Remember when an online army of crybabies lost their minds over Paul Feig’s gender-swapped Ghostbusters and hounded Leslie Jones off the internet? Remember how the same folks cheered when this sequel to Ghostbusters 2 was announced with Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, attached? Did it matter that nothing in Jason Reitman’s illustrious career as the maker of bittersweet dramedies Up in the Air and Juno, signals his suitability for the gig? Did it heck?
So here is a better movie than the crybabies deserve. All of the original cast are back for one of the most indifferently received films of the year. That’s not entirely fair. Right up until the last half-hour finds migraine-inducing new levels of fan service, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a serviceable post-Stranger Things Spielbergian yarn, replete with absent fathers, smalltown adventures, puppy love, and - oh - Finn Wolfhard.
Ironically – won’t somebody think of the crybabies? – the film’s protagonist is a nerdy teenage girl named Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). The granddaughter of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis), she and her financially struggling mother (a miscast Carrie Coons) and goofy older brother (Wolfhard) find themselves in the middle of Oklahoma, where they have inherited their late estranged grandfather’s dirt farm.
There are odd logic lapses in the script, as written by Reitman and Gil Kenan, most notably when Phoebe goes from not believing in ghosts to Mystic Meg
Once there, mom is courted by seismologist and substitute teacher Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd) and the strange earthly rumblings prove to be the result of something more supernatural than fracking.
Few viewers could argue that Ghostbusters; Afterlife marks much of a qualitative advance on Feig’s unfairly maligned 2016 film. There are odd logic lapses in the script, as written by Reitman and Gil Kenan, most notably when Phoebe goes from not believing in ghosts to Mystic Meg. The sickening nostalgic glow that lights every scene with unwelcome golden and tangerine hues produces something akin to radiation poisoning for the eyes.
Against this, the wonderful, multicultural teen team – won’t somebody think of the crybabies? – that assembles to save the actual world from the netherworld is fun. Even the great dollops of regurgitated legacy are palatable until they linger too long and too cloyingly. And there is just the right number of frights and starts for adventurous younger viewers.
Afterlife is fine. It passes the time. But somewhere between the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man recycled as hundreds of Tribble-alike menaces and Muncher, a fatter variant of Slimer, one finds oneself wishing that studios might use their vast resources for something more than the repackaging of old rope. “Who you gonna call?” New material, please?
Opens November 18th