Okay, I went into this movie hoping and praying not to be disappointed, and boy was I impressed and delighted by this fun and touching Requel. Especially when I consider the failure of the 2016 reboot attempt—I mean, the all-female ghostbuster movie wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t really memorable. It bombed at the box office. Plus, with the passing of both Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman, it seemed like this franchise was doomed to be adequately rebooted.
Thankfully and encouragingly, Jason Reitman (Ivan Reitman’s son) took up the challenge and the personal task to refresh this franchise and infuse it with new life. As a result, we have the building blocks for future movies and the foundation for a new generation of ghostbusters.
As I watched this movie, I realized that my fondness runs deep and strong for this series. I was transported back to when I was a kid growing up in the late 80s and 90s and remembered my affection for all the movies, but mainly for the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters (’86-’91), which I watched regularly.
With that in mind, It’s been 3 decades since the original movies came out, and we have no idea what the original characters have been up to since the events in New York City back in the 80s. The first two movies were set in NYC, and this one is set in Oklahoma. The opening scene for Ghostbusters Afterlife is mysterious and darker than I expected — you can tell it is Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler), but you don’t actually get to see his face clearly; it is like shadows constantly surround him as he moves around. Spoiler alert! Egon Spengler gets killed in the first few minutes, setting up this movie’s entire grief and redemption premise.
Egon’s daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) gets word that her father has died and left her his farm in Oklahoma. Callie resents Egon for abandoning her when she was a kid and growing up without him. Callie is a struggling single mom with two kids and is about to get evicted from her apartment. So inheriting Egon’s creepy-looking farmhouse and moving to Oklahoma is her only option. Additionally, Callie has kept her kids from knowing about their grandpa and his ghostbusting past.
We have Egon’s grandkids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace), at the center of the story. Phoebe nails it — she carries this entire movie on her tiny shoulders; in an exceptional performance. Meanwhile, the original Ghostbusters have been mostly forgotten. But thanks to YouTube videos, his grandkids can learn about their grandfather’s exploits, hunting ghosts, and saving NYC. Phoebe is inspired by her grandpa’s past and seems to have found her true calling. It is obvious to me that Phoebe and Finn are the future of this franchise.
The rest of the kids were pretty entertaining and not annoying like some other movies — they all serve as stand-ins for the original characters, sharing many similarities with those original characters. Phoebe’s friend Podcast (Logan Kim) is a hilarious scene-stealing conspiracy theorist and a fan of the supernatural; He is definitely Ray (Dan Aykroyd). Trevor’s teenage love interest Lucky (Celeste Domingo), is the cool and edgy character here. Celeste is waiting for a chance to move away from her small town. She is essentially a stand-in for Winston (Ernie Hudson). I guess Finn will be the new Peter Venkman (Bill Murray).
The rest of the cast is solid. Paul Rudd (Gary) is again a Paul Rudd type of character — which is always a good thing. The town’s sheriff (Bokeem Woodbine) delivers the cheesiest line in the entire movie, but it was an awesome and iconic line. Also, frequent Jason Reitman collaborators Olivia Wilde and JK Simmons have small but important roles.
At its heart, this is an adventure movie, the closest thing to a goonies movie this century. The nostalgia grab and fan service are mild and more subtle compared to other requels out there. But there is plenty of throwback lines and references to the original movies. I jumped up with excitement when the kids found one of the proton packs and a ghost trap. Finn unveiling and fixing up the old Ecto-1 Cadillac was a beautiful thing to watch — Seeing Ecto-1 with a gunner seat was very cool, straight out of the cartoon series. Also, instead of the giant Marshmallow man, we have Mini-marshmallows popping up all over like Gremlins, creating mayhem all over town. The new character Muncher was a good addition, but I missed Slimmer. The 80s pop-culture influences are all over the place here. Even the whole Gozer premise has a Stranger Things vibe.
Ghostbusters Afterlife is all about family legacy and grief. In death, Egon gets his chance to redeem himself from all the personal mistakes he made along the way — sacrificing his family over his work. The shot when all the original ghostbusters line up, including the ghost of Harold Ramis, was outstanding. It was a touching and lovely tribute to Harold Ramis. The post-credit scene with Sigourney Weaver was excellent. The last scene with Winston in NYC at the old ghostbusters headquarters is setting us up for the next movie (I think). We just need Rick Moranis back; maybe he will come out of retirement for the next one. And I want to see more of Janine (Annie Potts); she also has to be more involved in the next movie.
All in all, this was a delightful movie-watching experience, one of the best in recent memory. It reminded me of what it was like to watch movies made in the 80s. It is a well-executed requel, as it attempts to establish a new generation of Ghostbusters with the guiding hand of the original characters. While at the same time, it is building into something more significant (I hope).
Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)