Reviewed by Paul Gibbs
The 2016 Ghostbusters remake/reboot is one of the most intensely fought over films of the 21st century, and as such it’s hard to talk about writer/director Jason Reitman’s new direction for the franchise without bringing up the most recent attempt. Personally, I fall into the seemingly small minority of filmgoers who neither loved nor hated that version: I loved the concept of making the Ghostbusters female and found the cast to be solid, but while I found writer/director Paul Feig’s script to be reasonably funny, I found his directing lacking. It seemed nearly every shot was a medium wide flat angle, and for me it just lacked the visual pizzazz need for a sci-fi effects action/comedy. But the ludicrous level of sexist vitriol hurled at the film by misogynistic trolls who think that girls ruin everything makes me loathe to be counted with the film’s detractors on any level, and I found the character dynamic between the Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy character compelling and even touching,
So, now, on to Reitman’s film: the son of the original 1984 classic’s director has crafted a loving homage to his Dad’s movie, and to it’s fans. Reitman recognizes that the Ghosbusters fandom is largely made up of people who grew up on the original, and that it wasn’t just the belly laughs Bill Murray gave us that made people love it, it was the sci-fi fantasy element. In fact, the mythology of Ghostbusters depends nearly as much on the Saturday morning cartoon The Real Ghostbusters and other spin-offs like the classic West End roleplaying game as on the movie itself. Reitman’s film respects all of that by being set in the same universe and continuity as the 1980s films. Reitman also makes the wise choice to center the film around teen and preteen heroes which both adds a Goonies/Stranger Things vibe to the 1980s nostalgia and prevents him from making his father’s mistake and trying to make a film like this with a David Duchovny instead of a Bill Murray (which was one of many missteps that killed 2001 wannabe Evolution.). By now Afterlife‘s release has been pushed back multiple times, and anyone interested in the franchise has probably seen that the story centers on a family moving to a creepy old deserted farm left to them by a relative, and that 12 year old Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and her brother Trevor (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) discover unusual phenomena and what appear to the original Ghostbusters’ gear. They also have almost certainly solved the incredibly obvious mystery of what the connection between these characters and the original Ghostbusters is, but since the studio is pretending that’s a spoiler I’ll go along with it.
Thankfully, Reitman has crafted a joyous, funny, thrilling and charming film that can rightly be called fan service without letting that become negatively self-indulgent (at least most of the time.). Much of this has to do with a positively luminous performance by McKenna Grace, who shows major star potential as she carries the film on her shoulders. Grace is ably supported by Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd and the rest of the cast, but this is her movie all the way. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very definitely for fans of the original, and isn’t likely to be especially enjoyable or even coherent to those who aren’t. But for those of us for whom the original is a beloved favorite, this movie is everything we wanted it to be and then some (as it also brings the look and feel of 1980s Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment films in a delightful way.) And best of all, Reitman still chose to base his version of the franchise around a female character, so the misogynists will still hate it,