The “Ghostbusters” franchise has seen plenty of ups and downs since it launched in 1984. As the comedic story of a group of scientists who start hunting the supernatural for a living, the eponymous film became a smash hit, spawning multiple feature films, animated series, video games and comic books.
The most recent chapter, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” seeks to return to form while paying tribute to original writer and cast member, the late Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spengler. Director Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman, had a personal journey involving the two reconnecting that the former channeled for this film’s story.
Decades after the events of the first two films, Egon’s estranged daughter Callie, played by Carrie Coon, is forced to move herself and her two children to an old farmhouse in Oklahoma where her father spent the last few years of his life. Callie’s sharp-minded daughter, Phoebe, played by Mckenna Grace, begins to discover the reason why her grandfather alienated himself from his family and friends. In the process, she learns she and her brother, Trevor, played by Finn Wolfhard, might have to finish his work to save the world.
The movie takes a little bit to get going as we are introduced to the new characters, but once Phoebe starts to learn of the strange occurrences in her new home, it picks up and becomes a solid mix of action, humor and heart.
Grace makes Phoebe an interesting lead. She is clearly Egon’s granddaughter, and her interest in the sciences and supernatural helps her entanglement into the situation feel natural. She and Wolfhard play off of each other well, and it is easy to buy them as siblings.
The new ghostbusting team she forms with her brother, along with young spectral enthusiast, Podcast, played by Logan Kim, and Trevor’s crush, Lucky, played by Celeste O’Connor, prove to be an endearing group. Podcast, in particular, has some amusing moments.
The supporting cast does well, with Paul Rudd taking a fun turn as Phoebe’s summer school teacher. He has the same enthusiasm for the supernatural that his students do, which allows him to connect to his pupils while also forming a relationship with Callie.
Being part of the “Ghostbusters” franchise, it is expected that some laughs and scares will abound. The humor in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is on point with plenty of chuckles and belly laughs to be found, reminiscent of those from the first two movies. The film also proves effectively creepy, although there is a bit of an overreliance on jump scares.
The attempts to tie in this new entry to its predecessors work twofold. They are natural additions to the world, while also providing plenty of nods and Easter eggs for longtime fans to appreciate.
Characters from the series’ past appear as well, and the way they are incorporated into the story works in making this feel like a passing of the torch.
The score, by Rob Simonsen, is also quite excellent. It borrows quite a bit from Elmer Bernstein’s original themes, but the new music adds to the action, humor and sweet moments.
All these aspects result in the whole film feeling similar to the many family movies released by Amblin Entertainment during the same decade as “Ghostbusters,” though the production company had no involvement in the creation of the film.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” ultimately works as a sequel to the classic entries from the 1980s while formally introducing a new generation of ghostbusters to audiences. The film ties into the past well and simultaneously makes the new characters worth following. The humor hits, the scares are mostly effective and the action is exciting.
If you’re looking for some good entertainment, you know who to call.