Okay, I’m going to be brutally honest and frank, the 2016 Ghostbusters was awful. But not for the reason that it changed them to all women. The fact that they even tried to reboot it at all was a huge mistake. There’s some things you just don’t mess with. I was on board and willing to give it a chance before it turned into all four leads trying to outdo themselves for two hours as they focused too much on the special effects.
So, Jason Reitman, son of Ivan (who directed the first two) co-wrote and directed Afterlife and for the most part, it looked liked a Stranger Things knockoff. The similarities were obvious in the first trailer. And the fact that they cast Finn Wolfhard didn’t help even though, I don’t think he’s the strongest character of that Netflix show.
Thankfully, his character is really just a supporting character. The true star of the show is Phoebe Spangler (McKenna Grace) who stands out. Her character claims to be on the autism spectrum but there has been some speculation that she is also nonbinary. Looking at her, she looks like the love child that Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis) and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts).
But here’s the rub that gets at me. Wolfhard’s character, Trevor, says he’s 15. So, if this movie was originally scheduled for 2020, that means he would’ve been born in 2005. Trevor’s mother, Callie (Carrie Coon in a totally thankless role) has to at least be in her mid-30s. That means either before the events of the first Ghostbusters or right after, Egon had a relationship where he got a woman pregnant. Egon is apparently single in the first Ghostbusters, released in 1984, which is referenced by the year in Afterlife. So, I’m thinking in the five-year interim between the first two movies, Egon had a relationship that maybe fell apart.
I mean, surely after the events of the first movie, the whole gang probably had people breaking down their doors. They were bigger than rock stars. And Ramis was reportedly opposed to the notion of Egon and Janine hooking up, even though it’s hinted in the first one. In the second one, she falls for Louis Tully (Rick Moranis who is MIA here). So, it’s possible Egon was married and an absent father in the second one in 1989, which would lead to the events in this movie.
The movie starts off much darker this time around with Egon (with a body double since Ramis died in 2014), driving down a country road in Oklahoma from an abandoned Shandor Mine to his farmhouse. But he’s being chased by a supernatural force that causes him to have a fatal heart attack.
Callie, a single mom and unemployed, packs up her children to move to Summerville, Okla., one of those towns that seems to live geographic oddity towns with mountainous terrains and clear prairies that only seems to exist in movies. It was actually filmed in Alberta to take advance of Canadian film incentives because by 2019 Oklahoma wasn’t attracting many filmmakers even though offering good incentives too. But in the town, they notice there seems to be notion much to offer except earthquakes. This is essential to the plot that I did find interesting. Oklahoma did have a lot of earthquakes in the 2010s due to fracking, which has stopped in the last few years.
Phoebe is like Egon as interested in science and experiments and socially awkward. Trevor is only interested in a carhop at the local drive-in, Lucky Domingo (Celeste O’Conner). And Callie isn’t really given anything to do except be a combination of the stereotypical jilted daughter with a chip on her shoulder and the mother who nags Phoebe for her science experiments. She does attract the eye of geeky high school teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd channeling his Ant-Man Scott Lang role).
There are some moments of a great story here in this movie. But it just feels different. Reitman is too concerned with making it more dramatic than comedic. It’s also centered more around the young kids which is both good and bad. Grace stands out. And even her friend, Podcast (Logan Kim) is likable. The relationship between Trevor and Lucky seems genuine and the moments between Callie and Gary are the highlights.
Reitman knows he can’t capture the magic of the combination that Ramis and Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson brought to the roles, so he doesn’t try to do it with four new actors. Yet, it still feels like a reboot. Or more of a retread.
It appears that Ivo Shandor (a cameo by J.K. Simmons), who Egon mentioned in the first movie, moved from building skyscrapers in NYC that were portals to other dimensions to building a town in middle America that is also a portal. And Gozer (Olivia Wilde with her voice dubbed Shohreh Aghdashloo) makes an appearance again.
And the demon dogs (The Gatemaster and Keymaster) are back. And you’d be right to suspect that Gary and Callie get possessed by them. There’s another gluttonous ghost who eats metal instead of food. There’s another sequence of the ghosts and other supernatural entities wrecking havoc.
But there’s not much ghostbusting. There’s more explanation of the Shandor and the end of the world issues. Peter Venkman (Murray), Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) and Winston Zeddemore (Hudson) all make appearances and through special effects using Ramis’ likeness we do get to see the four original guys together one last time.
Janine appears as does Dana Barren (Sigourney Weaver) in cameos. And the movie ends with a hint that a sequel might happen. I mean they have to bring back Vigo of Carpathia, even though both Wilhelm von Holburg (who played him) and Max von Sydow, who dubbed the voice, have both passed away.
If anything else, this should be a good wrap up to the franchise that spawn movies, TV cartoons, video games and even that Ecto-Cooler Hi-C juice drink.
What do you think? Please comment.