Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a family affair, through and through, from its focus on characters to director Jason Reitman taking the reins from the 1989 film directed by his father, Ivan Reitman.
Now, if you’re expecting a wholly original movie that elevates the source material to new, paranormal heights, this isn’t that. Instead, Ghostbusters: Afterlife hitches a ride on the Ecto-1 and takes a hard right into nostalgia. The film’s basic plot revolves around Egon Spengler’s (Harold Ramis) daughter and grandkids inheriting the recently deceased Ghostbusters’ estate.
Single mother Callie Spengler, portrayed by Carrie Coon of Gone Girl fame, with her two kids, Trevor, portrayed by Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard and the film’s breakout starlet, Mckenna Grace, as young Phoebe, makeup the Spengler clan, as they relocate to the sleepy town of Summerville, Oklahoma.
Despite her obvious affinity to science, coupled with the same awkward and introverted exterior that the movie transplants from Egon Spengler to his granddaughter Phoebe, Grace’s character is oblivious to the fact that her late-grandfather was the famed Ghostbuster.
Afterlife takes the time to explain what happened to the original Ghostbusters after the events of the second film, with the takeaway point being that Egon absconded with the Ecto-1, along with all their tools of the trade, to the farmhouse in which Afterlife primarily unfolds.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife hitches a ride on the Ecto-1 and takes a hard right into nostalgia.”
Phoebe quickly befriends a fellow classmate and oddball, who refers to himself only as Podcast (Logan Kim) in the hopes of promoting his obscure paranormal podcast. From here, Paul Rudd‘s character, Gary Grooberson, is introduced, he is a summer-school teacher who happens to be a fan of the Ghostbusters. This is a fact he shares with Phoebe and Podcast after he notices the two tampering with an old ghost trap, which Phoebe found in her new home.
From here, Phoebe puts the pieces together and discovers her connection to the now-defunct Ghostbusters before quickly getting embroiled in the resurrection of Gozer. Unfortunately, this is where Afterlife stumbles, as it relies too heavily on its legacy, which robs the current cast, particularly Mckenna Grace, of an otherwise stellar performance. The real spectres present in Ghostbusters: Afterlife are the lack of any original ideas or concepts. Instead, the film retreads the basic outline of the first film, delivering a safe but uninspired story set in the beloved canon of Ghostbusters.
Even still, Ghostbusters: Afterlife imbues its mostly skeletal body with some genuine laughs and feel-good moments, thanks to its mostly excellent performances across the board, from Paul Rudd’s antics inside a Walmart to the banter between Phoebe and her mother, Afterlife manages to, at the very least, outclass the 2016 reboot film while paying homage to the late Harold Ramis.