Movie review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife
It must be hard to continue a legacy without letting a few knowing nods to the past become a deluge of fan service. Or so it seems.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not only nostalgic for the 1984 original, it also has a thing for that other classic from Gen X's formative years, The Goonies, along with Steven Spielberg's early films.
The first film spawned from the hectic, scuzzy New York of the early '80s, while Ghostbusters: Afterlife is set in a Midwest small-town idyll.
Rather than a true sequel to the supernatural comedy, writer-director Jason Reitman (whose dad Ivan helmed the first two Ghostbusters) has created a family film.
The kids can follow the exploits of young science genius Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), while the parents can smile knowingly at the many nostalgic nods.
Grace (Gifted, The Handmaid's Tale) does a great job as the lead, with a performance that suggests a long career ahead.
However, while it's good to strike while the iron is, er, snarky and awkward, Finn Wolfhard – who plays her snarky, awkward brother Trevor – may want to try a different look and persona for his next project.
While he isn't given much to do, his involvement does hang a lantern on how much that other supernatural nostalgia nod, hit Netflix series Stranger Things, appears to have influenced Afterlife.
So a young outcast with a special ability, Phoebe, discovers she has a great destiny and is gifted with special tools (a proton pack is very close to a magic wand) to help on her quest – notes ripped from the classic fairy tale structure.
It would have to be a very timid child to be scared by what's here. Even a sudden encounter with a demon is met with fascination rather than fright. But this is more of an ideal holiday adventure, one every child dreams of having.
Older viewers may get a kick from seeing the cameos, but it's all surface. Easy references that do little more than ask: "Remember this from the first film?"
Of the cameos, one, in particular, may leave you feeling uncomfortable, but not because it's scary.
It asks the question of whether Hollywood's finest will soon need a form of an anti-donor card stating, "I do not wish to act after my death"?
The original was much more than Slimer and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It had cast chemistry, the natural banter, the humour and a healthy dose of cynicism – something even the original team struggled to repeat in their own sequel. (It's telling how little 1989's Ghostbusters II is talked about).
Paul Rudd's involvement as Phoebe's teacher helps on this front but only so much.
One of Rudd's key scenes - in a strangely unpopulated Walmart - also highlights how few people are in this film. Surprising, given this was all filmed before the pandemic.
The 3-star score comes with a caveat. Ghostbusters: Afterlife works as a fun, entertaining kids film, something for the family. On that level, it's well done.
But for anyone hoping for a proper Ghostbusters sequel, one linked to the tone and humour of the original, well, this isn't it.
Afterlife is so possessed by nostalgia it may want to consider an exorcism.
FILM: Ghostbusters: Afterlife
STARRING: Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Carrie Coon, Celeste O' Connor
WRITER-DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
THE SKINNY: Following the death of her estranged father, a single mum (Coon) moves with her two kids (Grace and Wolfhard) to his rundown farm. What they discover is a connection to the past and to an event that could end the world.