'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' review: Worthy sequel packs enough heart to overcome familiar narrative
Courtesy of Sony
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a treasure trove of easter eggs and fan service to the 1984 classic, which makes sense considering Jason Reitman, son to Ivan, the original director of the two sequels, has made an adventure worthy of the “Ghostbusters” canon. Managing to throw an ectoplasmic pack full of surprises and slimy munchers on the screen, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” comes equipped with an engaging young cast and enough nostalgic sentimentality to rise above the recent deluge of unnecessary reboots. Sure, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” isn’t necessary, but you can tell it was created by someone who loves the series and wanted to pay homage to it. From the practical effects, the Ray Parker theme song to an emotional climax that feels earned and unegated, fans old and new alike should find plenty to embrace.
The second “reboot” in the last five years, after 2016’s all female led “Ghostbusters” starring Melissa McCarthy (and others) was met with backlash from snarky fanboy trolls online (I didn’t hate it), “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” makes that entry canon and picks up 40 years after the NYC attacks. This adventure gains steam in the small, dusty Oklahoma town of Summerville where spunky science buff Phoebe (a wonderful Mckenna Grace) has just relocated with brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, still channeling his “Stranger Things” aurora) and her financially unstable mother (Carrie Coon).
Phoebe’s grandfather, who everyone in the neighboring community called “Dirt Farmer,” left them a worn down piece of property in the middle of nowhere. Striking up a friendship with her summer school/geology teacher (who enjoys showing his students VHS tapes of “Cujo” and “Child’s Play”) Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd, a welcome addition to the cast), the pair uncover a supernatural correlation with the nearby mountain and the earthquakes constantly erupting throughout town. Meanwhile, Trevor has stumbled upon the classic Ecto-1 (which apparently has a nifty gunner seat?!) sitting under rubble and before you know it, the next generation of Ghosbusters has arrived.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” carries a youthful, Amblin-esq innocence to it and the young cast rise to the challenge of carrying a potential new franchise while the Reitman-to-Reitman ceremonial passing of the torch feels authentic. It covers many of the same familiar narrative beats of the original “Ghosbusters” and has a few surprises along the way, but nothing that’ll be too shocking. These days, you can’t take too many risks with a beloved property otherwise people lose their minds. Rudd and Grace are wholesome inclusions to the “Ghostbusters” series as is newcomer Logan Kim playing a 12-year old nicknamed “Podcast” because he’s recording whenever possible.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has a sluggish first hour where Reitman tediously re-establishes the universe, including having the young children, who weren’t born during the original NYC attacks, getting a history lesson in Ghostbusters lore. To its credit, “Afterlife” never talks down to the audience and whether you’re a massive fan of “Ghosbusters,” have only seen it once or just hopping on the train, “Afterlife” makes the series accessible. There’s loads of CGI, of course, but I was happy to see several analog features and the special effects, much like its 1980s predecessors, aren’t flashy or overt.
When the dust inevitably settles, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” might be too much of a good thing (if you give an inch..) as Hollywood constantly feeds the reboot machine and spits out the same regurgitated plotlines. Fortunately, “Afterlife” has enough heart and common sense to make this sequel worth answering the call.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE opens in theaters Friday November 17th.