Ghostbusters: Afterlife REVIEW – A Fun Return to the Franchise

It isn't a perfect film, but it's hella entertaining.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Following up the joyous, genre-blending success of the original Ghostbusters has proven a challenge for directors. In 2016, comedy veteran Paul Feig’s stab at a reboot was met with an icy reception – although how much of a role social politics played in this is up for debate. And even Ivan Reitman’s own 1989 sequel was bashed by audiences and critics alike, its Tomatometer score of just 53% a full 44% lower than the original’s rating.

So, when it was announced that Ivan’s son, Jason, was going to take the reins for a blockbuster sequel some 37 years after the first film hit the big screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking the odds were stacked against him. Yet, while far from a perfect return to the franchise, this is a fun, funny and fully engaging flick that is made for the movie theatre.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows Carrie Coon’s Callie, daughter of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis), and her family as they move into a crooked old farmhouse left behind by Egon following his death. Over time they start to uncover an uprising of supernatural beings and, after finding the tools their spirit-skirmishing grandfather left behind, youngsters Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) fight back to stop a potential apocalypse – making use of everything from proton packs to ghost traps in the process.

From the minute this film was announced, Jason Reitman has promised that it would “hand the movie back to the fans”, aiming to recapture the magic that made the 1984 release such an astoundingly popular movie. Through comments such as this, it’s easy to see why many felt alarm bells start to ring, showing concern that this could become a fan-service-filled nostalgia-fest with little in the way of an original story to tell.

Sure, there is a ton of nostalgia here, but other than a painfully on-the-nose line of dialogue (as one character literally says the line “Who you gonna call?”), the film just about treads the line between sentimentality and creativity to a satisfying degree. Yes, there are other self-indulgent moments, including the return of certain popular cast members, but overall this is a fine film in its own right.

A key reason for this is the charming presence of the characters, and the joyful performances of those depicting them. Coon is delightful as Callie, bringing a nonchalant, carefree attitude that offers many enjoyable moments – yet when the time for emotion comes, she nails that too. Paul Rudd, one of the main selling points of Afterlife for many, is in his usual charismatic form, and works well with Coon to develop a relationship that feels sweet and genuine. And Grace is perhaps the star of the show, her phenomenal comedic timing helping to create a likeable lead that has you rooting for her success.

Wolfhard is given a tougher job, though, and fails to make the most of it. Saddled with a character that has been seen countless times before – mopey teenager who cares more about his mobile phone than anything else, anyone? – it is a real challenge to care about his story or his fate, leading to an eye-roll whenever the camera switches to his generic subplot.

Afterlife also struggles with its pacing, failing to fully justify its two hour-plus runtime. The first act takes too long to get going, feeling slow and lethargic as it drags its way through introducing each and every character. In truth, Reitman could have trimmed 30 minutes off without denting the storytelling in the slightest.

That said, when the film does get going, it is an absolute blast. Feeling more like an action-adventure flick than the series’ previous instalments, this is a movie that is tailored to the big screen. Several set-pieces are properly exhilarating, including one in which the gang chase a metal-munching monster with their pimped-out Ecto-1, providing the sort of high-octane action that we all missed when cinemas were closed.

And others, like the sequence where adorable Mini-Pufts terrorise Paul Rudd in a Walmart superstore, are genuinely hilarious. Forget the fact that a large number of this cast are teenagers – this still has plenty of humour for grown-ups to appreciate.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife may be getting a bit of a kicking from many critics, but don’t be fooled, this is a hell of a ride. It has its problems, without a doubt, but whether you’re a fan of the original or not, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It turns out there is life in this old franchise, after all.

READ NEXT: 20 Best Ghost Movies of All Time

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Verdict
Despite a mixed reception from critics, this an entertaining film that is sure to win over audiences.
7