Film Review – Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

It feels so liberating, so wonderful to say, after 31 years of more will-they/won’t-they’s than Ross and Rachel on Friends and multiple scripts, writers, and ideas, that finally the third Ghostbusters film is here at last and we are so excited. But wait. What about the 2016 version directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, you ask. Well, despite what the polarising opinions of that film are/were, they made no bones about the fact it was a female-centric reboot rather than a sequel, so that point of moot. This one, directed by Jason Reitman – son of Ivan, who helmed the original two – truly is the third film and its DNA is intrinsically linked in more ways than one. Oh, and it’s brilliant. Probably should have led with that.

We won’t say too much on the plot but from the trailers you know this: a hard-up family – Mum Callie (Carrie Coon) and children Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) – are forced to relocate to Summerville, Oklahoma after money troubles, moving into an abandoned farmhouse left to them by Callie’s father. Soon, earthquakes begin to overrun the town without any explanation until the full capabilities of the dilapidated house begin to surface, alongside those of the local mining town with its links to occultist Ivo Shandor, whose name may be a tad familiar. With the help of summer school teacher and Ghostbusters aficionado Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), they set up to discover the secrets of their grandfather’s real life.

Off the bat we should preface how big of a fan this writer is of Ghostbusters so if you’re not about that fandom or “fan service” life then read on no more. Seeing the first film as six or seven-year was a life-changing experience for me – you have to remember, aside from Star Wars (which I wasn’t massively into) and Jaws perhaps, movies like this didn’t exist as they do now so seeing something that was funny, scary, life-affirming and insanely well put (1984 was the early days of computer animation) was such a monumental achievement, as was the lesser but still underrated sequel.

So to try to replicate that seems foolhardy but dammit if Reitman hasn’t pulled off something special with this. Using his own experiences of the films as well as living them, given as they were so much in his youth, he tells a story of absent fathers (in his case, working fathers as his Dad made a LOT of films in the 80s), family and trust, love and friendship as well as a beautifully orchestrated coming-of-age tale all under the guise of a Ghostbusters film. Sure, much about it is familiar and derivative in terms of its narrative but so was the original in many ways, yet it does everything with such grace and enthusiasm – and laughs – that the riff is more than worth it. Plus, you know, bustin’ ghosts. Indeed, it’s not just the fingerprints of Ghostbusters past that leave an indelible mark, with those of Stranger Things, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and The Big Bang Theory – to name a few – brought together in a mad fusion that works perfectly.

Key to the film’s true success is the family dynamic and Reitman’s uniformly excellent ensemble is such a strange but vibrant mix that you wonder what the film would have been like without them. Rudd and Coon showcase their effortless talents again, but it’s Mckenna Grace and Logan Kim who steals the show as the precocious YA’s unlocking the mystery that surrounds them: both of whom have sensational chemistry and talent and elevate the film over its foibles. As for the OG as the kids call such things these days, well those surprises are best left unsaid until you see the final product but, as with most of the film, Reitman and co-writer Gil Kenan’s affection shine through and there are some truly touching moments throughout.

The early reactions have been largely positive to Ghostbusters: Afterlife and we have heaped on our own genuine praise but this one won’t be for everyone: IP, nostalgia, fan-service, whatever you want to call it isn’t to everyone’s taste as the mere sight or sound of such things may be enough to put you off. If like us, however, such things tickle your fancy then this one will certainly live up to its billing as one of the year’s most shamelessly enjoyable adventures.

★★★★


Sci-Fi, Adventure, Comedy | USA | 2021 | 12A | 18th November 2021 (UK) | Cinema |  Sony Pictures | Dir. Jason Reitman | Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts