Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" stars Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts. Released on November 19, 2021, the film has two kids discovering their connection to the original Ghostbusters.
The film is directed by Jason Reitman, who also directed films such as "Juno", "Young Adult", "Tully", and "The Front Runner". It is the fourth installment in the "Ghostbusters" franchise and a direct sequel to the original "Ghostbusters" film and "Ghostbusters II". If there's something strange in your neighborhood, there's only one team for you to call. One spirit-catching group of people that's ready to believe you. That group, of course, is the Ghostbusters. After five ghost-free years, the iconic supernatural comedy franchise is suiting up once again for their big-screen comeback. Instead of following the reboot blueprint again, the series is taking a direction that should have been done 30 years ago: making an actual "Ghostbusters III". It's not to say that I have issues with the 2016 reboot. If you read my review for that film, you'll know that I had a good time watching it, and I honestly believed that the franchise's so-called "fans" unfairly judged it. Seriously, what the heck was wrong with these people? All I'm saying is that a sequel seemed like the way to go for a franchise like this. I was very eager to watch this film for multiple reasons. I loved the first two Ghostbusters films, mainly the first film, and the involvement of Jason Reitman, the son of the original film's director Ivan Reitman. Like father, like son, as we always say. However, I was also concerned with its approach, primarily the film's tone, because I was used to the light-hearted, comedic vibe that the previous movies offered. Regardless, I was more than willing to give it a shot. I mean, it can't be any worse than the backlash from the 2016 reboot, right?
The story is set thirty years after "Ghostbusters II", where the original team has retired from the business, and their whereabouts are currently unknown. It centers on Callie Spengler (Coon), a single mother who's forced to move to an old farmhouse in Oklahoma after being evicted. The farmhouse was left to Callie and her two children, Phoebe (Grace) and Trevor (Wolfhard), by her late father, Egon Spengler, the former member of the Ghostbusters team. The children later discover a series of strange occurrences throughout the town of Summerville, including earthquakes and the history of the original Ghostbusters. When a phenomenon relating to the 1984 incident rises again to threaten the world, the kids, along with their teacher Chad Grooberson (Rudd) and their new friends, must take the Ghostbusters mantle to save the world and bust some ghosts. In addition to being a "passing the torch" sequel, "Afterlife" is another film that harkens back to the kid-centered adventure movies from the 1980s like "The Goonies". It also shied away from the ghost-busting business scenario for a fish-out-of-water plot about self-discovery and family, just to make itself refreshing and similar. While it works in providing a fresh coat of paint for the classic franchise, it can also run the risk of alienating specific people who enjoyed its predecessors for the light-hearted tone and energetic charm. You can quickly tell that Jason Reitman had a lot of expectations to live up to regarding his direction. Not only did he have to deliver a thoughtful tribute to the late Harold Ramis, but he also had to deliver a fun, spooky, and charismatic ride that'll make his father, long-time fans, and newcomers proud. While Reitman mostly succeeds in honoring Ramis and the Ghostbusters legacy, the latter is another story. After getting off to an impressive start thanks to its cast and horror mystery vibes, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" slowly descents into the void of averageness that relied more on nostalgia than storytelling. It's not that the film was terrible. I'm saying that it felt like it missed plenty of stuff that made "Ghostbusters" a comedy classic, such as the humor. There were a few attempts at delivering some comedic moments, especially from Paul Rudd's Gary Grooberson. Unfortunately, the comedy wound up being as dry and cringe-worthy as Phoebe's jokes. I only chuckled a few times throughout the film, which meant it didn't quite get the balance just right. For the most part, the cast made a reasonable effort in delivering some solid performances. Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard were both good as Phoebe and Trever, respectively, and Paul Rudd was a good fit as Gary despite a few rough patches in his comedy. As for the characters themselves, mainly the potential new Ghostbusters Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast (Logan Kim), and Lucky Domingo (Celeste O'Connor), I thought they were okay. While charming and intriguing in their own right, the kid actors did seem to have trouble finding the right energetic spark in their chemistry like the original Ghostbusters team. I'm sure that if they move forward with a follow-up, it'll give them a chance to improve. Until then, they all get "good try" badges from me. Jason Reitman is usually known for helming low-budget dramas throughout his career, so it should come as no surprise that a mid-budget franchise sequel would give him a lot more stuff to work with than he intended. As mentioned before, Reitman had plenty of expectations to meet regarding the film, and in my eyes, he was able to meet some of them. He provided a refreshing and grounded tone that reminisced the 1980s kid-centered sci-fi films and the original 1984 film with its production design and Rob Simonsen's musical score. Although, it wasn't enough to freshen things up entirely regarding its script and third act. The screenplay offered a few heartfelt moments that should make fans very happy, including its tribute to Ramis. However, it became clear how much the film wanted to cater to the fans when it reached the third act. Regarding its antagonist and nostalgia, the third act is a blatant retread of the original film's finale, except in a different environment. It also has some surprise appearances from the original cast that I felt could've been expanded more. Without giving too much away, I was happy to see the original Ghostbusters team sharing the screen again after 30 years, but at the same time, I was also a bit disappointed with how it was handled story-wise. It would also be nice if they came up with a new villain to maintain its freshness, but that's just me reviewing it as a critic instead of a fanboy.
Overall, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" means well in its tone and legacy. However, its mediocre execution and deliverance on fan service make this ghost-busting experience far from good. The film's cast and Reitman's direction were acceptable enough to inject some enjoyability into the long-awaited sequel. Sadly, its lack of memorable humor, weak charisma, and average script prevented it from being truly special. It's one of the films that feature some pleasant moments, but not a lot to make me want to revisit them constantly. If you love the "Ghostbusters" films, then you should have no problem calling the paranormal catchers again.
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