Let’s be brutally honest here: no one asked for another Ghostbusters film. Paul Feig’s 2016 entry into the franchise will go down in history as one of the most notorious examples of toxic fandom after some fans reacted negatively to an all-female cast and turned to misogyny and racism online. But with the news of Jason Reitman, son of original director Ivan Reitman, taking the reins and reinvigorating the spooky franchise gave fans plenty of hope that we’d hear that iconic theme tune once again.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife introduces us to Phoebe (McKenna Grace, dynamite) and her mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) who move to the middle of nowhere after Callie’s estranged father passes away and leaves them a rotten house that hides more than a few mysteries. Paul Rudd shows up as the completely unnecessary but sweet teacher who helps our youngsters battle ghosts galore when they accidentally get loose.
Whether Afterlife ends up being everything you want from a Ghostbusters film is probably up to your expectations going in. Did you wish for a fresh take on an old franchise or maybe a throwback to the good old days? Afterlife is a bit of everything, but mostly a throwback that seems designed for existing fans. The film is often clichéd, clumsy and relies entirely too much on fan service, but it’s also heartfelt, sincere and thoroughly entertaining. There is plenty of nostalgia to go around and while most of the film leans a little too heavily on it to force an emotional bond, there is something wonderfully giddy about seeing that Ghostbusters logo on the side of the iconic Ecto-1.
The cast is mostly top notch, but Reitman doesn’t seem to know how to utilise them. Coon and Rudd are criminally underused and given very little to do, but it’s the film’s younger cast that shine bright on screen. McKenna Grace, Hollywood’s most reliable young actress proves she has the range and great comedic timing to pull off a leading role. Finn Wolfhard is predictably charming, but similarly to Coon and Rudd, is given very little to do. Logan Kim as Podcast is the film’s highlight with fantastic line deliveries and comedic timing, even if the script never allows him to become anything more than the comic relief.
Afterlife also struggles to communicate and demonstrate its threat level clearly. It’s not quite enough to say the world is coming to an end, we need to see at least some kind of visual evidence of it to truly believe it and to genuinely worry for the safety of the characters. Reitman directs all the action with a clear love and understanding for his father’s beloved franchise, but Afterlife is unfortunately a clumsy film. The script features some silly, inauthentic dialogue and the characters constantly make stupid choices that – as we learn through dialogue – will indeed cause the apocalypse.
Yet, it’s hard not to adore Afterlife. It’s sweet, funny and endearing, an old-school film that feels like a rarity these days. While it never quite makes enough time to explore its themes of parenthood, its ending is undeniably emotional so bring tissues. With a great array of cameos and winning performances from the young cast, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a successful continuation of one of the most iconic franchises in cinematic history.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in UK cinemas November 18