Film review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), directed by Jason Reitman
tl;dr: This is fun. For kids, arguably, but a lot of fun for all ages.
I like the original Ghostbusters films. I wasn’t that keen on the Ghostbusters “reboot”, which had a whole new cast. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is set in the same universe (so to speak) as the first two films. It’s not a sequel as such, because the original films weren’t child-centred, which this one is.
Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), are broke. When they inherit Callie’s estranged father’s farm out in the country, at least they have a way to solve their eviction problem. Teenager Trevor tries to find work at a local fast food restaurant, where he befriends/falls for Lucky (Celeste O’Connor). Science nerd tween Phoebe goes to summer school and befriends both “Podcast” (Logan Kim), who hosts his own mystery podcast, and teacher/seismologist Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd).
The locals used to refer to Callie’s dad as the “dirt farmer”, because despite plenty of digging in the fields he never seemed to actually grow anything – there were never any crops. Weird things are afoot at that farm. It’s almost as if the place is haunted. And what’s more, the closed down mine nearby is also subject to some spooky things happening. Who you gonna call?
It’s not a big surprise to find out who the mysterious (grand)father is. It’s evident pretty much from the start, especially considering Phoebe’s interests and even her glasses. The way they’ve done it is a good way of bringing in the spirit of the late Harold Ramis. Do we get to see the other original Ghostbusters? Yes! Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) are all included, as is their old secretary Janine (Annie Potts), and, in a mid- or post-credits scene (I forget which), Dana (Sigourney Weaver).
I really enjoyed this. There are plenty of things for old Ghostbusters fans to enjoy, and it breathes fresh air into the franchise in a way Ghostbusters: Answer the Call didn’t. Answer the Call could perhaps be seen as what Ghostbusters might have been like if it was done today, whereas Afterlife follows on from the original films but 30+ years later. And it’s a much better film in general. The characters are sympathetic, the spooky adventures are both spooky and adventurous, and there’s a bit of both peril and romance in it – and comedy. It’s an amusing film. After 30+ years of technological advancement, the ghosts are looking better as well. Are there rivers of pink gloop involved? No. There’s JK Simmons in a glass box instead, and lots and lots of callbacks to the originals. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s return is quite … quite something.
This was popular enough to warrant a sequel, and I’m looking forward to seeing it. The old generation and the new, working together. It’s great fun, but it never gets too over-the-top silly, and it’s clearly made with a lot of love.
5 out of 5 ghosts of Egon Spengler.