Published on November 19th, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Ghostbusters franchise is back with Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It’s a passing of the torch movie that has a lot of fun and some emotional surprises.
One of Jason Reitman’s earliest memories of the movies was being on set for the making of 1984’s Ghostbusters, directed by his father, Ivan Reitman. His young mind was set to wonderment at seeing the scope of the production as they stopped traffic of an entire New York Street. For Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a story about a new generation slipping on the proton packs of those that came before them, Jason stepped into his father’s shoes to take the helm. The senior Reitman was kept on as a producer and often sat next to him on set. Oddly enough, Ivan was open to pushing the franchise in new directions, while his son was the purist. Together, they found a way to create balance and make some on screen magic.
The always spellbinding Carrie Coon plays Callie, a broke single mother who has to move her two kids (Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) to a small town in the middle of nowhere, where she has inherited a dilapidated farm. They make a few new friends, including a seismologist turned summer school babysitter, played by Paul Rudd. But soon, weird things start happening and the family discovers their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret plan to save the world that Callie’s father left behind.
When you think about it, there’s really only one and a half good Ghostbusters movies. The first one is a classic. The second one starts out well but falls flat on its face in the second half. And the 2016 version, while stupidly maligned in a fit of misogyny before its release for having the gall to cast women as The Ghostbusters, sadly was the worst train wreck of all. (But it had nothing to do with that cast of talented women, you basement dwelling incels!).
Afterlife could have been the nail in the coffin (well, until the next ghostly resurrection anyway. I think the Terminator franchise has proved you can just keep ruining beloved things as a cash grab and we’ll keep paying to see them like Pavlov’s Dog). Thankfully, Afterlife is up to the challenge and takes the franchise to new heights.
The movie works hard to move at a great pace, but also takes time to grow some good characters. If I had a complaint, it would be that some of the story points took shortcuts to get us to where the story wanted us to be. There were coincidences so big they knock you out of the movie for a moment. However, I was able to look past most of this because it was in service of moving the story forward. And strangely, it felt like the shortcuts you’d find in an 80s movie, a genre Afterlife was often paying homage to. I was even getting some Goonies vibes off things.
There was also a lot of fan service, which mostly worked, though I might have left a few of these things on the cutting room floor. It’s a tough balance, paying homage to the past and carving a new path. Having an audience in on the joke is great, but not at the expense of telling a good story. As I said though, it mostly worked here.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife itself barrels along like a mischievous, cigar-chomping ghost, infused with a lot of heart and humour. There are some new characters and some old, some emotional moments, and a few awesome surprises. It’s rare that a passing of the torch movie works so well. Jason Reitman has successfully taken the property his father helped create and given it new life…an afterlife.
(And stick around for the post-credits sequences!).