Ghostbusters Afterlife

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. 

Tully

I really liked the Jason Reitman directed film “Juno” from a decade ago. The main reason it was so great was the script by Diablo Cody. Well here they are together again and they have come up with something different. It has many of the same qualities of their award winning earlier collaboration, but there are some left turns in the story that make it a completely different animal. In the long run, it is the kind of animal that you watch from a distance and admire, rather than a puppy or kitten that you take up in your arms and embrace whole heartedly.

Charlize Theron is a strong performer. She has immense talent, but sometimes it seems that she only gets credit for that talent when she is willing to deny her other great attribute, her beauty. In this film, the story tellers go a long way to make the character of  Marlo seem average. She appears at first as an extremely pregnant woman, who’s distended belly can’t be contained in her clothes. Theron manages to have a weary expression on her face through most of the encounters she has. Even when giving birth,she looks more like she needs a nap than pain killers. After she has given birth, the everyday drudgery of caring for three high maintenance children and her loving but detached husband, starts to get to her.

Marlo has a brother who loves her, and has been very successful. His family is equally large but so much different as to be painful. The humor in the story comes from characters and their mannerisms more than any situation, and her brother Craig and his wife Elyse are definitely characters. It is hard enough putting up with strangers who judge you because there are traces of caffeine in your coffee when you are pregnant, but when your own family seems to engage in subtle social comparison, it has to hurt. It is Craig who introduces the idea of a “night” nanny to help out. The suggestion seems ludicrous when coming from the pretentious and self righteous brother, but it is an idea that takes hold when Marlo’s last good nerve is plucked one too many times.

Mackenzie Davis shows up as the title character and begins to have an influence on the world that Marlo inhabits. There is an on-going visual metaphor in the story that should give some expectation that something deeper is happening, but frankly I was not expecting a couple of the twists that arrive, and that is what makes this movie so interesting. The snarky humor and ironic posture of the story is enough to make it work. I though that the television show that Marlo occupies her sleepless nights with was an invention of the story. It turns out that it is a real thing, which makes the humor that comes from Marlo describing it to Tully, all the more clever. There are a couple of sequences that seem strangely voyeuristic, put turn out to be something completely different when we get the whole picture.

I liked the movie pretty well, but there are things about it that may have you scratching your head afterwards. I don’t really feel that I can discuss those without giving away spoilers, and unfortunately, those are some of the most interesting ideas in the film. Regardless of the surprises, the dialogue, and settings will be familiar to most parents and they will nod appreciatively or in embarrassment at the things they may see in themselves. “Tully” is the kind of adult film that has the potential to be embraced by critics and audiences, but the awkward humor and occasionally unpleasant reality of everyday life, may make it a little hard for general audiences to take it to heart. I hope they do, because it is thought provoking and very funny.