Ghostbusters Afterlife Is A Pandering Exercise In Nostalgia, But In All the Best Ways
Growing up I had an uncle that used to take me to age-inappropriate movies. He also made sure I caught age-inappropriate moments to report back to my mother – Elliot calling Michael penis breath in ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ (age 3) and the scantily clad female Russian spy hopping out of the tent in ‘Spies Like Us’ (age 6) come to mind.
But aside from those very specific moments, there’s little I remember about the experience of seeing those movies, or any of the others he took me to, in the theater.
The one exception to that is ‘Ghostbusters.’
Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Podcast (Logan Kim) fire a proton pack for the first time in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife.’ (Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED)
Despite being only five when it was released, it – and the associated cartoon and merchandise – made an impact on me that has survived nearly 40 years (it remains one of my favorite comedies), including a largely forgettable sequel and an underwhelming reboot.
Now, the reboot didn’t “ruin my childhood” like many have claimed, but it also didn’t really make me long for the series to continue – with that team of Ghostbusters, the original, or a new one altogether.
No, that longing didn’t come until word came out that director Jason Reitman would work with his father, Ivan (producer), to create what would become ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife” a direct sequel to first two films in the series.
But rather than focusing solely on the past, ‘Afterlife’ introduces us to Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and Callie (Carrie Coon)Spangler – the estranged family of original and recently deceased Ghostbuster Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis), who had long since left NYC behind and holed up in small town Oklahoma where he earned a dubious reputation with the locals.
Upon learning of her father’s death – and her family’s impending eviction – Callie packs the kids in the car and heads west to settle Egon’s affairs. She soon finds out that her and her father’s dire living and financial situations aren’t all that different.
The Mini-Pufts in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife.’ (Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED)
Resigned to the fact that Summerville, OK, will be home for a while, the family tries to assimilate to their new surroundings. Socially awkward Phoebe enrolls in a summer school science program taught by Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) where she befriends the equally awkward, Podcast (Logan Kim); Trevor gets a job at a local burger joint where he not-so-secretly pines after his coworker, Lucky (Celeste O'Connor); and Callie works to fix up Egon’s dilapidated home so she can put it – and him – out of her mind.
But there’s much more to Summerville than meets the eye, and the Spangler children are quickly pulled into the family business and it will once again be up a Spangler to save the world from ghostly annihilation.
So, let’s address the elephant in the rom first: yes, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ panders to long-time fans like me and doesn’t so much dabble in nostalgia and easter eggs as it dives in face first like Slimer in a hot dog cart.
But you know what? Nostalgia is fun. Subtle easter eggs that can be as easily ignored by the uninterested as they’re caught by the interested are fun. ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ is fun. And I enjoyed nearly all 7,500 seconds of it.
Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Podcast (Logan Kim) in Columbia Pictures’ ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife.’ (Photo by Kimberley French. © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. **ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED)
It also provides a sense of closure to the original story and characters, while paving the way for a new generation to go forward – a true extension that builds on the mythology with a passing of the baton, rather than a hard reset or reimagining … something most longtime fans wouldn’t be receptive to.
‘Afterlife’ is more serious in tone than its predecessors, but what it lacks in belly laughs it makes up for in sentimentality – there were some genuinely touching moments that got me a little choked up. (We’re not talking Han Solo and Chewie returning to the Millennium Falcon in ‘Episode VII’ ugly crying, but there were some tears).
Team Reitman was really in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation here – stray too far from the source material and draw the ire of the core fans, follow it too closely and run the risk of being labeled “dated” and “pandering” by most everyone else.
I’m glad they chose the latter.
★★★★ of ★★★★★