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Ghostbusters: Afterlife Spoiler-Free Movie Review

 By Paul Rudoff on Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:00 PM , Categories: Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Ghostbusters: Afterlife

I saw Ghostbusters: Afterlife at the "world premiere" in New York City on Monday November 15, 2021 courtesy of Sony Pictures. I sat in the IMAX auditorium at the AMC Theater at Lincoln Square not only with hundreds of fans, but also with director Jason Reitman, his father and producer Ivan Reitman, and almost all of the cast and crew - including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson. No, I wasn't sitting with them; but we were all sitting in the same room watching the film together.

My original plan was to write an article about the event, and then the following night, write this movie review. However, to properly document the event, I have to scan in some stuff and sort through photos and videos (mine, Sony's, and others), which will take me a little longer to do. So, I'm writing the movie review first, and then I'll post the review of the event (hopefully) on Thursday. I might post a more spoiler-filled movie review on the 26th, a week after the general premiere of the movie.

[ SPOILER-FREE SYNOPSIS ]

Having been evicted, Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) move to an old farmhouse in Summerville, Oklahoma that Carrie recently inherited from her estranged father. With the help of their classmates Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) and "Podcast" (Logan Kim), and substitute teacher Mr. Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), they solve the mystery of why the town has been shaking on a daily basis.

[ SPOILER-FREE THOUGHTS ]

The last time Sony brought a Ghostbusters film to the big screen was back in 2016. We all remember Paul Feig's Ghostbusters, also known as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. It was the iceberg that nearly sunk the Ghostbusters franchise. To call it a "misstep" is to put it nicely. It did everything wrong that you could possibly do wrong with a film bearing the name "Ghostbusters"... and not because it starred women.

One of the big problems with Fieg's Folly is that the movie is neither scary nor funny, two things that a Ghostbusters movie needs to be. Afterlife does not have that problem. While I wasn't scared, I can see where young ones will be. The dialog is very well written. I found myself laughing almost entirely throughout. It pays homage to the original movie quite often. Maybe a little too often, and too closely, to the point that certain elements of the story and music are complete rip-offs. The story plays out like fan fiction, to a certain degree. I'm not saying that it's bad, but you will definitely get the sense that you've already seen this movie 37 years ago.

Another problem with Feig's Folly is that it is set in a completely different universe than the one from all of the previous Ghostbusters movies and animated series. In Feig's world, Peter Venkman, Winston Zeddemore, Dana Barrett, etc. do not exist. After waiting 27 years, Ghostheads wanted a film that carried on the legacy of the world they grew up with. A world that is big enough to have more than just one team of Ghostbusters. Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife builds upon the world that was created in his father's films. Beloved characters appear, played by the original actors, but the movie is not about them.

The actors are all phenomenal, as are the new characters... well those that were actually developed. Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) can be boiled down to "chauffeur and horny teenage boy", while Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) is nothing more than "Trevor's love interest". That's a shame, as I think Celeste is cute ("Hey, she's legal" - Eduardo Rivera) and there are two moments where her character has glimmers of being more than just eye candy. It's really Mckenna Grace as Phoebe, and Paul Rudd (my 2/3 twin, as his name is 2/3 of my name) as Mr. Gary Grooberson, who steal the show. Phoebe is like the love child of Egon Spengler and Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), the only good thing to come out of Fieg's Folly. Logan Kim is quite funny as "Podcast", who's a bit of a scene-stealer, as well. Unfortunately, we do not get to learn his real name, so I'm stuck calling him "Podcast" (a name I detest), unless there is a sequel somewhere down the line that he's in.

Famed character actor, and Farmers Insurance spokesperson, J.K. Simmons has a small role in the film. You won't recognize him. This now makes two movie universes that J.K. and Rudd are a part of: Ghostbusters and Marvel. Bokeem Woodbine appears as the Summerville sheriff in one single scene. Considering that he's a fairly well-known actor, and that they dressed up a real building to be the exterior of the sheriff's station (as we saw on Google Maps street view from when they were filming up in Canada), I get the feeling that there are more sheriff scenes sitting on the cutting room floor.

The movie doesn't slow down very much, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I actually think that the pacing moves a little too fast. As I watched the film, I could tell that things were cut out, with Jason figuring that the audience didn't need to see what happened in between. It makes me wonder how many deleted scenes will be on the Blu-ray next year. There are shots/scenes from the trailers that are definitely not in the movie.

When the first trailer was released way back in December 2019, I commented that to have these kids play around with ghostbusting equipment was the Junior Ghostbusters all over again. While I still think that it's not okay to give these kids nuclear weapons - Egon agrees, as he stated in Ghostbusters II that the Proton Pack is not a toy - I will admit that the movie does not give off total Junior Ghostbusters vibes. It's more like The Goonies with a hint of Junior Ghostbusters and a dash of Scooby-Doo; especially the scenes between Phoebe and Podcast.

There are movies where you have to shut your brain off and just let the film wash over you, like the Night at the Museum series, because if you apply logic to it, it really falls apart. There are certain elements of this movie where that applies, as well. For example, the Ecto-1 - a 1959 car that has been rusting away in a barn for three decades - is doing things that it couldn't even do when it was fresh off the assembly line 60 years ago!

There's also the use of a trope that's a pet peeve of mine. It's where characters become experts with foreign concepts a little too quickly. While this could be explained for the autistic genius that is Phoebe, the rest of the characters become awfully proficient with ghostbusting equipment they've never seen before in their lives.

Although the movie isn't getting a traditional soundtrack album, though the score album is being called a "soundtrack", there are a dozen or so pop songs in the movie. A new song, played during the end credits, is "Haunted House" by Phoebe herself, Mckenna Grace (buy the MP3 here). The rest are all pre-existing songs ("needle drops"), including "On The Road Again" by Willie Nelson (played for two seconds when Muncher flies through Spinners Roller Hop), "The Clapping Song" by Shirley Ellis (played during the "moving to Summerville" montage), and of course, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. (you'll have to watch the movie to hear where this is played). There are enough songs to put together a compilation album. I really wish Sony would. Such an album wouldn't even have multiple versions of "Ghostbusters" on it, like the soundtrack album that came out five years ago, because Ray's original is the only one we hear. Eventually, I'll put together a list of the songs used in the movie and we can make our own compilation album.

There is a mid-credit scene and a post-credit scene, so make sure that you stay through to the end of the credits for them.

Despite its flaws, it is, hands-down, a vast improvement over Fieg's Folly. Ghostbusters: Afterlife truly is the Ghostbusters movie we've been waiting over 30 years for. It is a genuinely touching tribute to Harold Ramis. If you consider yourself a Ghosthead, go see Ghostbusters: Afterlife when it opens on Friday November 19th. You can buy tickets here.

Ok, Jason. Now that you've made a sequel to one of your father's films, how about tackling the only movie your mother ever directed: Casual Sex??

PLEASE DON'T POST SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. SPOILERS CAN BE POSTED IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF MY SPOILER-FILLED REVIEW. THANKS.

2 comments

Comment from: Gerry [Visitor]

Just returned from cinema after having watched Ghostbusters Afterlife in English. In Germany, the movie’s name is “Ghostbusters: Legacy". I wonder why they changed the name?

I really liked the movie and enjoyed the fan service.

Nov. 19, 2021 @ 19:32
Comment from: Zidders Roofurry [Visitor]  

I wouldn’t worry too much about the spoiler in the comments. Between what we’ve seen in the trailers, and all the merch I’m not sure there’s much to spoil. It’s obvious this was going to lean hard into the references. There was no way they were going to get to do a non-referency continuation. Not after AtC got so much negative blowback.

On the one hand I’m glad the touching elements made it through. On the other I feel like Jason could have done a lot more with a family ghost story premise if only it hadn’t been saddled by this huge mess that is the Ghostbusters franchise.

…but then I can’t imagine Ghostbusters remaining as well-loved as it’s been if it wasn’t the weird nerdy kid of film franchises. The first film was all about irreverence. It was having a laugh at big-budget filmmaking’s expense.

In a way, if it wasn’t the kind of franchise you have to learn to laugh at and not take too seriously it wouldn’t be the Ghostbusters we know and love.

Nov. 20, 2021 @ 17:46

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