Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review
Five years ago, Sony attempted to resurrect the Ghostbusters franchise with a gender-swapped reboot in Paul Feig's Ghostbusters. His film wiped out the original Ghostbusters film and its sequel, and mimicked the story beats, just with women in the roles this time. Though critically it fared well, many fans were offended with the disregard to the original being remade and the film was a box office bomb. So here we are years later, where Sony is testing fate again, but this time playing it much more safely. With Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jason Reitman (son of the original Ghostbusters director, Ivan Reitman) pays tribute to the original films in a very reverential, nostalgic way--too much perhaps even for the films' own good.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows Phoebe (McKenna Grace), her brother Trevor, (Finn Wolfhard), and her mother (Carrie Coon), who, after her grandfather passes away, move into the farmhouse he left them far away in the countryside. Phoebe had never met her grandfather before since her mother told her that he left when she was just a child. Phoebe yearns to learn more about her grandfather as she explores more of the house and learns that her grandfather was a scientist, a passion she shares as well. After a precocious kid at school named Podcast (Logan Kim) befriends her, they learn even more about Phoebe's grandfather; they learn he owned a lot of specific equipment designed for catching ghosts. Their summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), fills them in on the history of the Ghostbusters, and with all the equipment in tow, they decide to have a bit of fun. They soon discover, however, that Phoebe's grandfather had a very specific reason to live where he did, and that he was playing watchdog in the event that something truly terrible (and paranormal) would happen.
The problem with trying to make a sequel to the original Ghostbusters film is that it was such a lightning in a bottle kind of movie that it is impossible to duplicate. The magic of the original cannot be recreated, no matter how hard anyone tries. It wasn't the props, costumes, and music alone that made Ghostbusters what it was then and still is today (though they certainly contributed to the charm). Rather, it was the comic talents of the original cast, and how they interacted together that made Ghostbusters an instant classic. It was seeing truly great comedians in their prime deliver some of the funniest lines in movie history with their pitch-perfect comedic timing. In short, Ghostbusters has a je ne sais quois about it that no one can just stumble upon.
So with that in mind, Afterlife cannot feel like an organic sequel because it's truly impossible to, but that doesn't mean it's not a fun, pleasant film that constantly goes out of its way to honor the original. However, the film is at its best when it's trying to do new things, and as a result, it gets bogged down when it tries to play the original's greatest hits all over again. The film's final third, in particular, recycles way too much.
Overall though, I had fun with this sequel, even if it felt impossible to truly match the tone of the original. Here, the film is much more family-oriented and kid-focused, which honestly was a great move. No group of adults will ever feel like Ghostbusters, so might as well let the kids have some fun...even if it makes it feel more Goonies than Ghostbusters. I have a lot of thoughts on the ending, but I don't want to put spoilers in my review, so I'll leave it at that. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a fun, loving tribute that never tries to erase, but to elevate what came before.