Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman, based on “Ghostbusters,” directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd
Nostalgia has a funny way of curving the lens through which we view a modern take on a classic film. In this case, the classic film is the 1984 blockbuster, “Ghostbusters,” directed by Ivan Reitman. Nearly 40 years later, with a sequel, an animated series, three television series, and a fun reboot of the franchise in 2016, Reitman’s son, Jason, directs “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”
The story by Gil Kenan and Reitman takes place 30 years after the events of “Ghostbusters,” set in rural Summerville, Oklahoma, a sleepy farming community where very little happens, and a legacy is left for a family of three to discover.
Kenan and Reitman directly connect the events in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” to the 1984 film, both in character and exposition. Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon) has inherited her father’s ways and struck on hard times. The story makes light of the situation when they are forced to move into Egon’s home, with her two awkwardly quiet children, Phoebe, played by Mckenna Grace, and Trevor, played by Finn Wolfhard. Both actors play their respective characters with intelligence more significant than their ages and curiosity for their pursuits that the story capitalizes on – Phoebe with a quiet love of science and Trevor with a knowledge of mechanics and a teenager’s love of the opposite sex.
Of the trio, Coon’s character is wooden, partly out of frustration for their circumstances and a lack of understanding for her children. If there were criticism, it would be that Callie was either underwritten or underperformed against the other roles. She certainly has a hand in the latter part of the film, which peaks in the second act and then takes a backseat in the third act.
It isn’t until they meet Gary (Paul Rudd), a summer school teacher who, like Mark Harmon’s Freddy Shoop, doesn’t believe in the nobility of teaching a summer school class but comes to realize the potential of his students, especially when the paranormal begins to happen in sleepy Summerville. While Grace steals the show, Rudd brings his mischievousness to the role of Gary, and the actor appears on screen to be having a blast. To appeal to modern tastes and build on the paranormal themes, Logan Kim plays Podcast, a young character who befriends Phoebe and becomes a team member. In contrast, Celeste O’Connor’s Lucky plays Trevor’s love interest and finds her role expanded in the latter part of the film.
Reitman understood his responsibility to the franchise’s legacy, and the story does not let him down. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is replete with the humor that graced his father’s film while bringing something new and fresh to the franchise. The connection between the Spengler’s and Gary is the most substantial element in the story, while the special effects are where this film shines. A significant portion of the special effects was completed using practical effects, but the CGI was compelling and believable. Editorially, the film suffers just a bit, with what looked like excised scenes where characters mysteriously popped in and out of the film. It isn’t enough for the casual viewer to notice, but it was slightly distracting. Rob Simonsen’s gorgeous score evokes the Elmer Bernstein themes, bringing a nostalgic pleasure to this critic.
It would be a mistake to dismiss “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” as “nostalgic” pandering. The story honors the legacy with humor, humility, and grace. Mckenna Grace shines and is a perfect example why “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is the right story for the times we live in. For good measure, the surviving cast of the original have cameos in the film, and Ecto-1, in its dilapidated yet functional state, drive home the elements that made the original a success and, hopefully, engenders itself to a new generation.
You shouldn’t “be afraid of no ghost,” and you should stay through all the credits.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is now in theaters.
PG-13, 125 minutes, Columbia Pictures/BRON Creative