Ghostbusters Afterlife: Soul Ultimately Exorcises the Fan Service

Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Podcast (Logan Kim) in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE.

A movie is about how you feel. Those feelings can be respected or pandered to. Since recent milestones like The Force Awakens, audiences have become intensely aware of the filmmaker milking the audiences childhood for profit. There’s a warm fuzzy feeling nostalgia has when it gets its grasp on you. Watching a retro film in public causes the viewer to get high from the energy in the room. When the energy wheres off, you begin to realize what you just saw.

Ghostbusters Afterlife hovers over the line between fan service and fanboy service. It’s the result of desperately trying to clean the wreckage of previous failures. Jason Reitman has all the right in the world to be in love with his material since it’s in his blood, but like his father, his filmography is beginning to stumble.

Like father, like son.

Jason Reitman is an independent filmmaker with some notorious successes. The grounded, uncomfortable humor he incorporates has a comedic voice of its own to make his old man proud.  Humiliated by the results of Ghostbusters (2016), Ivan Reitman and the original proton pack gang  have kicked into panic mode and created their own Force Awakens gratification vehicle with just enough spirit to keep itself from being totally forgettable.

Jason incorporates his independent cinema sensibilities to the picture and mixes it with his dad’s commercial taste by scaling everything back. Abandoning the congested streets of Manhattan, the movie follows a family moving to Summerville, Oklahoma. Callie (Carrie Coon) has been evicted from her home along with her kids and the only thing left to her name is an abandoned farmhouse located in the middle of nowhere. Of course, wouldn’t you know it? The farmhouse is haunted and revelations from the owners past begins to unearth.

Unleash the toys

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
The Ecto-1 in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE.

What really makes Ghostbusters work aside from the characters, and humor is its ‘toyeticness’.  Ghostbusters Afterlife is toys galore. Every tool you remember is shot like a car commercial with a crescendo per prop. The camera takes its time focusing on each piece of equipment, assuring kids demand their mom to buy them a ghost trap. Whichever emphasis could be placed on building new characters is sent to the bench in favor of profitability.

Thank God Egon’s granddaughter holds the movie together, it’s astonishing the amount of weight placed upon the shoulders of McKenna Grace in the spitting image of Egon, as casting for a Spengler, Grace is eerily dead on. Not just in her face, but her voice and mannerisms as well. The strangeness of her persona delivers plentiful jokes that hit the timing right. Paul Rudd does his usual charming Paul Rudd thing. However, that charm becomes contradictory in the picture when Rudd accidentally makes an almost unforgivable mistake, then walks away like nothing happened.

Finn Wolfhard did take me out of the film since I couldn’t shake off his Stranger Things role. He certainly looks like his sister in the film, but the similarities in the material to Stranger Things are almost un-ignorable when he’s on-screen. Especially when his character didn’t contribute anything to the story.

Neither does Podcast (Logan Kim) that’s literally his character’s name, because he does a podcast. I didn’t write that as bad joke on my end, he literally says “I’m podcast because I do a Podcast.” Did someone really look at that line and think it’s funny? The intention of Podcast’s role is to have someone Phoebe can fit in with since she doesn’t interact well with other people. Why not have her brother support her then? That would reinforce the family dynamic towards the overall theme instead of wasting one good character on two bland ones.

Not diet Stranger Things

The new team
Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Podcast (Logan Kim) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE.

Despite what I said earlier, I don’t see Ghostbusters Afterlife as a PG Stranger Things. It certainly has the ingredients, yet it’s a Ghostbusters film through and through. From Rob Simonsen’s cover of Elmer Bernstein’s heavily recycled score to the Ecto-1 whizzing through the streets, Ghostbusters Afterlife feels like a Ghostbusters film.

The old Ghost busting team tragically can’t assemble anymore. The best decision to make is to introduce the old generation to the new one. Not regressing them to embarrassing cameos. They did the best they could given the circumstances of the past. Ghostbusters was never an emotional film nor did it have to be, but it would have been nice if this one tried a little harder.

Ghostbusters Afterlife is a elegy to Harold Ramis. Like many requiems, the project can get lost in its sentimentality. What separates Ghostbusters: Afterlife from something like The Force Awakens is that it has something to say. Not a lot, but something. Without spoiling the story, Mr Reitman constructs a touching tale about forgiveness. There’s enough surface level dimension placed upon the character of the mother and daughter to invest me in the story. When we’re not being bombarded with ghosts and gizmos from the past, we’re delivered some witty humor that hits the right laughs at the right moments. Except for Podcast. Is it better than the original? That’s not a fair question since it’s been thirty seven years since its release. If you can get over its pandering and dumb characters choices, Ghostbusters Afterlife is a fun time recommended for the family to spend during the holidays.

Written by Mike Crowley

Mike Crowley is a full member of the Chicago Indie Critics. He periodically produces video content for and writes weekly film reviews for his publication You'll Probably Agree. He also writes content for Film Obsessive from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter, Tik Tok, and Instagram @ypareviews

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