It captures the nostalgia of the original, if not any big laughs.
The original “Ghostbusters” was a comedy hit from director Ivan Reitman, and it’s heroes were Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, who all delivered the goods. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones all didn’t do the same in the 2016 reboot. And now Ivan’s son Jason Reitman presents “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” in the same universe as the original cast. Since Harold Ramis passed away in 2014, his character Dr. Egon Spengler has been killed in this movie, as well, trying to save the world from the evil spirit Gozer. And since his character has moved into the middle of a small Oklahoma town, working on plans to stop her, people thought he was crazy. Even his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) despises him.
This spiritual (pun intended) sequel doesn’t measure up to the comedy classic from 1984, but it comes as close as any of the crappy spiritual sequels of recent memory. It’s miles better than the 2015 “Vacation,” when Ed Helms got covered in cow’s blood, or, more recently, “Home Sweet Home Alone,” which even the fans loathed. It’s more of a nostalgic trip down memory lane than a laugh-out-loud riot, and there are some funny moments.
As the film begins, Callie and her two kids: the mopey Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and the brainiac Phoebe (McKenna Grace) are evicted from their apartment, and move into Egan’s old house, where they complain and complain about its value (worth $0.00) and structure. While Trevor tries to sweep the burger joint employee Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), Phoebe shares a scientific vibe with the young podcaster Podcast (Logan Kim) and their teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd). Those three are more fascinated by the ghost trap and equipment the old man left behind, and they inadvertently let loose Gozer’s spirit into a mountain that looks like something out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
The actors who do reprise their roles are Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddemore, Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett, and Annie Potts as Janine Melnitz. When the three remains Ghostbusters do come back for some action, they all made me feel good inside, unlike Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo in “Vacation” or Devin Ratray in “Home Sweet Home Alone.”
I’ve grown weary of the cynicisms from the mom and the cliches of the older brother, and I wish it less darker and more comical as the classic intended, and I stand by my word. I, myself, was developing cynicism of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” because of the world we now live in when reboots or remakes or spiritual sequels, or whatever you want to call them, have to take over the entertainment world. But even I still have some faith, and will never give up my job as the film critic. I was able to see nostalgic things in this movie the way the 2016 version was too lazy to even try.
Grace (who was wonderful in “Gifted”) is maturing quite well, and is smart and charming as Phoebe, and Kim has a bit of Dan Aykroyd in him as her comic-relief sidekick. And I’m glad Rudd is the cool guy, and not the cartoonish caricature of a jerk, who is also seeing the girl’s mother.
The special effects are also fun, especially the mini Stay Puft Marshmallow Men, who pop out of their bags, and BBQ themselves. Walmart sells them in this movie. And instead of a Slimer, we get a Muncher (voiced by Josh Gad), who eats metal and fires bullets out of his mouth. I prefer Slimer.
Jason Reitman and Gil Kenan both wrote this script with Ivan producing it, and while parts of it are boring and a little too much for the small kids (I don’t know what they’re into these days), they still keep the faithfulness alive, and they do it sincerely. I’ll take my chances with this over the bad spiritual sequels I’ve dumped on.