Ghostbusters: Afterlife

In 1984, I was in high school. One particularly awkward afternoon, my mother, her boyfriend, his daughter, and I went to the movies. With that group, finding something to watch took a bit, but finally we agreed on this new comedy that had just come out: Ghostbusters. By the end of it, I loved it, the daughter was trying hard to pretend she didn’t, and the two adults were not at all impressed. I guess I wasn’t alone, since there were sequels, a reboot movie, comic books, a video game, and a cartoon that ran from 1986-1991. Impressive longevity for a cartoon based on a movie.

The movie had a catchy theme song (Who you gonna call?) and is very quotable (When someone asks you if you’re a god…). According to some reports, when he saw some of the early prints of scenes, Bill Murray said it was going to be a hit. And he was very, very right. Amusingly, while it’s a treasured hit now, at the time it was filmed they couldn’t even get permits and did some of their shooting in the streets of New York, dodging official attention and questions.

Now, many years later, there’s a new movie. I was excited from the first time I saw the trailer, especially since it continued from the first one and seemed to have a lot of nice nods to, and respect for, the original. It would be a little bittersweet, as one of the originals, Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) had died, but I had faith they’d make it work. And they did.

The movie starts with a big action scene that ends up being someone’s last stand against the forces of darkness. Then we meet a single mom and her two kids having assorted money troubles. They leave the big city to go to a small town and, they hope, get something from mom’s (Calie) father’s inheritance. They are continually surprised as they discover the late father/grandfather was well-known, not really liked, and didn’t leave them much. Early on, there’s some very entertaining play between Calie and her daughter, Phoebe. Let’s just say Calie isn’t the traditional sitcom style mother, but it made me like her a lot more almost at once. There’s also a son, Trevor, who seems like a more or less normal gawky, awkward teen.

Bespectacled Phoebe is not really adept socially, but is clearly off-the-charts smart. We start meeting some of the town’s oddballs, like summer school teacher Gary Grooberson (they deservedly mock that name), a kid called Podcast, and a potential love interest for Trevor who goes by Lucky. The family meets someone almost as soon as they get to Summerville who is the first of many returning characters and actors from the original movie. One of the new characters provides an effortless bridge, cluing in the current cast (and audience members who might not know) about the original Ghostbusters.

Gradually, we learn of strange goings-on in town, meet a more-or-less friendly ghost, and slowly uncover some classic Ghostbusters equipment. Impressively, they manage to incorporate things from the original movie and even the cartoon. Things go from weird to dangerous, and some background from the original movie is explained and deepened. Everyone gets at least brief moments to shine, and there’s some upgraded equipment that I think is great. I love the newest version of the ghost traps.

There’s a major climactic fight, some goofy small ones, returns of almost all the major characters from the first movie, and a really moving tribute to both Egon and the late Harold Ramis who played him. Everything comes together well, and the original characters are used to great effect. When it’s all over, there are a few loose ends that are never explained, and one significant continuity glitch, but it’s a fantastic movie. There are two end scenes that both pay tribute to what went before.

What I liked: There was a warmth and fun about this movie that’s not common these days. I really enjoyed Calie. She wasn’t what many would call a “normal” mom, but she was fantastic, and her scenes with Phoebe especially were great. Paul Rudd was great as Gary, and I really was impressed with the nods to the original characters and equipment. It was a great tribute to that first movie from so long ago, and a nice salute to Egon and Harold Ramis

What I didn’t: As I said, there were a few tiny loose ends and decent sized continuity glitch. At least once, Calie should have had a “Wait, what am I wearing?” moment, but that could easily have been edited out.

Avengers Crossover: Not only does Grooberson read an Avengers comic at one point, but Paul Rudd, of course, plays Ant-Man in the MCU, while Carrie Coon (Calie) played Proxima Midnight in Infinity War and Endgame. Also, McKenna Grace (Phoebe) was the young Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, JK Simmons (Ivo Shandor) is J. Jonah Jameson in various Spider-Man movies, and even the sheriff you barely see was in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

I really loved this movie. I’m giving this a rare 5 out of 5. It was a great movie and a lot of fun.

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