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Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ shares its audience’s love for the story

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ passes on the legacy of busting ghosts and feeling good by strengthening its connection to the past.

A scene from 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' courtesy of © Sony Pictures
A scene from 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' courtesy of © Sony Pictures

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ passes on the legacy of busting ghosts and feeling good by strengthening its connection to the past and having lots of fun in the process.

There are certain ‘80s films to which fans have a significant attachment. They’ve watched it more times than they count, can quote their favourite characters, recite the most memorable scenes and list the reasons it’s still enjoyable decades later. Consequently, contemporary attempts to reimagine or recreate the magic are viewed with a very critical eye, though they have occasionally succeeded in presenting a movie that pleases old and new viewers alike. The Ghostbusters franchise is making its second outing in five years, but most will agree Ghostbusters: Afterlife has taken a very different approach than its predecessor.

Callie (Carrie Coon) is struggling to make ends meet, so it’s a bit of a godsend when she learns her estranged father has died and left her his dilapidated estate. Packing up her two kids, teenaged Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and scientific Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), the family heads to a middle-of-nowhere town to tie up loose ends and hopefully recover enough to get them financially back on track. What they discover is a rundown property, an unflattering nickname (“dirt farmer”) and secrets that may explain their grandfather’s absence from their lives. When ghosts are unleashed on Summerville, it’s up to the unwitting family to embrace their legacy and keep the world from ending. Luckily, they have the help of their new friends: waitress and adolescent crush, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), boy conspiracy theorist, Podcast (Logan Kim), and summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

The 2016 film was meant to reboot the beloved franchise with an all-new story and characters that extrapolated from the original. This picture, instead, builds on the source story, extending its heritage to a new, younger group of paranormal investigators. The manner in which this is done is key, as it’s linked to an inheritance from Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), a fictional hero and adored actor lost too soon. This connection to the OG Ghostbusters allows for the film to tap into the all-important nostalgia factor of the franchise, which will alight fans hearts and passion for the narrative.

The other chief element in this movie’s favour is the unbridled fun thread throughout its entirety. Rudd is an excellent choice for the cast as he’s clearly thrilled to be a part of the series and is a fantastic comedic talent (not to mention, People magazine’s 2021 Sexiest Man Alive). Grooberson is able to support Phoebe’s inquisitive mind (and quest for bad dad joke trophy), while also providing a great sense of humour as demonstrated in the widely shared footage of his grocery store encounter with the mini-Pufts — which is unquestionably one of the film’s best moments as the little marshmallows are the perfect combination of mischievous and adorable.

Audiences will live vicariously through the characters as they excitedly discover the clues left by Egon and put together the pieces of the puzzle to make his ultimate scheme a reality. Without spoiling the many clever connections to the original narrative, it’s a treat to see iconic pieces, such as the proton packs, ghost trap and Ecto-1, return to the screen. Co-writer/director Jason Reitman has discussed growing up on the Ghostbusters set as his father, Ivan Reitman, brought the original film to life and the emotion of now being behind the camera with his dad at his side… that warm feeling will envelope fans of the earlier movies and the enthusiasm of the updated narrative will please newcomers to the franchise. And on that note, everyone should remain in their seats for the mid- and post-credit sequences that bring it all home.

Director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace and Paul Rudd

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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