REVIEW: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Loving, If Not Slightly Silly, Homage

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Ghostbusters Afterlife - But Why Tho

As Don Draper famously quoted, “Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent.” In the realm of popular IP and the drive to squeeze every drop of productivity out of it, nostalgia walks a tightrope of joyful homage above the ever-present threat of heavy-handed fan service. Ghostbusters: Afterlife strides boldly into the choppy waters of Ghostbusters fandom – introducing a new generation of heroes without straying too far from the beloved blueprint of the original. The result: Not so shabby.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife stars Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim, and Celeste O’Connor, with Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd. The film is lovingly directed by Jason Reitman, who shares writing credits with Gil Kenan and Dan Aykroyd. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a struggling single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town to claim the “last resort” legacy of their estranged grandfather. Picking up the pieces of their lives, young Phoebe and Trevor look for belonging in their new home, unravel the mysteries of their grandfather, and uncover a supernatural phenomenon.

Getting right to the heart of it all: Ghostbusters: Afterlife is self-described as the “greatest Easter egg hunt of all time” and for good reason. The bread and butter of the film are those chest-swelling moments when the audience sees ECTO-1 again, recognizes a detail, hears the subtle playful nod in the score, and reconnects to the original characters that are so adored. It’s absolutely accurate to say that Afterlife leans heavily into the fandom – however, that’s not all that film does.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife sets a sincere and resonant tone in its exploration of a family that is seeking stability and foundation. A mother tries her best to be present for her kids in a way that her father never was. Two outcasts find themselves through friendship and uncovering the past. Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard deliver a wonderful balance of innocence, adolescence, humor, and heart that adds an anchor of emotion to the film’s bizarre circumstances and silly moments.

Where the film begins to stumble is when it gets distracted by its own desire to pay homage. As stated previously, Ghostbusters: Afterlife starts out with a tone and a story that is completely unique and deceptively polished. Nods to the original Ghostbusters are subtler and more thoughtfully spaced, big buildups swelling to larger emotional payoffs. In the later acts of the film, attempts to recreate iconic comedic moments go off the current track and crash into the realm of silliness. Is that silliness to the ultimate detriment of Ghostbusters: Afterlife? It depends.

On the one hand, it’s disappointing to see Ghostbusters: Afterlife confidently and competently establishing itself with a unique tone and humor only to reach the end of its leash and be jerked back into familiar, fan service territory. On the other hand, these asides are lovingly created by fans and for fans and are just as likely to delight as they are to distract. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a film whose reception will rely entirely on what a particular fan is looking for. No more, no less, and for better or for worse.

I won’t venture far into the weeds, to compare this film to the more controversial (frothing at the mouth, for some) 2016 reboot. What I will say is that what separates Ghostbusters: Afterlife from that iteration is that it feels like both an introduction and a proper goodbye. Yes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is treading new ground and introducing a new set of characters with a new direction. But the film acknowledges itself as a changing of the guard, a passing of the baton. For original fans, the closure is satisfying.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is made for the most loyal fans of the original film. That homage straddles the line between lovingly restrained and ridiculously uncapped, but the film is consistently entertaining. A wonderful choice for families and a clear direction that this critic is ready to follow.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is playing in theaters nationwide now.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife
  • 6.5/10
    Rating - 6.5/10
6.5/10

TL;DR

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is made for the most loyal fans of the original film. That homage straddles the line between lovingly restrained and ridiculously uncapped, but the film is consistently entertaining. A wonderful choice for families and a clear direction that this critic is ready to follow.