The less one knows about Ghostbusters: Afterlife going into it, the better. All one needs to know about the plot of Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it ties directly into the original with a whole set of characters who go on an adventure and learn about the mythology of ghostbusting in the small town of Summerville, Oklahoma.
I consider myself a massive fan of the Ghostbusters franchise, so this is a rather tricky review to write because a big part of me wants to break down and explain certain scenes, but I cannot do that for the sake of ruining this film for others. What I can say is that Ghostbusters: Afterlife was made with a massive amount of love and care. Ghostbusters is one of Ivan Reitman’s most iconic films, and knowing that he worked with his son to bring this film to life can be seen and felt in every single frame. As a critic, one can often tell when a studio is trying to milk a franchise, and I am happy to report that isn’t the case with this film.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a film made by a family for families. While the film focuses primarily on what is happening in Summerville, there is a story about a broken family happening simultaneously. This is a very personal film for Jason Reitman. I would even argue his most personal. While the film feels like a love letter to films like Gremlins and The Goonies, the story arc of understanding your family’s legacy is an essential theme explored throughout the film. This family dynamic is the crux of this story, and truthfully, the movie wouldn’t work without it. From the beginning, we learn that Callie (Carrie Coon) is angry at her father because he abandoned her and her family. However, as the story unfolds, Callie begins to learn more about her father. She begins to understand that even though he couldn’t physically be there for her, he still cared and loved her. As Callie reexamines her relationship with her father, her daughter, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), begins to understand her love of science as she learns about her grandfather, a man she never really got to know.
While the gender roles in the film are reversed, it seems very clear that Jason Reitman is exploring his own relationship with his family through these characters. Being the son or daughter of someone famous is not always the easiest thing to accept and understand, especially as a child. We often hear about how making a film takes months, sometimes years, and during that time, family, friends, and loved ones are often ignored or neglected. Many career paths, especially nowadays, tend to force parents to be away from their children more often than not. It is the harsh reality of life, and I believe this film explores that topic in such a universal way. In Callie’s father’s case, his intentions are pure as he hopes to help the greater good, not realizing the impact his absence had on his family. I didn’t expect this kind of story arc to be in a film about teenagers fighting ghosts; however, I am glad it is there because it added a lot of depth.
In terms of being a Ghostbusters movie, what Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan achieved with this film is incredible. This is the Ghostbusters sequel that I have been waiting my entire life to see. The script properly pays tribute to key themes and moments from the original film yet manages to tell a story that a whole new generation can enjoy. Yes, there are fan service moments in the movie, but how they are handled makes them stand out even more. The moments of nostalgia are perfectly woven into the script. When some bigger reveals happen, especially those in the third act, they feel earned rather than just thrown in to appeal to the fans. There is a natural progression to the story where the viewer learns about the town’s history, just like the characters on-screen. Yes, what is being explored ties into Ghostbusters, but it is important to note that the film doesn’t rely on being a fan of the original for the story to work. Instead, the film can stand out on its own while it also embraces and celebrates the franchise’s legacy.
We all know that a third Ghostbusters film was a topic of discussion for decades in Hollywood, and I am glad they took the time to get it right. I believe that fans of the original will be filled with joy when they get to see this film in November, but what I think is even more important is how this film will open the doors to those who may not have seen the original. I can see this film becoming a massive hit and generating a fan base similar to Stranger Things. While the adult cast, including Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd, are all great, I think the two actors who deserve the most credit are Mckenna Grace (Phoebe) and Logan Kim (Podcast).
Mckenna Grace has proven time and time again that she can carry a movie, but seeing her taking the lead in a major franchise that is as iconic as Ghostbusters was a real treat. In most big-budget films, the secondary characters are the ones who steal the show, but that isn’t the case here whatsoever. Mckenna Grace owns this film and the screen. She is the heart and soul of this film. Grace is funny, intelligent, and perfectly fits the role. She carries the weight of the entire movie on her shoulders and does so with such ease. I know that the industry typically doesn’t embrace films like Ghostbusters: Afterlife for awards outside of sound, editing, and special effects, but I do think Grace’s performance is strong enough to be in the conversation. Oh, and her line delivery is pretty much perfection.
And when it comes to Logan Kim, he is excellent as Podcast, who serves as the lead male character. I believe that Kim’s performance as Podcast works so well because of how naturally Logan Kim interacts with all of his co-stars. The friendship between Podcast and Phoebe feels genuine because they are both awkward and find common ground. You can see these two characters being friends in real life, and their chemistry is excellent. Finn Wolfhard and Celeste O’Connor deliver solid performances in the film, but they are secondary characters and don’t have much screen time. However, one should note that even though they are secondary characters with limited screen time, they do play a pivotal role in the film’s final act.
Full of easter eggs and surprises from beginning to end, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is what fans have been waiting for. A film that celebrates the old while embracing the new. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is Jason Reitman’s love letter to family and one of the biggest and best films of the year. Oh, and bring the tissues because you are going to need them.
Scott Menzel’s rating for Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a 9 out of 10