The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
After a long delay, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is finally here, and for diehard fans of the Ghostbusters franchise that have been waiting 30 years for a new entry in the core franchise, it finally exists. For many of those fans, Ghostbusters: Afterlife was exactly what they were looking for from a new Ghostbusters movie, but it has to be said that Afterlife is actually a pretty strange movie.
There’s a lot to like about Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but there is just as much, if not more, that honestly makes the entire film feel incredibly odd. Here’s a quick look at what works and what doesn’t in Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters follow up.
Mckenna Grace Is Excellent
The casting for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, is, on the whole, top notch. Carrie Coon is great, as she is everything. Paul Rudd is also fantastic and hilarious, as usual. The rest of the supporting cast knows what their job is, and they do it well. However, the new movie belongs to Mckenna Grace. As the film’s main protagonist, all of Afterlife is dependent on her. Luckily, she’s up for the task.
We’ve seen the “brainy kid” character, who is far smarter than their age would indicate and is often smarter than the grown-ups, in movies more times than we can count. Most of the time, the kid is annoying as hell, and that’s often quite intentional. But that never happens here, as Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe is able to do it all. She’s funny when the movie lets her funny, but she’s equally capable of the sincere moments that this love-letter to the franchise delivers.
Busting Makes Me Feel Good
For a movie called Ghostbusters, there isn’t actually all that much ghost busting that takes place in any of them. But man, when it happens in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it all.
From the first moment that Phoebe fires up a proton pack to the ghost chase in Ecto-1, the ghost busting scenes are just so much fun. The fact is that the previous Ghostbusters movies didn’t really have action sequences like this, but these make you want to see even more.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Sincerity Is Real
The tone of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is pretty far removed from that of the original films. It feels like it has more in common with E.T. or The Goonies than it does a Ghostbusters movie, but if there’s one thing that is clear, it’s that everything about this movie comes from a place of love.
Jason Reitman has previously made movies like Juno and Tully. These are stories that have incredibly emotional weight. While they’re not without humor, that’s not what you remember most about them. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is certainly a very different sort of Ghostbusters movie, but for what it is, the new movie works incredibly well.
There Are Too Many Callbacks
Considering that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is as much a love letter to the original movie as it is a sequel to it, one would certainly expect to see a lot of easter eggs and other references in the new movie. Having said that, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is on easter egg overload. There are so many references to the original movie that it detracts from the story.
There are a few references that are simply little background moments that you might not even notice on a single viewing. However, most of the time, Afterlife stops the plot cold to make sure that you don’t miss that it just made a reference. It’s cool the first time or two, but eventually it just gets tiring and you want the movie to get on with the actual plot.
It’s Not Actually Very Funny
There is humor in Ghostbusters: Afterlife; that is to say, there are jokes told by characters, but nearly all of them come from Paul Rudd. The original Ghostbusters was an incredibly irreverent movie, as in it never took itself seriously. The fact that it didn’t take itself seriously was sort of the point. Afterlife is, instead, as mentioned, incredibly sincere. While that’s certainly the goal and it works, if you were looking to laugh as much as you did watching the original films, you missed out. Afterlife looks like a Ghostbusters movie. It has the car and the proton packs and all the plot elements we would expect, but it never feels like a Ghostbusters movie.
When the actual Ghostbusters finally show up, they deliver one-liners that feel authentic to the original movie, but they’re honestly out of place in this new movie because it’s the first time anybody in the movie has been less than referential.
Ghost Egon Is Weird
The difficult part of trying to make any new Ghostbusters movie that included the original cast was always going to be the fact that one of the Ghostbusters is missing. Since the death of Harold Ramis, it became impossible to truly bring all the Ghostbusters together again. And yet, Ghostbusters: Afterlife does it anyway.
Making Egon a disembodied spirit is one thing. Seeing young Phoebe be nudged along on her journey by the grandfather she never really knew, and with her being aware that’s what’s happening, is cute. But in the end, the movie has to push things further by giving us a CGI ghost Harold Ramis so that all the characters, and the audience, can say goodbye. The heart is in the right place, but the execution leaves something to be desired.
The Recycled Story
Clearly the original Ghostbusters is an incredibly popular movie that people love so much they’ve wanted to see this new movie for decades. Having the plot of the new movie be directly connected to the original is not a deal breaker on its face. However, in the third act of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, we get something that isn’t simply connected to the first movie, it’s basically the first movie over again.
It’s like watching a middle school production of the original movie. All the characters and plot points are there, but the parts are being played by kids instead of adults. We’ve seen this movie and it was done better the first time. Reminding us of the original Ghostbusters is fine, but don’t make us wish we were watching it instead.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a strange movie. It’s more heartfelt than hilarious. It pays homage to the classic original movie largely by just borrowing the first movie’s script and doing it all over again. Some of this works surprisingly well. Some of it really doesn’t. Whether audiences feel that the good outweighs the bad or not maybe isn’t that important. If you see it as a good movie with flaws, or a bad movie with some high points, there is a lot about Ghostbusters: Afterlife that is, at the very least, worthy of recognition.
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