Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review: Mckenna Grace and Logan Kim's delightful act steers this new age take
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Cast: Paul Rudd, McKenna Grace, Logan Kim
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Director: Jason Reitman
Ghostbusters: Afterlife Stars: 3/5
Much of Ghostbusters: Afterlife's vibe stems from its offscreen history which is basically that it happens to be Jason Reitman's take on continuing his father Ivan Reitman's legacy by adding his touch to it. This family connection seeps deeply into the storyline of the third film in the franchise which follows the critically panned reboot that was directed by Paul Feig in 2016. With the newest film in the franchise that seemed in no need of another addition, Jason Reitman does surprise us by providing something for the newer generation to follow. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is all about making a connection between the past and the present and much of it seems to come naturally for Reitman, who visited the sets of the original film as a six-year-old.
Reitman plays on nostalgia, fandom and pure heart when it comes coming up with Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It's a film that's not about giving a nod to the original while also bringing in its own elements that fit for the time that it is set in. Whether you're a fan of the original Ghostbuster films or not, this film could still end up being an entertaining ride for you, solely based on its performances. As for franchise fans, it offers ample callbacks.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows single mom Callie’s (Carrie Coon) moving to Smallville with her kids following the death of her estranged father who lived in a dilapidated home and was known as the "dirt farmer" by residents of the small town. Callie's kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) aren't thrilled about moving but can't help but dig the vibe of their late grandfather's dingy home which houses some rather strange objects. Phoebe, who is a friendless, 12-year-old Science nerd soon finds to discover her late grandfather's interesting inventions in the house before finally learning about the huge legacy that he leaves behind.
As for her Smallville life, Phoebe (McKenna Grace) finally makes a friend at the public school and he's the dramatic-talking kid, who calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim). At Phoebe's school, she also meets fellow Science nerd, her teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) who is a seismologist, trying to figure out the strangely frequent earthquakes that hit their small town. As for Phoebe's teenage brother Trevor (Wolfhard), he finds himself crushing on Smallville local Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) who is slightly older than him. The true mystery ride for the film begins after Phoebe finds a ghost trap in her grandfather's house which leads her to embark on a journey of discovering some major truths about their town Smallville as well as her family.
Reitman's film is based in a mining town that consists of nearly nothing except for empty cornfields, abandoned factories and a massive mountain that's on the outskirts. The setting seems perfect to bring in some scares but the film isn't really about getting you all spooked. Ghostbusters: Afterlife makes a strange good vs evil storyline with a historical twist as the ghost that's about to not just spook Smallville but rather a bigger chunk of the world is introduced as Sumerian deity Gozer. Although in terms of story-wise, you will realise that there's little attempt provided to explain Gozer's extreme powers that also manage to withstand the regular force of the Ghostbuster guns. The film steers clear of making any clever as it keeps its focus on the lighter moments.
Be it, Phoebe and Podcast's budding friendship or Grooberson's fascination and fandom towards the OG Ghostbusters era, the film keeps its narrative fairly simple and enjoyable in moments when it's not dishing out CGI ghosts in your face. There's an earnest attempt to make this film character-driven and not keep the attention on the spectacle element of it which involves the ghost-hunting scenes. This is visible in portions of Callie and Grooberson's hilarious date as well as the moment when Podcast finally meets his mystery show's only subscriber and you'll be delighted to see who it is.
The film's strength lies in its performances and Mckenna Grace is absolutely amazing as Phoebe. She conveys her character's introverted nature in the best possible way and the delight on her face after she introduces Podcast as her friend is a small but telling moment. Both Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd bring their natural A-game to the film with the former doing much of the emotional heavy lifting while dealing with feelings of abandonment and grief over the passing of her estranged father whereas Rudd manages to remain his goofy best. His Walmart scene will leave you splits. Not to mention, Logan Kim who delivers his best in every scene.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is filled with emotion and while the film may not check all the boxes when it comes to becoming a genre-defining film, it seems like a worthy addition to the franchise for simply shifting its focus on the humane aspect of things as opposed to the supernatural gimmicks. With callbacks to the original in unique ways like presenting scenes from the 1984 film through YouTube videos, Reitman successfully bridges the time gap between the films. Ghostbusters: Afterlife isn't perfect but it's a perfectly entertaining film.