November 19, 2021 Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Movie Review)
A highly antipcated film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a family affair. Jason Reitman (Juno 2007, Tully 2018), son of 1984’s original film Ghostbusters Director Ivan Reitman, takes the torch of this iconic series and ushers it into the 21st century with Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Set to release exclusively in theaters on November 19, 2021 via Columbia Pictures, it stars Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things series, It 2017) and Mckenna Grace (I, Tonya 2017, The Handmaid’s Tale 2021), two siblings who find themselves uprooted to the middle of nowhere after inheriting a dilapidated house from their mysterious grandfather. It is a classic set-up for a nostalgia feature, but is there enough new life in Afterlife to make Ghostbusters relevant to a new generation?
The is, of course, stuffed with Easter eggs for hawk-eyed superfans to hunt for, but there is more than enough heart to make Ghostbusters: Afterlife more than just a resurrected husk. Reitman and Co-Writer Gil Kenan (Poltergeist 2015) offer up plenty of nostalgic moments that are sure to tug on the heartstrings of anyone who fondly remembers the original films, but thanks to Wolfhard and especially Grace, Ghostbusters: Afterlife doesn’t just pander. Despite its recycled plot, the film feels fresh and fun.
Thirty years have passed since anyone has seen a ghost, but when inexplicable earthquakes plague the sleepy mining town of Summerville, Oklahoma, recent transplants Phoebe (Grace), Trevor (Wolfhard), and their mom Callie (Carrie Coon: Gone Girl 2014, Avengers: Infinity War 2018) find themselves in the middle of a supernatural mystery that only a Ghostbuster can solve. Callie, a single mom facing eviction and struggling with the death of an absent father who left her with nothing but a crumbling farmhouse, hopes that Summerville might mean a new start for her family.
When the whip-smart, socially different Phoebe meets summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd: I Love You, Man 2009, Ant-Man 2015) and the conspiracy-loving kid Podcast (Logan Kim in his feature debut), Phoebe learns that her late grandfather was much more than the resident nut job they thought he was. Meanwhile, Trevor’s new job at the local fast-food joint leads him to Lucky (Celeste O’Connor: Selah and the Spades 2019, Freaky 2020), who helps him unravel the mysteries behind Summerville’s long-abandoned mines.
While the original Ghostbusters was, on the surface, a family movie, hindsight shows that its themes were pretty adult. But, hey, it was the ‘80s. That in mind, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is truly a family movie, both in its themes and its intended audience. Unlike the originals, Ghostbusters: Afterlife actually has kids in it, and those kids get to be the heroes of the story. At the heart of the film is a story about the relationships that make or break a family, whether that family is found or blood-related. Thanks to excellent performances all around, these relationships elevate the film to something more than simple fan service (there is plenty of that to go around, though). With a final act that is sure to tug on the heartstrings of even the most casual Ghostbusters fan, Reitman creates a solid standalone film that is a fitting tribute to Ghostbusters Writer and Actor Harold Ramis.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife thrives when showcasing its new characters and locations. However, there are times when the film suffers in order to call back to the originals. It is often content to rehash old plots, monsters, and props rather than stand in its originality. Sure, that might be what diehard fans are looking for, but when Reitman gives of glimpses into the possibility of a new future for the beloved franchise, that is when it is the most exciting.
Overall, Ghostbusters: Afterlife should satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers. It works great as a potential end to a thirty-year-long trilogy, or it could be the beginning of a new start for this misfit group of Ghostbusters. Be aware that there is both a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene, so be sure to stay in your seats until the very end for some fun surprises. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Ghostbusters: Afterlife 3.5 out of 5 stars.