farm” willed to them is really just an expansive patch of dirt marked by a few tumble-down buildings and a rickety, old, almost-certainly-haunted house. As Phoebe tries to fit in at school, making a new friend in oddball Podcast (Logan Kim), Trevor gets a job at the local diner in order to woo the alluring Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), and Callie begins dating charming (yet conspicuously negligent) science teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), their lives seem to be getting back on track. At least until the centuries-old demonic spirits show up, hellbent on plunging the world into infinite darkness.

Beginning with a high-speed ghost chase, this sequel to the original 1984 film swiftly transitions to the standard formula of a modern family moving into a haunted house in the middle of nowhere – the type of dwelling one might associate with the secluded, dilapidated structure from “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” in need of some new paint, surrounded by yellowed fields, end-of-the-world signs, and a creepy barn. It’s the least ideal place for a much-needed fresh start. “This is so much worse than I thought it was gonna be.”

What makes this hackneyed setup more palatable is Grace, assuming the role of the precocious preteen who is smarter than all the adults in the room. But there’s a twist; she’s largely emotionless – or unemotional – which lends to her unnatural bravery in the face of eerie happenings, but also to a permutation from the typical design. She’s terribly likable in her oddness, which works nicely against her brother’s awkwardness and her mother’s more serious demeanor. At the same time, it’s engaging to see a youthful perspective in the world of the Ghostbusters, akin to Spielberg’s predilection for placing children at the center of adult dilemmas – imparting a flavor not unlike “The Goonies,” or “Poltergeist,” or even “Jurassic Park.”

“I don’t believe in ghosts.” Here, pitting a pragmatic scientist against the realms of the supernatural unfolds with the feel of an ‘80s picture, which is this latest iteration’s greatest strength. Other than the unnecessary, frenzied cold open, the first half of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” manages to capture the vibe of an older, classic sort of blockbuster, establishing specific, sympathetic, relatable characters before thrusting them into ghoulish misadventures. There’s a good chance that viewers will actually care what happens to these personas (even though it takes a while before the action kicks in, which might ironically turn off contemporary audiences). Part of this is aided by the appearance of nostalgic components, including the familiar ECTO-1 conveyance, ghost traps, the energetic music, and notes on the “Manhattan Ghost Stories” (this is set in an alternate reality where the original Ghostbusters were renowned heroes and celebrities), but it’s the curious, playful, humorous, mysterious, flirtatious – and only slightly scary – atmosphere that is initially so enjoyable.

Unfortunately, once the ghouls show up, the film has a difficult time trying to remain original. It soon follows the plot of the ’84 picture so closely – under the guise of nods and throwbacks – that it comes across as a remake rather than a continuation. The last act is so distinctly repetitive that it becomes a work aimed solely at longtime fans (never more apparent than during the climax); why wouldn’t key elements see clever new variations (perhaps a Stay-Crispy Graham Cracker Boy?) rather than nearly identical recreations devoid of the creativity and excitement that the advancements in computer animation could offer? It’s undoubtedly entertaining to revisit the Ghostbusters franchise, especially with an attention to visual and character authenticity, but the end result here is too much familiarity and not enough innovation.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10

Ghostbusters Franchise


Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024)