19th Nov2021

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Celeste O’Connor, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver | Written by Jason Reitman, Gil Kenan | Directed by Jason Reitman

The 2016 all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was both a critical and commercial flop, so now it’s time to let the kids have a go. That seems to be the thinking behind this new sequel-slash-reboot from director Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman, who’s on board here as producer, casting a protective eye over the film’s legacy.

Set in the present day, the film begins with put-upon Callie (Carrie Coon) moving to smalltown Summerville, Oklahoma with her two children – 15 year-old Trevor (Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard) and 12 year-old science whizz Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) – after inheriting her estranged father’s “dirt farm”.

Soon, Phoebe discovers that her grandfather was none other than former Ghostbuster Egon Spengler, so when spooky things start happening in Summerville she digs out his old equipment and follows in his footsteps, aided by Trevor, nerdy classmate Podcast (Logan Kim), Trevor’s slightly older crush Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and schoolteacher-slash-amateur seismologist Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

The casting of Finn Wolfhard is clearly no coincidence, as the film is very definitely going for a Stranger Things vibe. For the most part, it succeeds (even the lighting feels the same), and the first half of the film is a lot of fun as a result, particularly when the kids take the dusted-off Ghostbuster mobile ECTO-1 out for a spin for the first time, revealing a crowd-pleasing upgrade in the process.

In fact, the first half is filled with likeable set-pieces and moments, whether it’s the awkward flirtation between Gary and Callie, Gary’s encounter with a multitude of tiny Marshmellow Men (an inspired callback that works in its own right) or a rather lovely sequence where Phoebe plays chess with a seemingly benevolent ghost in her house. (Although, at that early point in the film, it’s kind of annoying that she doesn’t immediately tell anyone about it).

Unfortunately, the second half of Ghostbusters: Afterlife gets progressively worse, bogged down in slavish fan-service that feels completely unnecessary, such as the need to bring back the exact same monsters from the first film instead of creating new ones. It all begins to feel incredibly lazy and cynical, settling for touchstones of recognition (there are literally dozens of shoutouts, callbacks and references) rather than doing justice to the story and characters they’ve created in the first half.

That all culminates in a frankly appalling final act, where – spoiler alert, although it’s an open secret at this point – the characters you’ve spent the entire movie rooting for are roughly shoved aside so that a trio of familiar faces can show up, drop a few wisecracks and save the day. That’s made even worse by a questionable CGI-related decision that tries to pay affectionate tribute to the late Harold Ramis, but ends up feeling deeply uncomfortable, for a number of different reasons.

Sadly, that’s not the only problem with the finale. In addition to the fan-service overload, it’s also poorly staged (it feels rushed), completely free of tension or a sense of threat, and completely side-lines two of its best characters.

In fairness, Ghostbusters: Afterlife delivers a number of good laughs and Mckenna Grace is a total star in the making, more or less walking off with the entire film. It’s just a shame that the dismal final act comprehensively undoes all the good work of the previous ninety minutes or so. Also, for a film so in love with its own franchise, it seems particularly cruel to include a line of dialogue that effectively tries to pretend that neither the 1989 sequel or the 2016 reboot ever happened.

**½  2.5/5

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in cinemas now.


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