Boy do I wish it was early June and the summer lay before us with it’s promise of long days and movie nights. This would be a destination film through June, July and August, it just feels like the perfect launch to a vacation season littered with fun films that everyone can enjoy. By the way, the film makers knew this themselves, the town in the story is Summerville. The pandemic has robbed us of that context, but that’s okay because we have another way to view this achievement. We are in the holiday season, Thanksgiving is upon us and Christmas will be not too far behind. The family gathers for the traditional dinner and then the kids want to go out and the adults want to go with them. Where can you all enjoy yourselves together? The answer is gathered in front of a big screen in your local theater taking in this welcome return to form for the “Ghostbusters” franchise.
“Ghostbusters Afterlife” is a true sequel rather than a reboot like the 2016 misfire. The events of the first two films are referenced and some of the characters that populated those two films, return for this episode. I have heard some criticism that the movie is just nostalgia product to inject in the veins of 80s junkies. If you are a fan of those 80s films, you will certainly experience a rush of emotions and warmth because of your connection to those two films, but that is not all there is to this movie and to suggest otherwise is to ignore the entertainment value presented by this movie.
McKenna Grace plays Phoebe, the granddaughter of one of the original Ghostbusters, who along with her Mother and brother, are digging through what looks like the wreck that Egon Spengler’s life had become. We don’t really know why Egon was not part of daughter Carrie Coon’s life, but we know he was involved in something in this out of the way farm community and the dilapidated house that his family has inherited. Without saying too much, let me tell you there is a direct connection between the first film and this one. The plot is connected to the Ghostbusters greatest success and there is a chance to experience some of the same problems Peter,Ray, Egon and Winston faced but in a new context with some fun new characters but also great callbacks. The recently crowned “Sexiest Man Alive”, Paul Rudd is a star of the film, but he is not the lead. Young Miss Grace is and she shoulders that responsibility exceptionally well. Phoebe is a smart girl, who is a little awkward because her interests are so deep in science. She is not a target of derision in the story, this is simply her character. She makes a friend in the new town, a kid who calls himself “Podcast” because he has a podcast. Logan Kim as the fearless, dry witted precocious Podcast has all the best lines and will delight you with his off the cuff reporting style.
As you would expect, the technical elements of the film are top notch with a very nice integration of practical camera effects along with the CGI that makes up most of the effects in films these days. The movie is full of visual call backs to the first films, the sort of thing that is refereed to as “fan service” but in this case it is entertaining on it’s own as well as providing a nostalgia bump for the aforementioned addicts. The original music cues from Elmer Bernstein are used appropriately and we have to wait for the jubilant Ray Parker Jr. Theme song, but the wait is worth the while. Marketing for this movie will have been complicated by it’s delay, the supply chain was ready two years ago but now things are a mess. That’s too bad because I really want a Slurpee cup with the characters on the side and I wish I was dropping tiny Stay Puft marshmallow men in my hot chocolate this Christmas.
There are a few story points that are not satisfactorily dealt with. The splinter between the original Ghostbusters is hard to swallow plot device, and the connection between lost Harold Ramis’ Egon and his daughter should be explained somehow, but when the resolution comes, and the new and old generation of scientists get together to fight the supernatural threats, you won’t care much about those stumbling points. Director Jason Reitman, the son of the original director Ivan Reitman, seems to care deeply about these characters and their legacy and he has done them proud. Don’t be afraid of no ghosts, go and enjoy a great piece of popular entertainment that will also remind you of how terrific it used to be to have a summer movie you could return to again and again.