Review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by: Jason Reitman | 124 minutes | adventure, comedy | Actors: Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Bob Gunton, JK Simmons, Shawn Seward, Billy Bryk, Sydney Mae Diaz

It is one of the cult classics of the eighties: ‘Ghostbusters’ (1984). Ivan Reitman’s supernatural comedy about three eccentric parapsychology professors on the hunt for ghosts and spirits that plague New York City was groundbreaking in that it was the first comedy film to use expensive special effects. With Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as the endearing trio of ghost hunters (later joined by Ernie Hudson) who are allowed to indulge themselves like a child in a toy store with all kinds of gadgets such as proton packs, ghost traps and of course the fantastic Ectomobile. There was certainly criticism. On the one-dimensional characters, for example. There would also be very little chemistry between the three protagonists. But the universe that Reitman created, together with Aykroyd and Ramis who also wrote the screenplay, still appeals to the imagination almost 40 years later, because the ‘Ghostbusters’ memorabilia is still selling like hot cakes.

The sequel to ‘Ghostbusters’, which appeared in 1989, did significantly less than the first part. Aykroyd worked on a third part for years, but Murray in particular was tired of ghost hunting and refused to cooperate. When Harold Ramis passed away in 2014 at the age of 69, a reunion with the original cast was no longer possible, but Reitman and Aykroyd were determined to continue the franchise and set up a special production company, Ghost Corpse. The first film to emerge from that was the Paul Feig-directed 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, which sparked quite a bit of controversy because diehard fans wouldn’t accept the foursome Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones starring. were played. And even though Reitman claims that he really likes Feig’s film, he added his own son Jason for the new sequel just to be safe (‘Juno’, 2007, ‘Up in the Air’ (2009 )) forward to take the director’s seat. ‘Keep it in the family’, he must have thought. Father Ivan joined as producer and managed to get the original protagonists to show up for a modest supporting role. ‘Afterlife’ has a special place for the deceased Ramis.

Family is a major theme in ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ (2021) in every way, not just behind the scenes. The protagonists in this sequel are Callie (Carrie Coon), an unmarried mother struggling to make ends meet, and her two teenage children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). Just as they are about to be evicted from their apartment, they receive word that Callie’s father has passed away and they have inherited his possessions. So the family moves to Summerville, a remote hole in the state of Oklahoma, where they find a farm shack. Callie’s father was a quirky man, a hermit known as “The Dirt Farmer” who no one thought would have relatives. She has never had a bond with him, in fact, she has always felt abandoned by him. Callie had hoped to make some quick cash for the property and return to town. But she can’t get rid of this slum due to the paving stones, so the three of them are forced to stay in Summerville for a while.

Trevor falls for the confident Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) charms and takes a job at the diner where she also works. Phoebe attends the local summer school where she befriends chatty Podcast (Logan Kim) and teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), who is actually a seismologist and lets the kids watch bad 80s horror movies so he can delve into the quakes that plague Summerville daily. Before long, Phoebe discovers all kinds of paranormal energies in her grandfather’s house and strange devices like a PKE meter and a proton pack, although she doesn’t know what to do with them at first. She finds out that her grandfather’s name was Egon Spengler and that immediately rings a bell with teacher Gary. He still remembers the ghost attacks in New York that were warded off by the Ghostbusters. Egon appears to have wanted to prevent an approaching apocalypse; it is up to the new generation of Spenglers to complete his mission.

Breathing new life into an old formula for success comes with quite a few risks, especially when it comes to such a beloved franchise as ‘Ghostbusters’. But the love and reverence for the original, thanks to the input of Ivan Reitman and other trusted cast and crew members, is fortunately well. The ball can also roll the other way: if you stay too close to the original, does such a new film actually have any added value? Fortunately ‘Afterlife’, partly thanks to the excellent new cast, has enough ‘face’ of its own to guarantee some form of existence. What Reitman does especially well is recreate that nostalgic feeling without letting go of the present tense. That’s much more than proton packs and conjuring the Ecto 1 from beneath a layer of dust; it is mainly the experience and the adventure that Phoebe, Trevor and their new friends embark on here that gives off that nice, melancholy vibe. Wolfhard has of course the 80’s hanging on his pants thanks to his leading role in the hit series “Stranger Things”, but Mckenna Grace also fits seamlessly into that era. Phoebe, in her knowledge, determination and curiosity, evolves into the image of her grandfather, a beautiful parallel that reaches an emotional climax towards the end of the film, where past and present literally merge.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a worthy sequel to the film classic, which honors and values ​​the original and in which family ties play a prominent role. For fans there are plenty of references – subtle and prominent – to the original and it is a feast of recognition, but for more neutral viewers there is also plenty to experience. Join the sympathetic young protagonists, who incidentally are more in-depth than Messrs Spengler, Venkman and Stantz, and experience an adventure that drips with nostalgia!

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