Film, Film Review

REVIEW: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) dir. Jason Reitman

An installment worse than you could imagine in a franchise that shouldn't exist


My long-delayed screening of Ghostbusters: Afterlife opened with a special introduction from director Jason Reitman, who promised the film would be “the greatest easter egg hunt a Ghostbusters fan could ask for.” I probably should have left right then and there.

Of course Ghostbusters: Afterlife is terrible, a slow, maudlin brand extension to an ’80s comedy I liked as a teenager but don’t regard highly now (except for Sigourney Weaver’s cheekbones). The failed 2016 Paul Feig reboot should have been the end of things, but nope! Jason Reitman wanted to “give the franchise back to the fans,” whatever that means. So now we have this two-hour slog where children lovingly run their hands over the cheap props from the original film, revering them as if they were the Book of Kells. A movie where Dan Aykyrod gets a blowjob from a hot ghost is regarded as the most important thing that has ever happened to cinema. They straight up watch clips from Ghostbusters on YouTube. I don’t want to go on about this, but that’s the review. It’s just depressing. We’ll get there.

Anyway, a silent prologue shows us that Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, who died in 2014… this is important later) has been killed by a mysterious ghost in his farm in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma. We cut to his daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two children, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). The trailer made this seem like much more of a Stranger Things riff than it actually is. Stranger Things at least has some visual flair. Callie, in the midst of being evicted when informed her absent father has died and left her the house, leaves New York with her children in the hopes the land is worth something. According to Janine (Annie Potts), who shows up for one scene and doesn’t come back, it is not. Janine is mostly there to show that she is not Callie’s mother, whose identity remains anonymous. Weird choice for a film that tries to connect every single throwaway detail to the original film. It’s also unclear if Ghostbusters II is canon, but I don’t care.

Phoebe and Trevor explore the farm, uncovering the aforementioned objects such as the ghost detector, the ghost trap, and the Ecto-1 car. This takes forever, and we don’t even see a ghost until at least 30 minutes into the film. They also attend a summer school class taught by Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), who mostly naps and shows them movies on VHS. The one scene we see from Child’s Play where Chucky attacks Andy’s mom is more compelling than anything that happens in Afterlife. Grooberson is, of course, a fan of the Ghostbusters, and wants to help Phoebe work the ghost trap. Things finally start to happen and ghosts begin to run amok in this small town.

Then they just do the Zuul and Gozer thing again! There are mini Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men (which were kind of fun but that’s not the point)! Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson show up looking exhausted and just lean against a car, slurring crummy one-liners! It’s agony!

I don’t blame the kids. They’re not bad, even with this script! It’s not Logan Kim’s fault that they named his character “Podcast!” It’s not their fault the Reitmans are so without morals that they hinge the climax on a horrific CGI ghost of Harold Ramis. He doesn’t speak, but just helps to destroy Gozer and tie up loose ends. It is awful. Hollywood’s willingness to puppeteer dead actors on screen seems to be increasing and is truly nightmarish. The CGI Peter Cushing in Rogue One, whatever the hell they did with Carrie Fisher in Rise of Skywalker, it makes me sick to my stomach. Harold Ramis has been dead for almost a decade – can’t he just stay dead? What’s so wrong about that?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is utterly irredeemable, doing and saying nothing new. The people who say they enjoy this as a continuation of the story are lying to themselves. I don’t even understand how it would kickstart a new franchise – they stopped the apocalypse in this one, would we just have the kids chase regular ghosts? All we can do is pray it bombs and no one has the strength to try again after Bill Murray kicks it.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
dir. Jason Reitman
124 min

Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens Friday 11/19 in theaters everywhere. Please do not see it.

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