James Jay Edwards

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Has the Same Spirit As the Original, With More Heart

(Ghostbusters Afterlife, courtesy Columbia Pictures)

James Jay Edwards reviews Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a supernatural comedy film directed by Jason Reitman and a sequel to the 1980s Ghostbusters films. (Sony Pictures


Ghostbusters is one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s. A few years back, there was an attempted reboot with an all-female lead cast that got mixed reviews from critics, but royally angered fans. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the franchise’s Mulligan.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is about a woman named Callie (The Nest’s Carrie Coon) whose father dies. She gathers up her kids, 15-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things) and 12-year-old Phoebe (Designated Survivor’s Mckenna Grace), and heads to Dad’s farm in Summerville, Oklahoma, to settle his affairs. While digging around the property, Phoebe learns that her grandfather was a Ghostbuster. She also finds all the old Ghostbusting equipment, everything from the Proton Packs to the P.K.E. Meter. Trevor even discovers the Ecto-1 vehicle under a tarp in the barn. And it’s a good thing they found all that stuff, too. There’s a reason their grandfather was in Summerville. It’s a hotbed of paranormal activity, and the world needs saving once again.


(Ghostbusters Afterlife, theatrical release poster, courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Even though it comes 35 years later, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is basically Ghostbusters 3. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Young Adult), who also wrote the screenplay along with Gil Kenan (A Boy Called Christmas), captures the true essence of the Ghostbusters franchise much better than Paul Feig’s reboot did. Ghostbusters: Afterlife has the same spirit as the original, only with more heart.

There’s a fun eighties tone to the movie, too, almost as if Steven Spielberg or Joe Dante is at the helm. Each member of the family meets and teams up with a local, which gives the whole thing a collaborative vibe. Phoebe meets a classmate who has a mysteries podcast and is named (of course) Podcast (Logan Kim from Home Movie: The Princess Bride) with whom she can test and learn about her grandfather’s equipment. Trevor meets a local girl named Lucky (Freaky’s Celeste O’Connor) who shows him around town, exposing him to some of the more legendary locations in the area. Even Callie hooks up with Phoebe’s science teacher, Gary Grooberson (Antman himself, Paul Rudd), who adds to the fun. Once the family assimilates into the town, the fish-out-of-water story becomes an all-for-one adventure.


(Ghostbusters Afterlife, courtesy Columbia Pictures)

The family connection is really the center of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Callie is estranged from her father, but Phoebe is the spitting image of him, with the same aptitude for science and thirst for knowledge. So, when Phoebe comes across her grandfather’s work (guided by his “presence”), she’s all in. And that not only helps her connect with the old man she never knew, but helps her mother and brother understand him a bit more, too.

Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe is the catalyst of the plot, and as such, Grace mostly carries the movie. That’s not to say that the rest of the ensemble doesn’t do anything, but without Phoebe, and therefore without Grace, nothing would happen. Grace overshadows talented and reputable actors twice or three times her age, and does it with confidence and, excuse the pun, grace. She’s terrific, and it’s hard to imagine another actor in her place. And that’s what turns a normal movie part into a Signature Role.


(Ghostbusters Afterlife, courtesy Columbia Pictures)

There’s no shortage of fan service in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The presence of much of the creative team from the original in some form or another helps add credibility to the movie (Jason Reitman’s father, Ivan, who directed Ghostbusters, serves as producer, and all of the surviving cast is involved in some way), but it also makes for some great easter eggs and little one-off jokes. For non-fans, it may get a little heavy-handed, but those who love Ghostbusters will be rolling on the floor and pointing at the screen.


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Sure, Ghostbusters: Afterlife shares some major plot points with Ghostbusters, but that’s all part of the mythology. And, because of this, it does get predictable towards the third act once it’s made clear where it’s going. But, after the lukewarm reception of the 2016 Ghostbusters (which is now referred to as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call), this is a return to form for a franchise that many movie fans hold dear. And a return to form is just what Ghostbusters needs right now.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is playing only in theaters now.



Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.


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