GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE Review: A Touching Love Letter To The Original, But Relies Too Heavily On Nostalgia

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE Review: A Touching Love Letter To The Original, But Relies Too Heavily On Nostalgia

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is set to hit theaters this weekend, and while Jason Reitman's movie works on a number of levels, it relies too heavily on nostalgia and fan-service. Check out our review...

Ghostbusters (1984) is widely (and rightfully) regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time, and still boasts legions of devoted fans. A whip-smart script, easily relatable characters, plenty of laughs and a few genuinely creepy moments proved to be a lightning-in-a-bottle combo that few (any?) movies have been able to recapture in the years that followed - including its inferior sequel.

Sony Pictures gave it a go with an ill-advised reboot in 2016, which, despite not being quite as bad as the internet might have you believe, did little to appease a fanbase who so desperately wanted to see the original cast return in some capacity for a true sequel.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is, essentially, "Ghostbusters 3", and while Jason Reitman's enjoyable, nostalgia-filled follow-up is sure to delight many fans, others may feel it's a case of being careful what you wish for.

Picking up over 30 years after the events of the first film (Ghostbusters II is never really referenced), the story begins with broke single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) moving to the fictional town of Summerville, Oklahoma to stay at a run-down farmhouse Callie inherited from her late father. As unexplained seismic activity gives way to full-on supernatural occurrences, Phoebe delves into her family history before taking up the proton pack passed down from her grandfather, Egon Spengler.

As the ectoplasm really begins to hit the fan, Phoebe gets some backup from her brother and his would-be girlfriend Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), nerdy schoolmate Podcast (Logan Kim), and her Ghostbuster super-fan teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd).

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Tonally, Afterlife is a very different beast to the original Ghostbusters. Ivan Reitman's classic was an anarchic, often irreverent horror comedy about four 30-something New Yorkers who start a ghost-busting business to make some cash. Jason Reitman's film is really more of a Spielbergian family drama with supernatural elements, and while there is humor to be found, it's a lot more gentle/tame. This is not a bad thing, necessarily, but it does mean that Afterlife never really feels like a Ghostbusters movie, and when Reitman begins to pile on the nods and references, it can be a tad jarring as a result.

A little nostalgia goes a long way, and since the premise and themes of Afterlife are based around rediscovering and embracing the past, the movie does get away with its share of "Member Berry" moments. We expected (even welcomed) a few callbacks, but Reitman seems determined to draw from or flat-out recreate every single memorable moment from his father's film, often to this movie's detriment.

We don't want to get into specifics for fear of ruining any surprises, so let's just say the entire final act is basically a Ghostbusters greatest hits parade complete with Terror Dogs, miniature Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men, Slimer stand-ins, and... yeah, we'll stop there!

And yet, when Ghostbusters: Afterlife works, it's a joy to behold. Grace is superb in the lead, channelling Egon's erudite awkwardness while making Phoebe an original, fully developed character in her own right. Her scenes with Rudd (as dependable as ever) are a highlight, and if the rest of the supporting players don't make quite as much of an impact, they do have their moments.

Of course, the biggest talking point is going to be the return of the original team. It's hardly a spoiler to mention that Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson reprise their respective roles as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Winston Zeddemore, and while we'll refrain from providing too much context, fans can rest assured that their scenes are among the best this movie has to offer.

The veteran actors effortlessly slip back into their jumpsuits for a funny, touching reunion. Reitman does make a certain choice for the ending that could prove to be divisive, and we can see some people rolling their eyes in disgust while others sob uncontrollably.

Afterlife may not be the third Ghostbusters movie everyone's been clamouring for, but unrealistic expectations aside, it is a fun, emotionally-engaging adventure with a star-making turn from McKenna Grace. Reitman does overdo the fan-service, but if you check your cynicism at the door, you might find yourself being swept along by the film he clearly set out to deliver: a love letter to the '80s classic, and a powerful tribute to lost friends.

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