Spoilers will call collect.
Let’s do a lightning review for the people that want to see it. It’s not that bad – which means, it’s not that good. I might have to start a new category called nostalgia films. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, fans of the original will enjoy this movie. I do have a few things to say about why it’s not a film you must watch. It has a place and an audience, but don’t expect it to gain cult status. Further elaboration lies ahead.
Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021) was directed by Jason Reitman who wrote it with Dan Aykroyd and Gil Kenan based on the original Ghostbusters (1984) written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. The film is dedicated to Harold. Young Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and her brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) are uprooted from their place with their mother Callie (Carrie Coon) since they’re unable to pay the rent. They are forced to move into their grandfather’s place, an abandoned farm next to a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Phoebe is the real protagonist of the film. The opening scene should’ve already clue you in who her grandfather was, but it’s really unneeded. Watching her go through her day is enough to recognize she’s a Spengler. This is already revealed just watching the trailer so I don’t think this count as a spoiler, but you already knew those were coming. Her connection with fellow outcast “Podcast” (Logan Kim) is cute, except for that nickname. Even more rewarding is her rapport with her teacher Grooberson (Paul Rudd) whose presence was a breath of fresh air.
Trevor’s arc is not as smooth as his kid sister. Phoebe literally grows from skeptic to rookie Ghostbuster during the film. Trevor instead kind of stalls and suddenly joins in without much of an arc, except for his romantic angle with Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), who doesn’t seem to have much agency. Her snarky quips at Trevor’s expense suggests there was more to this character but it’s never really explored. The movie is obviously also trying to pair Callie with Grooberson, and to a point it does sorta work.
What doesn’t work as well is the transition from exploration to action. Let me try to explain without revealing too much. The kids (because basically this is mostly their story) are somewhat engaging but there’s a rough switch from the moment they discover what’s going on to jumping into action. There are scenes where literally they realize what’s going on in which the movie turns heroic without giving these characters a moment to doubt themselves. I didn’t expect a training montage and I wasn’t asking for a longer film but at least a minute of indecision would’ve worked wonders
Does it work? It’s not a standalone film. This feels more like a companion piece to the original, which also rehashes some very familiar foes. In that case, yes this is a nostalgia film. It’s done for the fans, and very much exclusively for the fans. You won’t get to enjoy this as your first entry into the franchise, but only at the very end. It’s strength and weakness are the same, the callbacks to the first film and references that only fans will enjoy. It depends on that connection. That being said, there are a few scenes that fans will want to see and cheer, if only for that moment.
Lightly recommended for fans with reservations. For fans of the franchise, this is a movie that is enjoyable for its nostalgic callbacks, but it’s not a requisite part of the original’s lore. It’s not a new plot that adds anything new. It’s just an extra epilogue/finale to the franchise that feels more like a fan-made special. Yes, it has a touching tribute to the late Harold Ramis and some very cheerful moments, but don’t expect this to be a standalone adventure. Worth a watch for fans but just once.
That will do for now.