Being born in the late 80s, the only real chance I had at watching a Ghostbusters film was the female remake back in 2016. Since I missed out on that one, Ghostbusters: Afterlife ended up being the first of the franchise that I’ve seen on the big screen.
Another reality set in as I was watching the franchise’s latest entry: we may be in a world now where audiences care more for fan service than plot. That is not to say the story of this film is not intriguing or confusing, but that telling a story is taking a back seat to fan service.
Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) was to the original Star Wars (1977), so Ghostbusters: Afterlife is to the original Ghostbusters (1984). Directed by Jason Reitman (son of the first film’s director, Ivan Reitman) ,the film starts when Callie (Carrie Coon) realizes that her father has died, leaving her nothing but a old farm in the middle of a raggedy town called Summersville, in Oklahoma. With nowhere else to go, she takes her two kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) to the farm and finds virtually…nothing. The only person who really finds anything off at first is Phoebe, who soon discovers that her grandfather was once a Ghostbuster (it should not take long at all to find out who that grandpa was (especially when you take five seconds to look at Phoebe). She gets help from her summer school friend named “Podcast” (Logan Kim) and the teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd, recently named “Sexiest Man Alive”.), who soon shows an interest in Callie. Meanwhile, Trevor surely finds a job at the towns burger place for the sole purpose of hanging out more with his crush named “Lucky” (Celest O’ Connor). Eventually, the story revolves around the reemergence of the villain of the first film, Gozer (here portrayed by Olivia Wilde).
It seems the film is being criticized mainly for giving more thought to fan service than to quality. I was never a big fan of the original, so I can’t say I knew half of the easter eggs in this film (or even a quarter). I will say that the film works (mostly) when the kids are at the forefront of the story (even though Paul Rudd is still able to make every scene he is in memorable, especially when you see how he manages his kids in summer school.) Wolfhard is a great fit for the role of a teenager of this caliber (something he knows a lot about thanks to Stranger Things), but the person who is most remarkable is Mckenna Grace. She is the one with the most knowledge of the situation, and carries each scene she is in with ease on her shoulders.
Parents, as long as your kids have seen the first film, the movie should be fine for them. There is indeed some language that can be considered strong, but nothing too bad that a middle schooler or older would not know.
In this day and age, there are many movies where we nearly get no points for guessing if certain stars will reprise their roles, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is no exception. When this does happen it is refreshing, but not at all surprising. The one exception is at the very end of the film, which, I won’t lie, caught me off guard, and was rather touching.
That, and the performances of the kids make Ghostbusters: Afterlife enough for me to recommend.