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Review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Premise: A direct sequel to the 1984 movie. A family moves into a remote farmhouse and discovers a ghost trap hidden in the floorboards. Supernatural phenomena begin happening around town and the children discover their family’s connection to the Ghostbusters.    

What Works: The original Ghostbusters is a classic but the sequels and remakes that followed have been uneven at best. Ghostbusters: Afterlife largely succeeds in appending onto the legacy of the original film and pivoting the franchise to a new set of characters. The original Ghostbusters is usually categorized as a comedy but the 1984 film was also scary. Afterlife is the only Ghostbusters film that recognizes and continues that mix of comedy and horror. The score by Rob Simonsen borrows heavily from Elmer Bernstein’s music to the original film. The score connects the two movies while contributing to the spooky tone. Afterlife centers upon a cast of young characters, led by McKenna Grace as Phoebe, an awkward but bright girl with an aptitude for science. Grace is especially good. The first half of this movie is the stronger portion with Phoebe following supernatural clues that connect her to the past and gradually reveal a world-threatening event.

What Doesn’t: Ghostbusters: Afterlife is yet another nostalgia sequel. It is clearly patterned after Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens but by the end it becomes The Rise of Skywalker.Much like the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is predicated on fan service. The callbacks to the original film feel forced (especially the Stay Puft Marshmallow men) and the last third of Afterlife is a straight up remake of the 1984 film but not nearly as good. The filmmakers overplay the nostalgia in the ending with cameos that literally come out of nowhere and rob the present characters of their heroism and volition. Nostalgia takes the place of coherent storytelling. There are a lot of details in Ghostbusters: Afterlife that do not make sense. The family ends up at the farmhouse because they’re broke and have nowhere left to go but the family’s money problems are never resolved only abandoned. Phoebe is very bright and probably a genius but she’s enrolled in summer school with presumably underperforming students. There’s no explanation why she’s there except to connect her with other characters. The big reveal of the story (which was included in the film’s trailer) is that Phoebe is the grandchild of Egon Spengler, played by Harold Ramis in the original Ghostbusters. It’s one thing to be estranged from their grandfather but it’s inconceivable that these kids never even knew his name.

Bottom Line: Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a mixed effort. This is the best Ghostbusters film following the original (which isn’t saying much) and it succeeds in rejuvenating the franchise but there’s no denying the picture’s sloppy storytelling and overdrawn nostalgic appeals.

Episode: #881 (December 5, 2021)