“In Ghostbusters Afterlife Jason Reitman delivers a nostalgic and heartfelt love letter to the originals while forging his own unique path”
REVIEW: GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE
‘Ghostbusters’ and to a lesser extent ‘Ghostbusters II’ are movies that a certain generation still loves and adore to this day. Created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the films evoke a nostalgic feeling for those of us who grew up in the 1980s. And the original film remains one of the best comedies that the decade had to offer. Over the years, a third film in the franchise was mooted, planned but never came to fruition. A female-led reboot hit screens back in 2016 but never came close to hitting the heights the original movies easily reached. And then we were given the shock news that Jason Reitman, son of the original director Ivan would be bringing us a third film in the franchise. One where we would be back in the original timeline.
Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the film has suffered several delays in getting into theatres. Originally slotted in to release on July 10th, 2020; the film was pushed back to June 11th, and then November 11th before settling into a November 19th slot. The delays have seen excitement ramped up for the film and several teasers and full trailers have made the anticipation hit terrific heights. Could this be the third film we have all been waiting for? Would the film slot effortlessly into the franchise? How would they overcome the sad death of co-creator Harold Ramis? And could Jason Reitman conjure up a film worthy of the ‘Ghostbusters’ name?
A NOSTALGIC AND HEARTFELT SEQUEL!
I’m happy to report that that the answer to that last question is a resounding YES! ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ is, quite simply, a love letter to the original films. It moves the franchise on from its 1980s heyday while forging its own path and standing on its own two feet. It takes the franchise forward while also giving a thankful and respectful nod to what has gone before. To what makes ‘Ghostbusters’ the much-loved franchise that it is. It is full of terrific surprises, some laugh-out-loud moments of hilarity. And it is also clever enough to give us a sense of nostalgia, to bring us back to what made us love the first two films so much. And it is all the better for it.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE | A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW
The minute the film starts, we know we are in for a terrific ride. We open with a pick-up truck racing away from an old mine. On the passenger seat lies a ghost trap, its red light flashing to indicate it contains a spirit inside. Something is chasing the truck, pursuing it as it races away. It gives chase until we reach a farmhouse where the driver stands on its porch, holding the trap up for the spirit to see. This opening will set up the events that will follow later in the film.
A young mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two young children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (a terrific performance from young actress McKenna Grace) face eviction from their home. Callie has received the news that her estranged father has passed away, leaving her his property in Oklahoma. She plans to travel there, collect his possessions, and sell the place. All this comes too late to rescue the family from eviction.
PHOEBE, TREVOR, AND MR. GROOBERSON
Phoebe is enrolled in summer school where she is to be taught by the fun Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd, hilarious). His method of keeping the kids under his tutor ledge happy is to wheel in an ancient TV and VHS player on which he shows old 1980s horror movies. Phoebe meets and befriends a young podcaster named Podcast (Logan Kim, one to watch in the future). Trevor meanwhile, has the hots for a young waitress, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) in the town’s diner.
Phoebe comes across a handheld machine under a chair at the house. A strange machine that seems to come to life on occasion. One night, the machine comes to life, waking her. It leads her on a tour through the house and outside where she comes across an old fireman’s pole. Trevor has discovered an old, white hearse in another building. Rusty, neglected and needing work, Trevor decides to try and get it working. Meanwhile, the mine is beginning to clear its throat.
I shall leave it there. By going any further, I run the risk of entering into spoiler territory, which I shall not do. But I can say that Ghostbusters Afterlife, at times, resembles the 1980s coming of age story. For the most part, the adults play second fiddle to the kids. But that is what gives the film its immense charm. While Trevor thinks he knows everything (what teenager doesn’t), Phoebe is on a journey of discovery. She is already a smart cookie and is a chip off her grandfather’s block. This is, in essence, more her story than many of the other characters. And we gladly join her along the way. Several scenes have already been teased or shown to us so it isn’t a spoiler to say they are executed brilliantly. The shopping mall scene featuring Grooberson and the ‘Mini-Pufts‘ is hilarious. The return of the Terror Dog brings a smile to our faces. And, of course, we know who the vocal cameo in the trailer is.
As I’ve already said, the adults play second fiddle to the kids. But it works in the film’s favor. Finn Wolfhard as Trevor begins the film as the typical teenage boy. Knows everything, is too cool for school but once he sees Lucky, his hormones kick into high gear. During the film, he turns into someone we can get behind. Celeste O’Connor has the role of the token love interest but she turns in a genuinely warm performance as Lucky. Logan Kim gives us a great performance as Podcast. Although seemingly annoying to begin with, he soon grows into a character that we can cheer for, and he does get some great shining moments.
But the film, as a whole, belongs to McKenna Grace. She is pitch-perfect as Phoebe. We know going in who her grandfather is. And she envokes the same kind of response from us as the late Harold Ramis did. Every mannerism, every quirk that Egon possessed is duplicated here in a performance that will blow the audience away. At times, you forget you’re watching a teenage child. Her performance is that good. I can foresee a long and rewarding acting career for McKenna Grace, based on her performance here.
Although the kids steal the show, the adults do get a good look in too. Carrie Coon as Callie gives us a great performance as a mom who is trying her best for her kids. There is a great exchange between Callie and Trevor that gives us a brilliant payoff from her. Callie is a character that many people will identify with. The mother is struggling but is always giving her all for her children. Her abandonment issues play a huge part in her life, issues she will be forced to reconcile with later on.
Paul Rudd as Gary Grooberson is often hilarious. Every time he appears on screen, we expect some funny line or action to be forthcoming. And for the most part, it does. The shopping mall scene is hilariously brilliant, evoking memories of Rick Moranis as Louis in the original film. Rudd plays it straight, making his performance even funnier. Bokeem Woodbine has little more than a cameo role as the town’s Sheriff Domingo however.
Going in, we know there are going to be cameos from some of the original cast. Annie Potts as Janine is up first in a brief but enlightening appearance. Of the rest of the returnees, it’s Dan Aykroyd who gets the most screen time as Ray Stantz. It isn’t a spoiler to say that Ray is still running his book store. But his first appearance is a telling, vital, and revealing one that moves the film’s plotline forward. Bill Murray as Peter Venkman is once again, brilliant. Venkman is older but by no means wiser. Still cracking jokes, unleashing one-liners and his ego is still wildly out of control. But just seeing him is a joy to behold.
Ernie Hudson as Winston gives us yet another restrained performance. He also has one of the standout comeback lines in the film. And it is great to see Sigourney Weaver, even though it’s a brief appearance, back once more as Dana. All told, they deliver a great nostalgic throwback to us all.
THE WRITING AND DIRECTION
Jason Reitman has nailed it the first time out. He delivers a sequel that not only is a love letter to his father, Ivan (who produces this time out) but compliments his pair of films perfectly. He envokes a terrific feeling of nostalgia while moving the franchise forward and making a film that is all his own. And he is certainly a chip off his father’s block when it comes to the film. His screenplay, co-written with Gil Kenan brings the spirit of the original films back while furthering the franchise and bringing things up to date. The jokes, for the most part, hit the target and elicit genuine laughs and warm feelings. And by referencing the ‘Manhatten Crossrip of 1984’, makes the film exactly what it needs to be. A proper ‘Ghostbusters’ sequel.
Rob Simonsen’s score hits it out of the park. He takes some of Elmer Bernstein’s original score and brings it back to us in spades. As soon as we hear the opening motifs that accompany the Sony logo, we know we are back in true ‘Ghostbusters’ territory. His use of the classic cues is joined with his original music to produce a score that fits the film like a hand to a glove. Every note is pitch-perfect and seemingly brings us back to familiar territory. But it is a feint, in a way. Although the music makes us feel grounded, it makes the film soar higher. We get the sense of foreboding alongside moments of genuine feelings. Rob Simonsen deserves a huge amount of credit for his work here.
Ghostbusters Afterlife is what we, the fans, have been crying out for since 1989. It is the sequel we have so desperately wanted but until now, never got. It brings back the feelings of nostalgia and fun from 1984 and 1989 while dragging the franchise, kicking and screaming, into the new century. The viewer must be eagle-eyed throughout proceedings to catch all the easter eggs and references scattered during the 125-minute runtime. It is one of the best films of this year, without a doubt. Fun, quirky, and with a genuine feeling of enjoyment throughout, it has been worth waiting for.
Will there be a sequel? It certainly leaves enough threads for the franchise to continue. If there is to be a fourth film in the franchise, it will be interesting to see what direction it will take. There are two stingers, one mid-credits, and one right at the end. Don’t miss either of them, you need to see them both! A word to the wise, however. While I won’t give any spoilers, I will say you will need tissues. It is an emotional ride in places. But one that I can’t wait to take again. So, the question is…”Who ya gonna call?”. After this film, the answer is most definitely Jason Reitman.
‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ opens on November 18th in the U.K and November 19th in the USA courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing.
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Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!