Ghostbuster: Afterlife Poster
Image by Columbia Pictures

Ghostbusters: Afterlife-Too Few Ghosts, Not Enough Busting

By Ethan Lauren

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is entertaining at times, albeit shallow and often meandering. When the daughter of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler is evicted along with her two children, played by McKenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard, the family moves to Summerville, Oklahoma where supernatural forces threaten the whole town. Without heading into spoilers, the film involves spooks, specters, and ghosts in all forms of hijinks. Teacher and seismologist Mr. Grooberson, played wonderfully by Paul Rudd, steals scenes through pure joyous acting.

Directed by Jason Reitman, son of the 1984 “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, the film takes every opportunity to make sure you remember this is a sequel. Contained within are some terrible callbacks where my eyes felt as if they were going to turn so far back into my head that they’d become jelly and drip out of their sockets. Just be yourself, Jason, you’ve had a good thing going with films like “Juno” and “Up in the Air.” The film feels scared that it won’t be able to stand outside the shadow of the beloved original. Not that most of our readers will likely have nostalgic feelings for the original franchise, but the shallow characters and references to past events grow thin early on.

The first two-thirds of the film is paced slowly, which at first helps build up the small-town feeling. However, a slow burn works best if it leads to something grander than what ultimately felt like a mere sputter. By the climax I had a headache from what basically amounts to a plagiarizing of past plots. I can let slide a passing reference or joke, but to waste my time telling the same story is at best lazy writing and at worst an egregious act of Reitman’s ego.

Despite mixed feelings leaving the theater, the film had its share of gold flakes worth sifting through placer. The score was great, especially with scenes involving the Ghostmobile, but some of the music choices felt odd, with songs fading in and out for only five seconds. Some of the humor, including sentient baby marshmallows, really kept my attention. And every time Rudd appeared I couldn’t help but gaze longingly at his beautiful eyes and that million-dollar smile.

Phoebe, played by Grace, is excellent, enacting the mannerisms of a young Harold Ramis. Wolfhard, on the other hand, felt like a character seen a million times before: a young teenager who likes girls and cars and is too cool for school. Callie, the mother, played by Carrie Coon, has father issues, and… that’s the extent of her character. She is sarcastic and has no redeeming qualities except hating everything around her. Local kid, Podcast—yes, that is the character’s name—befriends Phoebe, and while quite humorous, felt as if his screen time could have been trimmed.

Overall, it kept me entertained and I can’t really ask for much more than that for a franchise I have no nostalgia for. Comedy can be a difficult genre to pin down as keeping a consistent tone is challenging, yet when the movie tries to get serious it feels unearned.

There are two end-credit scenes to stick around for, but they are so milquetoast I felt more baffled at their inclusion than anything else.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” did change my life though, for I found the mother so insufferable that I will forever try to hold back my natural urges to let out a sarcastic response. This movie made me want to be a better person and I suppose that is worth the price of admission. Cynicism is a fool’s drink and to be vulnerable is truly the nobler approach to life.