1984 was a big year in America. President Reagan won re-election with 58.8% of the popular vote and carried 49 out of 50 states. The Soviet Union boycotted the Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, and the Space Shuttle Discovery had its first launch. At the movie theaters, everyone was heading to theaters to see the comedy hit of the summer, Ghostbusters, which became the second top-grossing film of the year and today has an approval rating of 97% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
The blockbuster comedy was a huge hit with both critics and audiences due to its perfect mix of comedy, horror, special effects, and action. The film also benefited from great performances by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis (Aykroyd and Ramis also wrote the screenplay with Rick Moranis), and Bill Murray. Since its phenomenal success, there’s been a sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters 2, which Bill Murray disowned, and the 2016 reboot with an all-female cast that failed to find an audience.
The franchise is expanding in 2021 with the addition of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the direct sequel to the ‘84 hit. The film begins with a scary and surprising opening and then quickly focuses on Callie (Carrie Coon), a single mother, and her two children – Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), a 15-year-old who wishes he was 17 and had a drivers license, and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), an extremely smart 12-year-old who has a knack of fixing things and loves science.
Broke and with no other viable choice, Callie decides to move her family to a dusty old town in Oklahoma where her recently deceased father (who ran out on her when she was little) has left her his run-down home and a farm that’s not producing any crops.
While attending Sunday school, Phoebe makes friends with Podcast (Logan Kim), a good-natured kid obsessed with recording podcasts who finds her grandfather’s house fascinating since he’s into haunted houses and ghosts. Trevor spends his days trying to get to know a girl named Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) and fixing up an old 1959 Cadillac hearse he found in the barn, unaware it’s actually the Ecto-1 Ghostbusters mobile.
As Phoebe explores her new home she begins to find clues that lead her to realize her grandfather was Dr. Egon Spengler, one of the original Ghostbusters, and that his battle with evil spirits and stopping Armageddon is about to become her fight too.
Written and directed by Jason Reitman, son of the original Ghostbusters director, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the perfect spooktacular sequel to the original 1984 original film. It’s filled with the right mix of humor, heart, and scares, and features a wonderful young cast.
Mckenna Grace steals the film as Phoebe, Egon Spengler’s granddaughter. Even though she gets third billing, she really is the film’s main character. Grace’s performance is fantastic, displaying mannerisms and creating a speech pattern eerily similar to Harold Ramis as Spengler in the original film. Her curly brown hair (she’s really a blonde) and glasses also help sell that she’s Egon’s granddaughter. She raises the film to a new level and provides the emotional heart it needs. A few scenes near the end of the film are sure to leave some moviegoers teary-eyed.
Logan Kim is very funny as Podcast, Phoebe’s new loyal friend who’s only too happy to help in her quest to test her grandfather’s old Ghostbusting equipment and to carry on her family’s tradition. Kim and Grace have solid chemistry together.
Paul Rudd delivers an entertaining performance as Mr. Grooberson, Phoebe’s less than trustworthy summer school teacher who gets caught up in Phoebe’s ghostbusting adventures and sparks a romantic interest in her mom.
Some classic ghosts from the original film return, updated and improved from their ‘80s effects. The action scenes are funny and surprising, with Jason Reitman and co-screenwriter Gil Kenan striking the right balance of goofiness and thrills.
One of the biggest highlights of the film is the return of the original Ghostbusters – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Dr. Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) – and how they play an essential part of the story. The third act will give fans of the original film a nostalgic feeling, and the appearance of the original cast members helps connect this entry to the original in a more tangible way.
Charming, funny, a little creepy, and occasionally touching, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is truly a worthy sequel that captures the heart and spirit of the 1984 classic.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references
Release Date: November 19, 2021
Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes
Studio: Columbia Pictures