Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 4 minutes, Director – Jason Reitman
After moving to their late grandfathers run-down house siblings Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) soon discover links to the long-parted Ghostbusters and the ghosts that remain in the quiet town of Summerville.
Logan Kim’s Podcast – self-called because of his podcast and the recording equipment he carries around with him – claims that his series “really finds its voice in the 46th episode”. While this might not be the case with Ghostbusters: Afterlife, not just because of the film, it does admittedly take some time to gradually warm to it. The 2016 remake was its own product, something different from the original 80s classic(s), however this latest take is a continuation, even being directed (and co-written with Gil Kenan) by original director Ivan Reitman’s son Jason Reitman. It’s been claimed that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a film for those who grew up wanting to be Ghostbusters. And in many ways that feeling is present, it comes across in what’s perceived as nostalgia for those making the film. However, the feeling is one of the film trying to be nostalgic rather than actually being nostalgic. It’s a presence that lingers in the opening stages as we see single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) move, along with her two children 12-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and 15-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), move to the quiet town of Summerville, where her late father left her his run-down, falling-apart house.
It’s here that Phoebe begins to unravel links to the original, now parted, Ghostbusters. Eventually catching the eye of her summer school teacher, and fan of the original team, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd). As the discoveries of old ghost traps and proton packs coincides with daily earthquakes in a town with no fault lines, it appears that the stuck-in-time town of Summerville still has its fair share of ghosts. It certainly makes what Phoebe initially describes as “a state sponsored work camp for delinquents”, where she would otherwise be shown VHS copies of Child’s Play and Cujo, that bit more interesting. Meanwhile her old brother finds himself working at the local fast food place, where the waiting staff still deliver food on roller-skates, in order to impress older-girl Lucky (Celeste O’Connor). It’s here that the film still feels somewhat uneven. While it begins to find its stride once the narrative is established and the plot is progressed, after a somewhat hesitant (mostly for the audience) opening 20 minutes, the one thing that remains is the strand for Wolfhard trying to get close to a girl he had only just met the night of his arrival in the town.
However, once even he begins to join the new ghost busting group, flooring it in the dusty and much-marketed Ecto-1, things begin to fully lift off. The entertainment value is boosted as you can’t help but smile at the joy of an Ecto-1 gunner-seat car chase through the streets of the town, racing after new ghost Muncher (think a slightly more solid, angrier and less fussy Slimer). There’s plenty of similar moments that just provide the right amount it joy and entertainment that you want from a film like this, and it seems as if the cast are having an equally good time – particularly Paul Rudd who, while being effortlessly funny, appears to be having as much of a great time as his character nerding out over old Ghostbusters equipment, and simply enjoying the fact that he’s in a Ghostbusters film. Rudd manages to make some of the more in-your-face throwbacks that bit more palatable. While the inevitable “who ya gonna call?” feels forced and somewhat cringe-inducing the more natural moments where the likes of the more major elements, such as the classic Cadillac, are simply part of the scene and made part of the fun.
Yet, the figure that really manages to connect you to the film – amongst all the cameos, the Stay-Puft marshmallow men and the slightly distracting score – is Mckenna Grace herself. Really capturing an intrigued spirit in everything that’s going on around Phoebe and capturing that feeling of a child learning how to be a Ghostbuster rather well. She’s a fine lead and captures a number of the feelings of excitement that the audience feels at various points too – while also managing to create a handful of laughs in the form of what may otherwise be groan-inducing dad jokes. She’s a pure delight and is backed up by equally enjoyable supporting characters (particularly the initial grouping with Rudd and Kim, who themselves would make a great podcasting double act). It’s a Ghostbusters that while looking back on the original – done best when not trying to feel nostalgic – looks towards a new generation of boiler suit wearing stream-crosses. It might take some time to get in to but once there this makes for a trip perhaps as enjoyable as a ride in Ecto-1 itself.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is at its best when not trying to be nostalgic, instead using its classic elements to progress the narrative of a new and entertaining set of Ghostbusters, who, while they might take different amounts of time to take a prominent step into it, eventually form an enjoyable team.