Ghostbusters Afterlife (*****) never leaves
Great is still great, no matter the age.
Great is still great, no matter the age.
Director Jason Reitman
Written Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman
Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Bookeem Woodbine, Tracy Letts, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Wilde, Harold Ramis
After the second, unheralded Ghostbusters film, the series languished for years. Then it was brought back with the unremarkable version which switched the genders. Beyond the political raging and Chris Hemsworth’s unique definition of damsel in distress, the film lacked creativity from a team of somewhat talented actors and director. Then when we saw the teaser for a second direct sequel brought into the fold by the son of the original director, most did not know what to think. Then the pandemic hit, pushing the film back a year and a half. It is well worth the wait.
Instead of gender bending and hoping to gimmick it’s way to a hit. Jason Reitman decided to lean into the untimely passing of the most interesting character’s actor, Harold Ramis. He concentrated on making this a story about family and legacy and how its never too late to learn to understand and appreciate someone.
The story starts with carefully choreographed scene involving what is supposed to be Egon Spengler trying to defeat something. His failure to do so brings his divorced daughter Callie (Coon) out to Summerville, Oklahoma with her son Trevor (Wolfhard) and somewhat disconnected but clever Phoebe (Grace). She inherited Egon’s farm, not to mention a tremendous amount of debt, according to Janine Melnitz, his “friend” and bookkeeper. Trevor is great with car repair. Phoebe has a brilliant scientific mind. If you think this leads to plot connections, you are right. If you think that’s all there is to it, you will be pleasantly surprised.
Coon is age 40. This makes her birth about 3 years before the events of the first film. This makes the fact that Janine is not her mother make more sense. So before we’ve ever seen Egon for the first time, he has a background story. Given the depth of Ramis’ portrayal of Spengler, this is concievable.
Phoebe is lead to some clues about her mysterious father’s past. She explores these clues and her findings with her new friend, Podcast (Kim) and her summer school teacher Gary Grooberson (the ever delightful Rudd). Trevor, sweet on young local teen Lucky (O’Connor) gets a job with her at the local burger joint. Callie starts dating Gary. What middle-aged woman in her right mind would not?
The discovery of Egon’s legacy and what he was trying to accomplish is cleverly interplayed with events and spirits from the past films, leaning particularly on the first. If the film is lacking in the overall wit of the first two films, it more than makes up for it with a sweetness that the other two films only touched on but never indulged. It’s not a saccharine overload though.
This is primarily due to Grace’s ability to walk the line of her character’s grandfather while adding her own touches. She doesn’t solve everything, but she has some help. Most of the time that help is corporeal, other times it is not. Her friendship with Kim’s Podcast is a fun element originally played. There is an innocence rarely seen in film since the days of Stand By Me that is not to be missed.
Reitman is a good director, with talents in writing and storytelling that is different, but in cohesion with that of his father. This film shows the skills of a different but similar enough to be a natural progression. It’s the work someone who appreciates his predecessor, while confident enough to play his own variation of the same chords.
There is a treat at the end of the film that some might find differing in tone with the rest of the film. This reviewer could not stop crying during the last 15 minutes. It’s got as much to do with knowing how things change when one gets older. Great is still great, no matter the age.
(***** out of *****)
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