‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Captures the Nostalgia of the Original
There is a reason musical acts like The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, and The Rolling Stones continue to pack arenas. We love our nostalgia and prefer it familiar and easily recognizable. The fans don’t show up to hear the new songs, but rather those oldies-but-goodies that bring back pleasant memories. Writer-director Jason Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan fully understand this psychology as they deliver what amounts to a sequel of the original Ghostbusters movie released 37 years ago (and directed by Reitman’s father Ivan).
The hook in this updated version is that Callie (Carrie Coon), the adult daughter of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (originally portrayed by the late Harold Ramis), has been evicted from her apartment. She packs up the car and her two kids, and heads to the dilapidated farmhouse she inherited from the father she never knew. Callie has lived her life bitter and hurt that her father never reached out, choosing instead to isolate himself in Summerville in the “middle of nowhere.” Her kids are Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), an awkward teenager, and Phoebe (a stellar McKenna Grace), a science whiz who seems to be a near-clone of the grandfather she never met.
As they adjust to a new life, Trevor swoons over local girl Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), while Phoebe befriends another outcast self-named Podcast (Logan Kim), and Callie gets closer to Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a Seismologist “teaching” summer school with help from some age-inappropriate movies on VHS. As great as Coon and Rudd are (and both are great), the real fun comes from the youngsters exploring grandfather’s workshop and the mysterious mountain at the edge of town, which is actually a long ago abandoned mine run by the town’s founder.
Supporting actors include Bokeem Woodbine, JK Simmons, and Tracy Letts. Many of the elements will seem familiar as the kids begin to uncover the ghostly creatures unlocked thanks to Grandpa Egon’s research and tools. As with the original, busting the ghosts is fun, but it’s the one-liners and crackling dialogue that make this a joyous ride from beginning to end. A battered Ectomobile (Ecto-1) plays a key role, as do ghost traps, crossing streams, and a new generation of Stay-Puft Marshmallows.
Jason Reitman is a two-time Oscar nominee for Up in the Air (2009) and Juno (2007), but it seems clear his mission here was to provide a fitting tribute to the original film, his father, and the late Harold Ramis. He’s assisted along the way with some special effects and even more special appearances, though the missing Rick Moranis is notable (and expected). The original blockbuster spawned sequels, re-boots, toys, an animated series, video games, documentaries, and now…another sequel (one that mostly disregards everything but the original). There is a Spielberg feel as the scene is small town instead of NYC, and perhaps with this family-friendly focus on the kids, the best comparison might be The Goonies. It’s nostalgic, yet new and fresh, and we do get a look at Hook and Ladder #8, and the familiar tune of Ray Parker Jr’s iconic theme song. Hang on for the mid-credit and post-credit scenes, and just remember to take this for what it is…a rollicking good time.