“When a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.”

Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman, Dan Aykroyd
Staring: Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, McKenna Grace, Logan Kim
Release Date: November 19, 2021

Callie (Carrie Coon) is a single mom struggling to make ends meet with her two children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). Callie gets word that her estranged father left them some farmland in Oklahoma, and so she and her kids take off for the midwest with a chance to restart. It turns out that that Callie’s father was the former New York City based Ghostbuster legend, Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis). The man who once helped create a phenomena (that somehow Trevor and Phoebe don’t know anything about) died and left a rather tough reputation, not only to his new neighbors but also to his former friends of the firehouse.

Phoebe is a curious soul and her knowledge seeking scientific brain immediately gets herself, her family, her friend Pocast (Logan Kim) and her summer school teacher Grooberson (Paul Rudd) in trouble. Ghosts are beginning to wreak havoc in Somerville, OK and the rising evil begins illuminating why Dr. Spengler evacuated New York and distance himself from friends and family. An evil prophecy that will bring back Gozer the Gozerian is threatening to destroy the world and only proton packs and ghost traps can keep humans safe.

So in quick summary, the plot of Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) is the same as the original Ghostbusters (1984)? The heroes of this story are struggling against the same foes as the original quartet: Gozer the Gozerian, the Gatekeeper, the Key Master, and nasty little marshmallow men. For an apt comparison, Ghostbusters: Afterlife took after Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) in terms of playing back the hits. The only issue is that this rehashing of ideas is made for a different audience. Kids are the focal characters and the crowd favorites don’t show up till you know when. The faces that made the franchise famous are not part of the story, but rather sprinkles on top of the sundae. While Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not bad outright for its somewhat copycat plot lines, it does suffer because that same story isn’t going to land with the kids this movie is targeting.

This movie is a passion project for Jason Reitman. His father Ivan Reitman directed the original classic in 1984 so there is a lot thrown into this nostalgia filled viewing. I think that this is why Jason focused this movie more on the kids because that is how he saw his dad’s work. He was seven years old when Ghostbusters came out, so he has a childlike wonder about the experience. I also have to bet that Reitman put a lot of himself in the character of Phoebe. She is constantly learning and experiencing the same work as someone who would be her spiritual mentor, as Ivan was for his son.

The fact that Jason was a kid when the original Ghostbusters came out prolly helped get Dan Aykroyd, Billy Crystal, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts get involved in the project.

The first hour of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is its best because it is the most disassociated with the original. Sure, there is the nasty Cadillac, the proton packs and some illusions to the times of the past, but it is still more focused on setting up the story. The most scene-stealing part of the movie comes when Trevor is driving the Ghostbusters ride and Phoebe, with the help of Podcast, are working diligently at attempting to capture a ghost. The proton pack is flying, the car is swerving and the manic energy of the chase is perfectly opposed by Phoebe’s calm and focus. She says that when she gets overstimulated she gets calm, and that line of dialogue was no lie. This first true action set-piece is the highlight of the movie and almost worth the rental on its own.

McKenna Grace plays Phoebe and she is without a doubt the best part of the movie. Her relationship with her mom is funny and her confidence in her quirkiness is quiet and not stingy. She is not like Young Sheldon and condescending people with her smartness everywhere she goes. Grace is playing the young girl version of Dr. Egon Spengler; she is looking for the bigger picture, just as the old Harold Remis character did when he grew up.

Paul Rudd is in this movie, and he is doing what Paul Rudd does best. He is a seismologist who is living in this Podunk town and faking life as a summer school teacher to study the crazy events that are happening. His entire backstory becomes mute once the ghosts start arriving, but his chemistry with Carrie Coon is nice and he has the whimsical smile that will track you in.

This is going to be a hot take, but I don’t get the Finn Wolfhard love. I think he is the weakest part of the Stranger Things crew, and again in this movie he floats to the background and comes replaceable. I grant you that his character is not the main focus of the story, but when bit characters are getting more memorable lines than you, then something is off just a little.

Logan Kim plays Phoebe’s friend Podcast, and he is adorable in all the right ways. He is obsessed with podcasts…name fits…but how many kids around this age (10-15sh) are cultivating a fiendish desire to become the next big thing in podcasting? His line about his show finding its voice in episode 46 gave me a chuckle, but when Ray Stantz brings it up in the end, then it kind of ruined its one off chuckle.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife was cruising towards a high grade with rich family fun time, but an ending that was a bit too familiar and more hammy that expected drums down the excitement level. Overall it is still a very entertaining watch, in particular for the first half of the story. Come the end you may find yourself gazing down at your phone or looking up things for the 1984 original, but you’ll close out of whatever streaming app you have open happy to have watched it.

STANKO RATING: B- (3.5/5 Stars)

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