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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Movie Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Columbia Pictures

ghostbusters afterlife poster large

Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman, and Dan Aykroyd
2021, 124 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on November 19th, 2021

Starring:
McKenna Grace as Phoebe
Finn Wolfhard as Trevor
Carrie Coon as Callie
Logan Kim as Podcast
Celeste O’Connor as Lucky
Paul Rudd as Mr. Grooberson
Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz
Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
Dan Aykroyd as Dr. Raymond Stantz
Ernie Hudson as Dr. Winston Zeddmore
Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett

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Review:

Hallowed ground. Adored art. A downright sacred film. Ivan Reitman’s 1984 classic, Ghostbusters, is the textbook definition of the type of movie that epitomizes a generation and bridges all demographics. It’s a perfect piece of American entertainment. I’ll take that a step further and say that if you find someone who dislikes the film, I suggest you whip that person’s ass with extreme prejudice. Literally nobody has time for that.

 

I thought about exactly what I would want out of a new Ghostbusters film many times over the last thirty or so years. I hoped it would maintain the sense of legit danger combined with a gallows sense of humor that made the original so beloved. I wanted more of the amazing chemistry between that well-balanced cast. I wanted less deadly artwork dripping with pink slime (sorry not sorry, Ghostbusters II) and more of the androgynously hypnotic Gozer and her two devil dogs. I didn’t want to be pandered to with jokes that were a decade too late; instead, I prayed for a deft blend of callback/homage humor mixed with a fresh, new cast.

Thank you, Jason Reitman and company, for building one of the best bridges between nostalgia and fresh, new Amblin-style entertainment that you’re likely to ever see. I say that without a hint of exaggeration.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife centers the story on Phoebe (Mckenna Grace; Annabelle Comes Home), a nerdy pre-teen girl who’s all about the science. She’s a misunderstood genius who finds herself essentially homeless when she, her brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard; Stranger Things), and her mother, Callie (Carrie Coon; The Sinner) are evicted from their apartment in the city. All they have left is the “dirt farm” that belonged to Phoebe’s estranged grandfather. Callie barely knew her father, but he was none other than the founder of the legendary Ghostbusters, Egon Spangler! Soon Phoebe is finding her grandfather’s old ghostbusting equipment as well as an ancient evil that may be the reason Egon ended up in the middle of nowhere in Summerville, Oklahoma. What was Egon protecting everyone from? And what happened to the Ghostbusters?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is, first and foremost, a loving and respectful homage from Jason Reitman to his father, Ivan, and his film that started it all. It’s equally driven by the memory of the late Harold Ramis, and you’ll be hard-pressed to keep a dry eye before it’s all said and done. The history and cultural importance of the 1984 original could be a heavy burden to bear, but it’s handled so deftly here that you’ll have a shit-eating grin on your face from the opening scene. It’s also smartly written and structured to maximize the nostalgic value without cheesing it up and causing cinematic constipation after you leave the theater.

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From a cast standpoint, everyone makes their own mark. Finn Wolfhard continues to mature as an actor at an almost shocking rate; he’s not just the kid from Stranger Things anymore. He’s channeling Bill Murray like a son of a bitch, and I’m here for it a thousand percent. Carrie Coon plays a hell of a jaded and cynical mother who’ll do anything for her kids so well that I felt like I was the one who was 12 again. The new character named Podcast (Logan Kim, the kid who played the Fred Savage role in that killer quarantine production of Home Movie: The Princess Bride) is equal parts dense as hell and Einstein-level smart as the sidekick for Phoebe. Fellow newcomer Lucky (Celeste O’Connor; Freaky) makes a compelling, strong female co-lead that gives Finn Wolfhard’s Trevor all he can handle and so much more. And if you need any more proof that Paul Rudd (as science teacher/love interest Mr. Greg Grooberson) is America’s true sweetheart, then look no further…Ghostbusters: Afterlife has got you covered. He just fits in the world of a Ghostbusters movie. He does some serious channeling of his own late in the film, and I hope Rick Moranis is smiling when he sees this film and feels the love.

Then there’s Mckenna Grace. Hollywood is nearly overburdened with the insane amount of talented young actors working today, but very few are in this same league as this young prodigy. Ghostbusters: Afterlife puts her at the heart of the story for a damn good reason; she plays Egon better than Egon. It’s a little eerie. This is no one-trick pony performance, however…she’s also got jokes for days and criminally well-developed range. I’ve seen her in other things (most notably one of my obsessions, The Handmaid’s Tale), but this is the role where I became a fan. I’m marking it down.

As for the original Ghostbusters? The trailer doesn’t hide the fact that they’re back, so I’m not either. It’s how they’re used that I really appreciate, though – the film doesn’t rely on their return to be its own thing, instead inserting them at just the right times and in just the right doses (back to that smart writing again). Each one gets their time to own the screen and they just kill it; Bill Murray has ascended past simple silver screen godhood and become something more. By the time the streams get fully crossed, you’re all but screaming for it. Yes, the theater will erupt in cheers. You have been forewarned.

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On the visual front, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a treat. There are a handful of scenes (trust me, you’ll know ‘em when you see ‘em) that are mirrors of the original and a clear homage. It’s wonderful fun in those moments, but the decision to leave the confines of New York City and go out to the country is what this story needed. The cinematography is top shelf on its own, then the VFX give you a true Ghostbusters film. The replacement for Slimer is a class-4 free roaming vapor aptly named Muncher, and this bastard eats metal while leaving the classic slime trail behind. He gets a slightly bloated amount of screen time. There’s my only real gripe – I could have used a couple more new creations, especially after the too-brief glimpse of another ghost that looked a lot like a Beholder. The “big bads” you wanted are back, and I’m as strangely aroused by Gozer as I ever was. What can I say? I have a thing for Sumerian demons that would make Grace Jones flinch.

Also, if you were wondering what toy will knock Grogu a.k.a. Baby Yoda off his pedestal, it’s a horde of mini-Stay Pufts. Just when you’re marveling at how damn cute they are, they remind you that they are still pretty damn evil. I guess I do have a couple of gripes, then – I also need more screen time for the mini-Pufts! But I digress…

Make sure you stay through the credits. It’s been my experience that roughly half the audience stays now regardless of the movie’s genre or sequel potential, but Ghostbusters: Afterlife is one of those considerate films that gives you multiple surprises that are legitimately worth the price of admission alone. Hold your piss just five minutes longer. You can do it.

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Grades:

Movie: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Reviewer - USA
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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