‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ thrills with heartfelt nostalgia despite writing hiccups


Courtesy Of Sony

Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and Podcast (Logan Kim) test out a proton pack in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

Noah Levine, Life and Arts Film Columnist

Who ya gonna call?

The Ghostbusters are back in Jason Reitman’s — son of original director Ivan — ghoulish entry into the series, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” In the wake of his unfortunate passing, Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) leaves behind a mysterious farmhouse for his daughter and her kids. Taking place nearly 40 years after Gozer opened up the gates to the underworld in the heart of Manhattan, Phoebe (McKenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and their mother Callie (Carrie Coon) move into the decrepit property after being evicted from their apartment. Teaming up with her new friend Podcast (Logan Kim) and summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), Phoebe seeks to decipher her late grandfather’s life’s work, all while a massive supernatural threat looms on the horizon.

The key to the “Ghostbusters” franchise was always its stellar ensemble cast. Taking the place of Bill Murray and crew are a youthful gaggle of teens and children. Grace leads the pack with her portrayal of Phoebe, filling the role of the nerdy science kid who has trouble getting along with others. Her strained relationship with her mother and awkward social quirks result in several entertaining character moments. As Phoebe attempts to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps, she slowly comes into her own and shows those around her who she truly is meant to be. Rudd, as usual, is spot-on with his comedic chops, adding some wonderfully effective comic relief throughout the supernatural plot.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has the challenging task of existing in the original film’s canon, yet making sure to emphasize the new storylines. Unfortunately, the original concepts introduced in this installment pale in comparison to the moments when the film dips its toes into elements from the original series. Nostalgia is an easy way to win over fans, and the film certainly makes use of its classic toolbox toward the back half. Once “Afterlife” sacrifices itself to the lore and allure of the original “Ghostbusters” world, it finds its footing as a rewarding supernatural adventure for longtime fans.

While Phoebe, Callie, Podcast and Mr. Grooberson contribute to an entertaining and rewarding dynamic, characters like Trevor and his love interest Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) feel like distracting afterthoughts — the disconnected storyline revolving around their day job takes away time from the more intriguing storylines. Additionally, many members of the case fail to react in a realistic way to some of the film’s first supernatural sightings. Despite establishing that the majority of the characters do not believe in ghosts, nor know much about the original Ghostbusters, their reactions to their first encounters with specters feel surprisingly mundane.

At its best, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” finds its stride with ghoulish dark humor and set pieces. While the opening half of the film stumbles a bit writing-wise, the cataclysmic,  nostalgia-inducing conclusion will surely put a grin on fans’ faces.

3 Munchers out of 5