If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you gonna call? You’re gonna call Jason Reitman to helm the franchise his father started in 1984 with the classic supernatural ghost-busting comedy that has persisted through pop culture for decades. The movie that spawned a 1989 sequel, a 2016 all-female reboot, and the catchiest theme song of the ’80s has a new sequel under its Pistol Belt.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a direct sequel to the first two Ghostbusters films, putting fresh faces behind the wheel of the Ectomobile in a movie set 30 years after the events of the second movie. In this movie, we have a single mother and her two children moving to a decayed farmhouse in a small town owned by a late relative. When the town begins to experience a series of unexplained earthquakes, the children investigate the cause and discover a connection to a ghostly event in New York City 35 years prior.
The idea of a Ghostbusters III has been tossed around for decades. But after a lengthy delay, no thanks to the pandemic, we are finally getting a continuation of the two ’80s movies. But our original four Ghostbusters are not the stars of this one, and we instead have a group of kids solving a mystery tied to the Ghostbusters. This could have turned out terribly, similar to the horrifying Ace Ventura Jr. situation, but fortunately, it worked. This movie is a lovely, satisfying sequel to the Ghostbusters films that perfectly combines the new with the old.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very different from the first two films. Those ’80s movies are about the ghosts running rampant in New York City, but this film takes place decades after the last ghost sighting. A group of kids trying to solve a mystery is a classic old-fashioned horror story, and this movie throws it into the Ghostbusters universe to perfection. Unlike other reboots of ’80s and ’90s movies, this film is not concerned with using social media terms to appeal to a 2021 audience (I’m talking to you, He’s All That). Instead, this film has a whimsical, lighthearted quality that aims to recapture the magic of a period lost in time.
Our film spends a lot of the first act setting up the new characters. First, we have Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), a young prodigy with an interest in science. She has an older brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and their mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), is having financial issues while also refusing to grieve for her dead father. She provides the film’s emotional center, and it works very well. We also have Paul Rudd as a teacher named Mr. Grooberson, and he brings every bit of his charm to the role. The talents of every actor in the film are on full display. While a movie with children and teenagers taking on the mantle of the Ghostbusters is a risk, it makes it work by having such likable performances across the board.
The movie does a phenomenal job of easing the audience back into the world of Ghostbusters. First, we’re reintroduced into this universe piece by piece as the characters uncover the mystery of the earthquakes. Then, as the ghost traps come out, longtime fans will have smiles permanently etched on their faces as this movie brings out the childlike joy we’ve been waiting to experience. This sequel is filled to the brim with callbacks and easter eggs which may have some audience members rolling their eyes but had me grinning from ear to ear as Reitman stirred up the right emotions at the right moments.
The film’s premise takes a few risks with one of the original Ghostbusters, whose presence is an integral part of the film. Writers Gil Kenan and Reitman made choices that I was unsure about initially, but by the end of the film, everything pays off very well, and these choices are justified. The movie’s final act delivers everything you would want from a Ghostbusters finale, and the film doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. It’s a delightfully nostalgic ride that never stops being enjoyable.
While there are some logical leaps in the finale and the film sacrifices the series’s classic New York setting for a fictional Oklahoma town in the middle of nowhere, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the sequel that fans have been waiting for since 1989. It’s a gleeful experience where you will come for the ghosts and stay for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. This movie’s dedication to serving its fans allows for a breathtaking sequel that will entertain both casual movie lovers and die-hard Ghostbusters fanatics. So when this movie crash-lands in theaters next month, grab your Proton pack, get in the Ecto-1, and watch this movie on the big screen.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 6 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: Critic saw the film at a New York Comic Con screening for our Ghostbusters: Afterlife review.