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Movie Reviews

Ghostbusters: Afterlife ★★★



Director: Jason Reitman

Stars: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard

Released: 18th November (UK)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the latest film by Jason Reitman, who follows in his father Ivan Reitman’s footsteps in this popular franchise.

Set in the small town of Summerville, single mother Callie (Coon) and her two children Trevor (Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Grace), return to her estranged father’s house following his recent death. However, the family quickly experience the eccentricities of the town, leading Phoebe to realise that there is more to Summerville than meets the eye.

After the mixed reception of the 2016 female-led reboot, there was an underlying feeling from audiences to return to the status quo – more specifically, the aspects of why the 1984 blockbuster is a fan favourite. Dating back almost 30 years, the characters, gadgets and even its eponymous theme song have such an amazing longevity that it is hard to imagine Ghostbusters being anything else but four guys busting ghosts (while causing millions of dollars in property damage) in New York. Given its success at the US box office (ranking the second-highest-grossing film in 1984), it comes as no surprise that Jason Reitman is picking up the mantle from his father, which begs the question: what will modern audiences take from this film?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

From the (terrifying) opening scene, it is clear that this story is a trip down memory lane that relies on decades-long nostalgia – so much so, the film caves under a never-ending wave of sentimentality. With a plot circling around the all-too-familiar trope of the apocalypse  – especially when we see Afterlife‘s Big Bad, the film subsequently loses its identity and footing as its own project that sees Reitman Snr’s legacy overshadow Reitman Jr’s artistic contributions.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is anchored by bespectacled Phoebe, who is played by the enigmatic Grace. Wise beyond her years, it is clear that she embodies the qualities of her late grandfather, but the stark contrast between Phoebe and the rest of her family highlights holes in the film’s character development. Despite their heritage, there is not enough to explain Callie’s lack of involvement in the plot and Trevor is saddled with a mundane storyline involving waitress Lucky (Celeste O’Connor). In addition, the story offers little insight into Phoebe’s excitable friend Podcast (Logan Kim) while Paul Rudd’s underdeveloped seismologist Gary is dismissed as an inattentive school teacher. Except for Grace, the principal cast become casualties to what the filmmakers believe are the biggest draw – namely, who else will be appearing.

When it comes to fan service, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is an exemplary piece of work. There are numerous visual and audible Easter eggs dotted throughout the film (either via its poignant score or script), with the action scenes and jump cuts causing a familiar feeling of thrills and fear, respectively. Even the animated supporting characters are fun to watch, with new ghost Muncher (Josh Gad) and the twisted Mini-Marshmallow Men being a disturbingly entertaining highlight. With such aspects striking in the heart of every Ghostbusters fan, it is easy to fall back in love with the franchise – only to see how its core visits the past.

Amid slightly over two hours of conventional action-comedy, Ghostbusters: Afterlife stays close to its roots and much-loved history. With Grace easily being the standout in this uneven feature, Jason Reitman’s ode to his childhood ultimately celebrates Ghostbusters with the people who love it most: the fans.

Katie Smith-Wong, Author at Movie Marker

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) – IMDb

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