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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

If I were to make a list of the most influential movies of my life, there is no doubt that GHOSTBUSTERS would find itself right near the top. It was one of the first films I truly adored, and even in my video store days, I would watch it on a never-ending loop. Even now, I know almost every line of dialogue and every note of music.

When I first began reviewing movies as a teenager, I did so because I thought many critics at the time had somehow forgotten that at the end of the day, movies are supposed to be fun. Yes, there are important, heavy, dramatic films where “fun” isn’t really the intention. But, when it comes to big budget blockbusters and comedies, entertainment value and audience reactions are far more important than artistic vision.

I bring this up because after savoring every minute of the endlessly entertaining GHOSTBUSTERS:AFTERLIFE, I was shocked to see the level of vitriol spewed forth by some of my peers. Multiple reviews proclaimed that there was too many callbacks,
too many easter eggs, too much time spent dwelling in the past, and far too much fan service. All the reasons that they found to hate the production, quite honestly, were the exact reasons that I loved it.

AFTERLIFE is a direct sequel to the 1984 original, conveniently ignoring the fact that the not-quite-as-great 1989 sequel ever existed. Struggling single mom Callie (Carrie Coon) discovers that the father that abandoned her as a child has passed away, leaving her and her children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) as the sole beneficiaries to his estate. When they arrive in the small town of Summerville, Oklahoma they find a creepy, apocalyptic farmhouse chock full of oddities and quirks. I instantly was blasted into nerd overdrive in this moment, as there were so many easter eggs within these initial glimpses of the home that it was all I could do to force myself not to excitedly point out every single one to my kids in the packed theater.

This was no ordinary house, and its owner was no ordinary man. Egon Spangler was one of the founding members of the Ghostbusters, and Phoebe, his highly intelligent granddaughter, is just as brilliant as he was. Approaching life from a scientific point of view, she typically has difficulty making friends, though when she crosses paths with the self-nicknamed Podcast (Logan Kim) the two hit it off. She doesn’t believe in supernatural occurrences, but she does know that constant earthquakes in the middle of Oklahoma aren’t normal. Trevor, meanwhile, isn’t interested in earthquakes, or the secrets hidden within the endless array of trinkets and artifacts in his new home. He only has eyes for Lucky (Celesste O’Connor), a girl he meets on his first day in town. As far as Callie is concerned, she just wants to keep a roof over her family’s head, and to forget the father that had never cared about her, though she does seem intrigued by summer school teacher (and secret Ghostbuster afficionado) Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd.)

As Phoebe begins to understand Egon and the reasons for his isolated existence on the farm, she develops a new appreciation and love for the grandfather she never knew. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his spirt (literally) seems to be guiding her in many ways, and by the time the audience learns that Gozer the Gozerian may be gearing up for their reemergence, we already know that the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man and those demon dogs must be lurking around somewhere.

AFTERLIFE was written and directed by Jason Reitman, who is the son of original GHOSTBUSTERS director Ivan Reitman. I’ve read a few other reviews that criticized this latest installment for relying too heavily on retreads from the past, but, oddly enough, this is what I loved about it. It felt like a part-sequel and part-remake, with mirrored elements getting just enough of a twist that I found them to be delightfully endearing. There are so many sights, sounds, and cues that directly play on the original that even superfans like myself are unlikely to spot them all the first time around. At the same time, a new generation of fans (welcome to the club, kids!) are given enough thrills, chills, and laughs that they can at least get an idea what it was like for their dear old dad to be so enamored with the Busters in the 80s. Movies have come a long way since 1984, and while AFTERLIFE may not feel as revolutionary or special as its predecessor, at the same time, it’s the very thing that films are supposed to be; it’s fun.


RUN TIME: 2h 4min
GENRE: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
STARRING: Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
WRITERS: Jason Reitman, Gil Kenan

Brian Miller