GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)
Dir: Jason Reitman
YOU WILL BE WARNED BEFORE SPOILERS
The original cinematic sensation Ghostbusters (1984) was a fresh, inventive family-friendly flick which has become a social staple; its jokes in modern culture are still with us, from marshmallows coming to life to the saying “Who ‘ya gonna call?”
Followed a few years later by a sequel, with moderate success, the film franchise sat dormant, awaiting a reboot, rehash or similar unoriginal Hollywood nextploitation (my neologism).
Reading through the background on Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), it is clear Bill Murray flip-flopped more than a politician. While a third film was in pre-development, he “refused to commit to the project. After the death of cast member Harold Ramis in 2014, Sony instead produced a female-driven reboot directed by Paul Feig and released in 2016.”[i] That film was an epic disaster Irwin Allen would have been proud of, being even shallower than Lake Mead has been this summer. Besides also being uninventive and uninventively also called Ghostbusters (2016), that film – a female-lead reboot — ended up having Murray in a role similar to professional paranormal investigator Joe Nickell. That loserfest was predictable, horribly trendless and a magisterial showcase of wasted talent and opportunity.
Thankfully not being tied at all to that failure, Afterlife breathes some new life into the franchise, and unsurprisingly set us up for a sequel which may or may not be made.[ii]
The story involves the estranged daughter, Callie Spengler, of a Ghostbuster seen at the beginning of our flick taking his last breath. At the same time he dies and leaves his house to her, she just happens to be so financially broke that she and her kids are being evicted from their apartment. So they pack up the Subaru and hightail it to dead ol’ dads’ rural dirt farm. This sort of coincidence peeves me, and takes this down a notch, but luckily there’s enough going past this to make up for such unlikely correlations. Callie has both a 15-year old son and a 12-year old daughter. Both have their well-defined personalities and subplots, and somehow find out they are part of a plan which involves saving the world.
Since this one is a follow up to Ghostbusters II (1989), it reasonably follows plotlines from that story. At one point in the proceedings, however, we are led to an underground temple, visually identical to the end scene apartment building roof from the first movie. For a few moments I thought I was going be disappointed at a replay of that iconic sequence. Quickly – and thankfully – this film did veer off into new plotlines instead of being another unoriginal Hollywood rehash.
Before getting into spoilers, I do want to recommend this sequel, giving it 7.25 stars out of 10.
And, of course, there is a Marvel-style Easter egg, so stay after the credits.
But. There are plot holes big enough to drive a planetoid through.
The younger sibling, Phoebe (well played by young thespian Mckenna Grace), is a bookworm and an inventive, science-loving and mechanically-inclined (much like her unknown grandpa) genius, whose curiosity is greater than her fear. The boy, who is 15 going on 17, follows his hormones more than his wits.
So they move to this very small and very rural Oklahoma town at the beginning of summer. The boy gets a job at a soda shop (with very good reason) and the smart girl has to go to summer school. SAY WHAT? That doesn’t make any sense. The only reason the character that shouldn’t have to go to summer school actually goes to summer school is an ill-contrived plot device: so the science nerd can meet the teacher. Played by Paul Rudd, he’s a lone seismologist who is in that town because of localized tremors without scientific explanation. He is a science teacher, passionate about science and with maybe 2 dozen summer school students, doesn’t teach any science, and only shows old VHS tapes of crappy horror movies. His lack of enthusiasm to teach science frustrates me in the Age of Faux News and QAnon.
Another plot hole – and I admit I may be wrong about this – is a mineshaft. It’s at the top of a mesa. As illogical as that sounds, the reason may be expedient for the story, but I’m not the only one in the theatre who noticed it.
You will see old faces, and the well-used repeat of old, familiar lines. If you’re a fan of the original movie, see this in the theatre (Dolby Cinema is great). Otherwise, when you do have the chance, make sure your viewing venue is worthy of the popcorn munching show.