Nostalgia Makes Me Feel Good: Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) - Reviewed


as a franchise exists in a purgatory state wherein it resides in an ocean of nostalgia for audiences of a certain age, canonized as one of the most beloved representations of '80s films, yet unable to reach newer generations due to the inability to capture that lightning in a bottle again. Ghostbusters II (1989) struggled with this and the soft reboot in 2016 failed to garner a sizable following as well. Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman, has tried to expand on his father's vision with Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), and though it leans a little bit too heavily on nostalgia, it ends up being a worthy addition to the universe.

Single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) are evicted from their apartment. Callie's father has recently died, and the only thing he left her is a dilapidated farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town in Oklahoma. Her father was known as the town recluse and given the nickname "dirt farmer" but it turns out that he had a connection to the Ghostbusters, who have split up and gone their own ways since the '80s.

One of the biggest changes Reitman makes is setting the film in a rural area. Part of the 1984 film's appeal is the grimy, urban New York City backdrop and it in turn informs the snarky attitudes of the various characters. There is a sardonic undertone running through the entire film. Ghostbusters: Afterlife definitely has a much more wholesome approach to comedy, though it is in no way a completely serious affair (but there definitely aren't any ghost fellatio jokes snuck in there). In a way it fits, as the concept of the Ghostbusters has become so ubiquitous in our society that it has trickled down to the consciousness of the regular joe. While it could be argued it has lost its edge, it is trying to appeal to a different generation.

The film takes its time to set up the narrative and the characters which could be construed as "slow pacing" but which I found to be compelling. Mckenna Grace as Phoebe is a great addition to the roster, with her channeling her grandfather's traits and coming into to her own. She has excellent deadpan comedic timing and is more than up to the challenge of carrying the bulk of the movie. Although he has a silly name, her friend Podcast (Logan Kim) adds a lot of fun interactions as well. On the whole the writing is snappy and entertaining though it gets somewhat unfocused in the third act when things start to really ramp up.

With the shift to the grasslands and mountains of Oklahoma, the color palette is much warmer in tone than the first two films and the small town feel gives it a The Goonies (1985) vibe. The film is going for a retro feel but it isn't aggressively syphoning '80s aesthetic, it would be better described as '80s adjacent. There is a lot of CGI but surprisingly there is a good amount of practical effects as well, which is refreshing to see. While there are Easter Eggs and references abound, the most heavy handed pandering is the musical score by Rob Simonsen which incorporates a lot of the leitmotifs and cues from Elmer Bernstein's iconic score. Simonsen does add a lot more incidental pieces in the same style that meshes perfectly with the callbacks.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife at its heart is a film that adores the franchise and is ultimately a fan film with a huge budget. It manages to capture much of what makes Ghostbusters a timeless classic and at times is quite poignant and touching though that mileage may vary depending on how much emotional attachment the viewer has to the property. The approach of the film is completely sincere without a drop of ironic detachment and it's all the better for it.

--Michelle Kisner