Saturday, February 26, 2022

Stubs - Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
(2021) Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Paul Rudd, Annie Potts, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson. Directed by Jason Reitman. Screenplay by Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman Based on Ghostbusters by Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis. Produced by Ivan Reitman. Run time: 124 minutes. Color. USA. Supernatural Comedy

When Ghostbusters was released in 1984, it was a huge success. With a budget of around $30 million, the film would earn $282.2 million during its initial theatrical run, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 1984 in the United States and Canada, and the then-highest-grossing comedy ever, and making its theme song, "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr., a number-one hit. Its success would lead to the popular animated television series The Real Ghostbusters (1986), its sequel Extreme Ghostbusters (1997), video games, board games, comic books, clothing, music, and haunted attractions. It would also naturally spawn a sequel film, Ghostbusters II (1989), which wasn’t as successful either financially or critically.

Of course, this being Hollywood, and there is nothing more tempting than an old IP, there was a reboot Ghostbusters (2016), that switched out the male roles for female leads and really didn’t advance the franchise forward.

In some ways, the original film didn’t have a proper sequel until Ghostbusters: Afterlife was released in November 2021. Being a theatrical release, the film was not one that we at Trophy Unlocked were willing to risk seeing. But now that it has been released for home video, we were anxious to see the film.

The story deals with the family of Egon Spengler, the late Harold Ramis in the original two films. Spengler dies in a small town in Oklahoma, which his down-on-her-luck and estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) moves to with her 15-year-old son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and 12-year-old daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) after they are evicted from their New York apartment. Her hopes of some sort of lifesaving inheritance are dashed when they find out, thanks to an appearance by Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) reprising her role from the original films, that Egon died broke and very much in debt.

Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), and Podcast (Logan Kim).

While Trevor takes a job at the local drive-in, Spinners, with the hopes that he can make time with Lucky Domingo (Celeste O’Connor), a waitress there, Phoebe goes to summer school. A bit of an introvert, she makes friends with a boy who calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim), who records and narrates everything, and her science smarts catch the attention of Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a seismologist who appears to be the only teacher at summer school.

Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), Podcast, and Phoebe get drawn in.

In a storyline that is both taken from and is a continuation of the original film, Egon had moved to Oklahoma to try and stop a reprise of Gozer (Olivia Wilde) coming to enslave humans. And while Egon’s presence helps Phoebe get one of the proton packs to work again and Trevor gets the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1 running, they are clearly out-manned, so to speak, by Gozer and her cohorts, Zuul and Vinz Clortho, who possess Callie and Gary, respectively. That is until Raymond "Ray" Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) receives a call from Phoebe and rethinks his estrangement from Egon over the years. Ray gets the band back together, so to speak, and brings with him Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) to Oklahoma in the nick of time.

Raymond "Ray" Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), and
Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) return to the franchise.

The acting is pretty good, including Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace, who play the two Grandchildren. While Wolfhard is perhaps best known for his role on the Netflix series Stranger Things (2016–present), he shows a bit of comedic timing here. However, it is Mckenna Grace who is really impressive as the nerdish Phoebe, who goes from not believing in ghosts to being a real-life Ghostbuster. Logan Kim is also very enjoyable as Podcast.

Gary and Callie (Carrie Coon) look over some of Egon's artifacts.

Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon do well as the adult leads. Rudd’s comedy chops are well-known but Coon was a bit of a surprise, at least for me. She did a good job in the role of Callie who, like her father, is a flawed but well-meaning character.

As good as it was to see Aykroyd, Murray, and Hudson reprise their roles, it was the handling of Ramis’ role as Egon that the film excels on. While Egon makes his presence known throughout the film, it is not until the end that his apparition is seen. The film does well by his memory, making a loving tribute to one of the creators with a ghostly but silent presence that when he reunites with Callie actually brought a tear to my eye. Nothing like stopping the end of the world to bring clarity to a father-daughter relationship.

Like the original film, there are plenty of special effects in Afterlife and they seem to be drawn from the original source, though state-of-the-art. And at the same time, this is not a film that relies solely on those effects.

There is more heart in Afterlife than in the originals, and while the film goes out of its way to drop the possibility of another sequel, it would be a good idea to try and include Egon’s family in any future films. They, as much as the remaining original cast, make this film work. This was also Ivan Reitman's last film and is a testament that in the right hands, his son Jason's, the franchise can be saved.

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