Have you ever watched just the right movie at just the right time? For me a few nights ago, that movie was Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Going into the film I was feeling really down about a few things, but by the time the credits rolled and the post-credits scene was done (yes, you have to stay till the very end), I felt like a new man. This is one of my absolute favorite movies of 2021, and it was just the pick-me-up I needed after feeling the weight of life press down on me a little harder than I would’ve liked.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife was directed by Jason Reitman, the son of the original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, and it stars Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, and Celeste O’Connor. It focuses on a single mother and her two children Phoebe and Trevor as they move into an isolated home that the woman’s recently deceased father left her. Unbeknownst to the kids, their grandfather was Egon Spengler, one of the original Ghostbusters, and he left them all the tools they and some new friends need to stop a rising supernatural threat of apocalyptic proportions.
If you’re a fan of the original Ghostbusters, that description might sound a bit familiar, but don’t worry. While Ghostbusters: Afterlife sticks pretty closely to some of the plot beats from the first film, it’s not nearly as derivative as, say, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That movie is basically just a remake of the original with a few nostalgic elements thrown in, but this one hits very differently.
It’s not about a group of academics creating a supernatural exterminating business. Rather, it’s about a struggling mother trying to make ends meet and a couple of kids who learn about their family’s legacy, so for the first two acts, the plot is very different from the first Ghostbusters.
At most, this part of Ghostbusters: Afterlife just has a lot of the same visual and tonal DNA as the original film. For example, a lot of the comedy is reminiscent of the dry humor that made the first one so successful and some of the ghosts look like better-quality versions of the ones we got back in 1984.
It’s only in the third act that the plot really starts to veer into The Force Awakens-esque territory. I obviously don’t want to give away any specifics, but it’s very similar to the third act of the original Ghostbusters, and I think a lot of people are going to be turned off by that.
But for me, the first two-thirds of Ghostbusters: Afterlife were unique enough that I didn’t mind retreading such familiar territory later on. I had an absolute blast getting to know this new cast of characters, and I really enjoyed seeing the kids slowly take up the mantle of their late grandfather.
In particular, my favorite character was Phoebe’s friend Podcast, a kid who, you guessed it, has a podcast. Admittedly, that name is kind of stupid, but after a few minutes with him, I didn’t care. Actor Logan Kim imbues him with such a charming personality that you can’t help but love him, and he also delivers some of the film’s best laughs. He’s just an all-around great character, so whenever he’s on-screen, he elevates the film in a really fun way.
Everybody else is great too, and they all bring something different to the table. For example, Phoebe is an awkward science nerd with a really unique sense of humor, and in a very real sense, she’s the heart and soul of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. She’s the one who gets the ghostbusting going, so even though she’s younger than pretty much everyone else, she’s kind of the leader of this new group.
In contrast, Paul Rudd’s character Gary Grooberson is basically the comic relief. Sure, this whole movie is really funny, but Mr. Grooberson is particularly hilarious. He has excellent comedic timing, and Paul Rudd’s deadpan humor fits the franchise perfectly. He’s a bit of a side character, so he’s not around quite as much as you might expect, but whenever you do see him, you know you’re in for a really good time.
These characters (as well as all the others!) give the first two-third of Ghostbusters: Afterlife its own unique identity in the franchise, but like I said before, that all changes in the final act. The plot becomes almost identical to the original movie, and it starts to lean more on fan service than anything else. In particular, the last 10 minutes or so go all-in on this, and I suspect that some people are going to find it pretty eye-roll-inducing.
But not me. I absolutely loved every callback and reference to the original film, and I especially enjoyed the cameos from the three surviving old-school Ghostbusters. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that I couldn’t have been happier with what we got from Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson.
On top of that, Ghostbusters: Afterlife also honors the late Harold Remis, the actor who played Egon, in a really great way. Again, I’m not going to spoil it, so I’ll just say that the movie totally nails this tribute. It’s done in just about the best way I could’ve imagined, so by the time the credits began to roll, there may or may not have been ghostly liquid streaming out of my eyes. Granted, I found this part especially touching because it reminded me of my father, who I lost a few years ago, but even if it doesn’t resonate with you on that level, I still think you’re really going to appreciate it if you’re a fan of the original films.
So all in all, if you’re looking for some good new genre content, I highly, highly recommend Ghostbusters: Afterlife. If you’re a fan of the first two movies, I think you’re going to love the way this one honors those films and continues the story, and if you’re not already a fan, I think it’s original enough that you can still appreciate it as just a fun new horror-comedy. It has heart, laughs, and even a legit scare or two, so if you enjoy lighthearted comedies with just a touch of horror, I think you’re really going to like this film.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is playing in theaters right now.