Who is chopping onions in this theater?
Ghostbusters: Afterlife had some heavy baggage to deal with when Sony Pictures announced it a few years ago. Ghostbusters 2016 being an embarrassing dumpster fire and ultimately a financial failure generating nothing but ill will toward Sony, director Paul Feig, and the cast of the movie was one thing. The fact that reboots and continuations increasingly are used as IP fodder by studios hiring awful directors and amateur writers with no understanding or love for the source material (or in some cases abject contempt for it) has led to an increasing exhaustion which in turn has caused more of these films to fail at the box office and in ratings. Top that with the fact that 2021 has struggled to bring people back to the theaters, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is looking at an uphill battle both for love and ticket sales.
But with a 65% critic score and a 95% audience rating, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is another example of the grossly out of touch nature of modern film critics to the general audience.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife feels like a genuine apology for the Ghostbusters 3 we never received, which makes sense since it started out as Ghostbusters 3 while the late great Harold Ramis was still alive. Set in modern times, the film centers on Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), and Callie (Carrie Coon), the remaining Spangler family and descendants of who else but Egon Spangler. As is normal in the Ghostbusters world, the family is bad with money and when Callie gets evicted from her apartment around the time that Egon dies, the family moves into the old decrepit house in the middle of nowhere.
Paul Rudd is in the movie as Gary Grooberson, because Paul Rudd loves milfs and wherever there is a single movie mom Paul Rudd will be there to bang her. There’s not much to say about Rudd other than that he is exactly the same character as he is in every film Paul Rudd has ever appeared in. Awkward, kinda goofy, inexplicably very smart, and always on the prowl for single moms to have sex with. Rudd plays the love interest for Callie, the single mom. Because Paul Rudd loves milfs.
Phoebe is of course a spitting image of her grandfather, an awkward nerd who tells awkward jokes and is also a massive genius. As the family tries to uncover Egon’s life post-New York, they learn that he may have moved out to the countryside for a specific reason. Phoebe and Trevor uncover the remnants of the Ghostbusters from the past just as new and old threats are about to open themselves to the world. But can they stop the bad guys? Of course they can.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a fantastic movie with an incredible cast. Mckenna Grace actually feels like the biological granddaughter of Egon Spangler, and the plot takes on a life of its own without becoming a retread of the original movie like other films tend to do decades after the last movie. It brings the audience back to a world that they’ve loved and missed and does it in a way that feels respectful to the source material and continues on the legacy of the films without relying too hard on the prior actors showing up to save the day. And some of the original actors do make a small appearance. It also carries on the deadpan humor of the original films rather than the more modern approach (ahem, 2016) of the wowie zowie goofy goober humor. Nobody makes a queef joke in the entire film.
One side thing I did appreciate with Ghostbusters: Afterlife is that it didn’t mention Ghostbusters 2016. At all. Not even a wink and a nod to the audience to say “hey, remember when we crapped out that turd?” Ghostbusters 2016 was a pathetic embarrassment of a film that nearly destroyed a beloved franchise, and shockingly Sony took the most dignified approach by now pretending that it never existed, not even as a snide joke. I think the writers room realized that a 2016 reference would go over as smoothly as reenacting the memory of a kid’s dog being run over by a car in front of them on their birthday by their drunk dad who had the restraining order against him.
Ultimately Ghostbusters: Afterlife feels like finally being served the Ghostbusters 3 that we’ve been promised all these years waiting at our tables with our bibs and cutlery and salivating at the mouth. It delivers on content without devolving into low effort nostalgia-driven fan service. It is truly one of the best films I have seen all year. I never imagined I’d be given this film the score I am.