By George Bate
Who you gonna call? Who you gonna call to breathe new life into the classic franchise, while honoring what makes the original so brilliant? Apparently, Jason Reitman, McKenna Grace, Paul Rudd, and Carrie Coon, amongst others. Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally hits theaters after several pandemic-related delays and much fan anticipation. Following 2016’s divisive reboot, many fans of the original supernatural comedy classic have been clamoring for more proton packs and PKE meters and, thankfully, the newest film delivers on all cylinders.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife sees a passing of the torch from Reitman-father to Reitman-son as director/co-writer Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) continues the legacy of his father Ivan Reitman’s 1980s series. Right off the bat, it’s very clear just how personal this movie is to Jason Reitman. This is a movie that deeply honors its predecessors. It is (by far) the most emotional, moving, and touching installment in the franchise to date (we’ll get back to this in a moment). Easter eggs, musical cues, and references are everywhere. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is perhaps most reminiscent of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a film that similarly hoped to win back general audiences and wasn’t afraid to reimagine elements of its original. And, while this could easily be construed as misguided fan service, the film, like The Force Awakens, excels in positioning new and exciting characters at its forefront.
Afterlife tracks a new crew of characters – led by McKenna Grace’s Phoebe, her brother Trevor (played by Finn Wolfhard), and her mom Callie (played by Carrie Coon) – who move to a house in Oklahoma they inherited from their grandfather. From their very first scene, this central trio hooks us in. The chemistry between the actors is captivating, genuinely funny one-liners are exchanged throughout, and themes of family and legacy play out, in large part, due to the actors’ performances. Paul Rudd plays Gary Grooberson, Phoebe’s teacher who has been tracking mysterious seismic activity in the area. It goes without saying at this point, but Paul Rudd impresses in everything he is in and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is no exception. Rudd is a scene-stealer as he delivers some of the film’s funniest moments and plays an integral role in the plot. It’s a shame Rudd isn’t involved more, especially in the film’s latter half, but his presence is certainly felt whenever Mr. Grooberson is on screen.
Ultimately, what makes Ghostbusters: Afterlife so great is its lasting emotional impact. This is an incredibly touching, moving film (something that is especially evident in the final act). Afterlife takes its time building up its plot and emotions. The audience is given plenty of time to settle into the new environment and characters, which makes the emotional pay-offs sprinkled throughout so much more impactful. Needless to say, fans of the franchise will not be disappointed by how this film honors its legacy.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife innovates the franchise, while intelligently leaning into nostalgia. The personal touch of Jason Reitman helming his father’s franchise is resonant throughout. The new host of characters are captivating, in particular McKenna Grace, who really commands the screen, and Paul Rudd’s scene-stealing Mr. Grooberson. Overall, the newest Ghostbusters film is not only the most touching installment yet, but also the best since the 1984 original.
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures