By Jason Delgado
I can recall back in the day when I was in Kindergarten, that I would wear my cherished Ghostbusters shirt any chance that I could. Even at such a young age, I was in awe of so many aspects of that movie. The combination of truly great comedy and science fiction, with a dash of horror, is still unique to this day. Add in the catchy theme song, an amazing score, the comical and exceptional cast (who played such distinctive characters), the coolness of Ecto-1, proton packs, Slimer, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, along with New York City as a vibrant backdrop, and you’ve got an instant classic.
Films like that are like lightning in a bottle. The challenge for filmmakers since the dawn of sequels is, how do you equal or exceed something so magical? Do you play it safe by recycling the same formula, or do you change it up and go for the home run like Aliens, T2, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Godfather Part 2 did? Disappointments such as the rebooted version of Ghostbusters (2016; it just wasn’t a good movie) are more of the rule, rather than the aforementioned stellar exceptions.
So where does Ghostbusters: Afterlife fall? It’s an enjoyable comedy, although it never quite reaches greatness. I can see the pitch for Ghostbusters: Afterlife now. It’s Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters, and we can even cast one of the kids (Finn Wolfhard) from the Netflix show! Let’s set it in a small town, just like Hawkins, and we’ll add some more precocious, nerdy teens, and then we’ll remake the original but with new characters and still be able to continue the story on, just like The Force Awakens did! Plus, we’ll even get the son (Jason Reitman) of the original director (Ivan Reitman) onboard!
That’s not to say that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a bad film; it’s just not original. Your enjoyment level will vary depending on how much you can get past that, and this is coming from someone who generally loves all kinds of nostalgia, Ready Player One style. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is like the old, beat-up version of Ecto-1 that we see in this movie. It’s still cool, just not as much as when we first saw it.
My other point of contention is that the key emotional component didn’t work for me. I’m not afraid to admit that I will occasionally shed a tear at the theater, if a movie can take me to that place. The dramatic element of Afterlife felt too manufactured in my opinion (It reminded me of The Last Jedi in a way, with characters making decisions that didn’t seem true to who they are, or logical), which left me feeling like the Grinch on Christmas, with a heart two sizes too small.
The bright side to Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it’s a funny comedy, and the cast is excellent. Paul Rudd (Ant-man) is his usual affable, humorous self, while Mckenna Grace (Gifted) steals the show as a chip off the old block of one of the OG characters, complete with awesomely awkward, deadpan humor. Carrie Coon (The Leftovers) has seemingly natural chemistry with both of the above actors, and is hilarious in her own right with some witty repartee. Logan Kim as Podcast, and Celeste O’Connor (Freaky) as Lucky, are also young stars on the rise. I’m just left with the feeling that all of this talent could have been used to make something more original and memorable, rather than a decent rehash.
I give Ghostbusters: Afterlife two and a half hot sauce packets out of five. I wanted a fiery good time, but it ended up giving me a little heartburn.