Ghostbusters: Afterlife, directed by Ivan Reitman’s son Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air”), is delightfully retro while paying homage to the original Ghostbusters from 1984. As a result of its focus on the film’s adolescent descendants, the movie simultaneously feels like a long-delayed sequel to “Ghostbusters.”
It’s a good thing that Mckenna Grace (Gifted, The Handmaid’s Tale) and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) are the offspring of Egon Spengler (originally played by the late Harold Ramis). In the wake of Egon’s death, his estranged daughter (Carrie Coon) is moving into a secluded farmhouse because of her financial needs.
After moving in, Phoebe (Grace) and Trevor (Wolfhard) uncover a slew of unusual events taking place in the town, including several inexplicable earthquakes and some interesting relics in grandpa’s possessions. Phoebe’s scientific brilliance is much beyond her years, whilst her brother’s infatuation on a new classmate (Celeste O’Connor) is more of a whimper than anything else.
Mom, on the other hand, forms an unlikely friendship with one of the children’s teachers (Paul Rudd, who seemed to be everywhere), which adds an adult component to the movie that provides some chuckles but ultimately rides in the backseat for most of the film. As talented as Coon is, she suffers from “E.T.” mom syndrome, where she fails to see the strange things occurring to her.
Jason Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Gil Kenan’s picture cleverly sets up a deep narrative tying this flurry of spirit hijinks to the 1980s, while playingfully adding visual details that evoke the “Ghostbusters” of the past. Rudd’s character, for example, is able to pass summer school by just watching unsuitable horror films.
It’s possible that “Afterlife” is an attempt to appease fans who had a weird outburst when the female version of the idea debuted five years ago. Though “Ghostbusters” was imperfect, the reaction to it felt out of proportion, raising it to an inflated “You wrecked my childhood!” exaltation.
The film’s producer, the older Reitman, isn’t the only link to the film’s Reagan-era beginnings, with Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson also supporting the film. This is a picture that hopes to bridge the generation gap between people who watched the original in a theatre and their grandchildren, who would ideally relate with the film’s young characters. It’s not so much a cross-stream as it is a well of kindness.
With all the new amazing effects, comedy, and teenage angst, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a terrific fun, but movie takes much too long to get to the good stuff.
As a whole, “Afterlife” doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its predecessors, but it’s still a solid effort by a young Reitman to carry on his family’s heritage.