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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

***
2021

‘…the blue-collar, plumbers-in-space cynicism that made the first film so memorable is completely MIA here…’

Sigh. As critics, we had a video message from director Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, on-screen before we watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife, promising us that we were embarking on ‘the greatest Easter egg hunt ever’. For fans of the franchise, that enticement may well be enough, but for anyone expecting an actual film, Ghostbusters: Afterlife isn’t much more on message than the much-derided 2016 all-girl reboot. If Ghostbusters: Afterlife doesn’t live up to our expectations, then at least it fails for different reasons; despite the late introduction of the original team, recapturing the wildly irreverent tone of the pioneering Ghostbusters proves elusive.

In what feels like a Stranger Things spin-off, Finn Wolfhard plays a sulky teenager called Trevor who is unhappy to be decanted to Oklahoma by his mother Callie (Carrie Coon) and his little sister Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). But the spooky house they move into is haunted, and for a reason; the death of one of the Ghostbusters team has left a few spectral presences haunting the area. Trevor and Pheobe are quickly out of their depth, and when all kinds of demon dogs and ectoplasm come oozing out of the ground, exactly who ARE you gonna call?

The vaguest of spoilers apply here; yes, the last 15 minutes see Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson return to their uniforms and proton packs, but they’re really just a device to bring about the final curtain on the shaggy-dog story here. Paul Rudd’s slovenly science-teacher Chad Gooberson is probably the best asset here, and he and Coon strike a few romantic sparks in the lulls between ghost attacks. In fact, all the leads are fine, but the overall package is rather undercooked; it’s a long tease until Zuul and the gang and unleashed, and then there’s nowhere to go but to put them back in their box or traps. There’s call-backs to everything from the Stay-Puft marshmallow man, now in miniature size, to Slimer, now updated to Muncher, and it’s certainly nice to see the original cast back in action. But this is more of a teenage adventure than a comedy; the blue-collar, plumbers-in-space cynicism that made the first film so memorable is completely MIA here.

The endless tinkering with Ghostbusters is yet to bear fruit; essentially, we need four new comics who have the kind of deadpan sang-froid that Bill Murray brought to the 1984 film; he’s a man who is literally in the wrong movie, and the incongruity generated laughs. That’s the heart of what audiences loved about the first film, and all the careful efforts to reignite the flame featured here fall short. The two post credits scenes, however, are far more interesting than the actual film; as with so many of today’s franchise films, the promise is, sorry about the mess, we’ll get it right next time….

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is out in the UK and US from Nov 19th 2021. Thanks to Sony for big-screen access to this title.

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  1. That was me just testing. Always worried about remakes. Trailer made this look lively enough. Think yourself lucky not to see through these dire trailers from director/star/joe bloggs telling you how fab the film is and under no account wait until it goes into streaming.

    • I’m be yet to see one of these ‘hi, I’m Chris Nolan…’ trailers that had a positive rather than a negative effect. This is a fun enough little film, and would be best served watched between two serious blockbusters. Plan your viewing carefully!

  2. I tried to comment on your original post just after it went live and I got pulled into a strange dimension called 404. Had nightmares all night after that. Thanks, Film! 🤬

  3. So weird, this post has come up twice in the reader, as have all the comments. Your site is going bonkers what with the no commenting and now this. Not into Ghostbusters franchise, though I enjoyed the first one.

  4. I watched the original Ghostbusters recently, after what feels like decades. I realised it’s simply a dark comedy, with some very late night jokes. I think rose-tinted glasses have made us believe it was something more. I will watch this, but I don’t think we are allowed to make comedies, like we did in the 80’s anymore. I understand it for some reasons, but I crave it in others.

    • I’m really fond of the first film. I guess that;’s what nostalgia is; imagining that the past was better. I can’t imagine a film today having the same mix of ghost-train scares for kids and the subversive adult humour that exudes from the central trio. It’s a formula that hasn’t really worked in other films in the franchise and elsewhere, and my guess is that’s why it’s can’t be repeated. This is a nice enough film, didn’t upset or annoy me, but there’s not many actual laughs, and that is an issue, because the first film, while hardly flawless, generates goodwill by hitting the right funny bone. Goodness knows what they thought they were making at the time of the first one, but Afterlife is very contrived in comparison. Still, worth a watch for fans…

  5. I had not even heard of this and figured after the flop the previous reboot was that they’d leave the franchise alone for another decade. I guess I was half right :-/

    I’ve never made a movie, but is it really SO HARD to watch an old movie and see what made it beloved and then just copy that?

    • Right, but I guess it’s algorythms that call the shots, and Ghostbusters the brand never seems to stand still. I guess this is meant to correct the girl power aspect of the last film, but doesn’t put much memorable in its place.

      I guess Ghostbusters 2 was an attempt to just copy the previous version, and yet it’s probably the worst of the lot. This provides some mild pleasures, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call it Ghostbusters when most of the film is just people examining props from the original.

        • Yup, and there’s always toys to sell, it’s just a shame that we’re always appealing to a different audience than the original film did…

          • So I know you don’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but is Ghostbusters? By Dickensian standards?
            Because now I want to watch the original and want to shoehorn it into December 🙂

            • You can watch what you want, when you want, the social media police have no authority. Ghostbusters is for all year around…

                • A crossover sounds possible, but in general, it’s best not to cross the streams. I’d rather see the Muppets tackle a more serious text, 12 Angry Men, or To Kill A Mockingbird .

                  • I’d watch the Muppets and How to Kill a Slimer.

                    just saying.

                    but it would be nice if they would do another classic movie or two. Christmas Carol and Treasure Island were great because they stayed true to the story. It wasn’t until they did Wizard of Oz and tried to do their own thing that it went sideways.

                    Of course, now I’m wondering if the ghostbusters cartoon series is on dvd. Off to amazon I go…

                    • No. As with Die Hard, the first one is the thing, and all other projects just stoke the embers. Still can’t get my head around a true GOAT critic thinking John Wick 2 is the best of the franchise…

                    • Right, thanks.

                      I checked amazon. I can watch the cartoon series for $10 a season. There are 10 seasons. Not going to happen.
                      Unless Alex wants to buy them for me…..

                    • These prices you quite are daylight robbery. That price for Disney + I quoted for two quid for a month. They need to have more special offers like that. Who is going to pay $100 dollars to watch a ghostbusters cartoon? Even you must find that farcical. And you don’t even get a disk or a box. Greedy vendors, shoddy product. Pants.

                    • Totally pants. I’d even go so far as say knickers!

                      Disney+ is 80 a year here. I just don’t watch enough tv to justify that :-/ I barely justify Prime but that’s more because of the shipping. The movie/tv side of prime is really just bonus.

                    • That is stiff, but putting the Fox back catalogue in gives them the best selection. Yet that annual price is too much, because you wear through the good stuff fast. It’s a rum deal all round, people just end up watching whatever they can get, not what they want.

  6. I’ve never seen Stranger Things, but watching The Turning I remember thinking to myself that I never wanted to see Finn Wolfhard again. So no question I’ll be passing on this. Sounds awful.

    • Stranger Things is fine; I thought Wolfhard was good in The Goldfinch too. He’s cool, but he’s not Bill Murray. The Turning is one of the worst films I’ve seen in years…

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