WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR DISCRECTION.
If you have been following this blog for the past decade, you might know how big of a Ghostbusters fan I am. I wrote my first piece about the troubled development of the 3rd movie back in 2012 and wrote a follow-up piece in 2016 following the release of the female-led reboot. For the longest time, I believed we would never get a proper sequel following the passing of Harold Ramis. The video game from 2009 seemed to be as close as we would get. However, I am happy to report right here at CosBlog that Jason Reitman’s GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE fulfilled that void and made my hear soar once more.
For decades, it was my belief that the only way to make a solid 3rd Ghostbusters was to pass the torch to a young generation. We automatically assumed that meant hiring the funniest comedians of the moment to strap on proton packs and chase new ghosts across Manhattan. Jason Reitman clearly takes the story in a new direction by changing the perspective to a single mom named Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children which includes the brilliant but socially inept Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and teenage Trevor (Finn Wolfhard from STRANGER THINGS and IT). Facing eviction from their apartment, the family soon discovers the recent passing of Callie’s father resulted in them inheriting a creepy old farmhouse located in a small town in Oklahoma. It’s a big adjustment away from the big city until strange occurrences happen around the house. Phoebe is led by an unseen entity to discover a hidden lab below the farm which happens to contain abandoned items from a certain team while Trevor uncovers a famous car in the barn which magically starts up again.
Of course, none of these kids were around in the 80s. So, when Phoebe takes a particular trap to her middle school science teacher (Paul Rudd), he gives her the full rundown about the four guys who saved the world in 1984 and that is when Phoebe comes to the realization about her grandfather’s identity. While these Force Awakens-style discoveries are made, the kids also uncover the true motives of their grandfather disappearing into this small town. The town happens to be constructed by the same crazed man who built the high rise that Gozer inhabited in the original film. As it turns out, the apocalypse was never truly stopped. It was only delayed by 37 years.
I saw this movie at the AMC in Lincoln Square with my cousin, his girlfriend, and his son. My cousin and I saw Ghostbusters II in theaters back in 1989 and all we wanted from this experience was to return to our childhoods. It accomplished its mission and more. The movie is loaded with nostalgic throwbacks to the original 1984 classic down to dialogue, reversals on gags, and several different callbacks to previous events. While critics have been notoriously harsh over that element, I still feel this movie tries to be different. Had it been a 3rd movie that took no risks like Ghostbusters II, then I would say it fell short of expectations. But putting kids at the forefront of the story gave me something that was not a showcase for today’s comedians. This was Ghostbusters if Steven Spielberg was producing instead of Ivan Reitman. There are 80s references everywhere from E.T. to The Goonies, Gremlins, Child’s Play, Cujo, The Monster Squad, and Stand by Me to name a few.
The kid angle in this movie works because it was kids like me in the 80s who kept this franchise going via The Real Ghostbusters cartoon and toy line. Millions of kids across America purchased a Kenner proton pack and ran around the house pretending to chase ghosts. Now we get to live through the young cast doing just that and having fun while giving today’s young audiences kids to identify with. Out of everyone, Mckenna Grace succeeds as the full-on lead. She has the discipline of a little Nicole Kidman, the subtle nuances of the man who plays her grandfather, and a whole lot of heart. This is far more grounded than the overpowered, almost flawless Rey in Star Wars. But the real scene stealer of the movie is not Finn Wolfhard or Paul Rudd who was still reliably hilarious as usual. It was a young actor named Logan Kim who plays Phoebe’s new friend named Podcast. This kid was the dead-on embodiment of Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz down to his hair and his Jack Webb-like speed in delivering dialogue. He was a real winner in my book.
I don’t have too many negative things to say about this movie. The special effects remain as consistent as the original, Rob Simonsen’s renditions and expansions of the Elmer Bernstein score were excellent, the surprise stars previously unannounced were shocking, and the cameos from certain legacy actors were worth the moments that made me cry. If I had any issues at all, it was the leaps in logic in certain scenes specifically towards the 3rd act. It’s possible there was plenty of footage left on the cutting room floor to fill those gaps. There’s a big unanswered question that bothered me throughout the movie regarding the parentage of the Callie character which I hope gets addressed in the sequel. Lastly, I felt that the roles of Trevor and his female friend Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) were a bit underdeveloped. I still liked them even in the midst of the action. They just didn’t leave the lasting impression that Phoebe and Podcast did. Sadly, there’s no Slimer in this movie. Instead, they chose to create a similar ghost called the Muncher to return to the scarier aspects of Slimer before he became an icon for the children of the 80s. The Mini-Pufts, however, were a lot of fun and at times a nice nod to the animated series.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE might not be the cup of tea for those who preferred the SNL-style comedy of the 2016 movie and some moviegoers who had not seen the original movie might find themselves lost with the backstory behind Gozer. For everyone else, this is the sequel we have been waiting over 30 years for. A nice trip down memory lane that still offers something new, a progression in storytelling, and potentially a new way forward in the franchise’s future.