“There is no mom, there is only Zuul.” (Yep. They go there.)
Story: Callie and her kids Trevor and Phoebe are barely making ends meet in a run-down apartment. Scratch that; they’ve just been evicted. So why not head out to the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, and check on the inheritance her father left her? Surprise – no money! Seems her dad was penniless too. Except for two things; a ramshackle old farmhouse, and a bunch of weird equipment. Did I mention her dad’s name was Egon Spangler? And did I also mention that a nearby town dug too deep when mining, and before anyone could say Reign of Fire, “earthquakes” started? I’m sure these two plot tidbits won’t intersect in any way.
Genre I’d put it in: Sequels That Successfully Introduce A Next Generation
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Third film in the Ghostbusters series. A part of the Ghostbusters franchise.
Release Date: 2021
Gotta say: Afterlife is that rare beast of a film; both a “sequel” that harks back to the originals without an over-reliance on them, and a modern-day retelling whose characters are interesting enough to deserve leading a story of their own.
Sure, Mckenna Grace’s Phoebe looks like a tween doppelgänger of Harold Ramis’ Egon, and Phoebe does have that Science Über Alles vibe, but she also has a closeness with her family and understanding of the real world that distant Egon seemed to lack. Phoebe’s brother Trevor – played with pitch-perfect New Kid Really Trying vibes by Finn Wolfhard – has a touch of the mad genius, but filters that into fixing cars. Y’know, like the ECTO-1. These characters are a nicely done third generation, and their differences work well together. Same goes for Carrie Coon’s Callie, a mom who’s been estranged from her dad for decades, and who hates science for everything it’s taken from her (translation: any attention/affection from her dad.)
You can easily break down the characters to their 1984 counterparts, and maybe even make a drinking game out of it: hey, Callie is Dana! Grooberson is Louis! Could Podcast be Winston? And so on. However, breaking Afterlife down into easily matchable bits takes away from the sincere family dynamic Callie, Trevor and Phoebe have, which is the heart of this film. Sure, the new gang needs to save the world from yet another ghostly apocalypse, but fitting in to a new town, reconnecting with your past, and relying on your family are points this story drives home in a touching way. Could have been cloying or sappy, but it wasn’t. Bravo, Afterlife.
Director Jason Reitman brings a light touch to Afterlife, while keeping the overall feel his father Ivan had with the original films. There’s absolutely fantastic art direction and set design, from the rusted out processing factory, falling apart farmhouse ala Egon, to a Fifties style rollerskate diner. Each setting looks like it’s actual someplace you’d see in real life, which sounds silly but is surprisingly rare in many big budget films. There are costuming callbacks to the original film as well – Paul Rudd’s Grooberson rocks a riff on the Keymaster off-the-shoulder look, post-climax, like Moranis does in the original. And I kind of love it.
Ghostly CGI? Oh, there’s CGI. Don’t you worry. Instead of Slimer, we have Muncher, a metal eating ghostie. Looks like Slimer, but blue and more arms. “Definitely Class 5” according to Trevor, and kind of adorable. Definitely gives good “please no” face, which almost had me wishing this ghostie wasn’t up for trapping. Almost. The scene in the trailer that shows all the Mini Stay-puft marshmallow men is just a tidbit of the overall scene, and they are adorable! Marshmallow murder is adorable too! I got Gremlins vibes, but it definitely felt like a super-quick homage rather than a rip-off. Because we also get hell puppies, my absolute favorite things from the original film. Kinda plastic-y looking – too brightly lit in the place they show up, which brings every little computerized nuance right to your eyeballs. (They look a lot better once things start to get nighttime-y.)
This movie is a really, really good time. Mythology you know, characters you want to. There are a few missteps – as much as I love Olivia Wilde, why cast her as [Big Bad]? All I could do is think “hey, that’s Olivia Wilde!” But they’re small in terms of the overall ghostly fun, and sweet familial plots this film delivers. Looking for something to take the entire family to, or to head out to see to catch a break? Look no further.
#Protip: Super fun end credits song, “Haunted House” – sung by 15-year-old Mckenna Grace? DAMN GURL