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Allowing the events of the 2016 Paul Feig reboot to sit unanswered in voicemail, Ghostbusters: Afterlife (G:A) may more fittingly suit the title of Ghostbusters: CTRL+Z.
Occurring thirty-two years after the events of Ghostbusters II, G:A takes us away from the bustling streets of Manhattan and into the sun-soaked barren plains of Summerville, Oklahoma.
Summerville is the kind of place where tumbleweeds roam, buildings look stripped from the ‘50s, and everybody knows everybody. Also, paranormal doors that keep pesky ghosts at bay lay beneath the surface.
It is here where we meet the film’s protagonist, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace, who should be front and centre on the film’s marketing); a tween genius with a penchant for science and mystery. Having recently moved to Summerville following hard times, inheriting the house belonging to their estranged and recently deceased grandfather (exactly who being one of the film’s biggest mysteries), Phoebe and her family, including older brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and single mother Callie (Carrie Coon, wonderful), settle into remote living.
The film suggests Phoebe’s gawky demeanour may preclude something more than tween awkwardness. (Even dads would think Phoebe’s jokes are lame.) Her androgynous presentation, blurring the line between masculine and feminine, tells the audience she transmits to a different frequency. It is a presentation that is a little on the nose, though one that Grace plays to great appeal. It is not until spooky antics make their way to Summerville do we see the unassuming Phoebe outgrow her shy shell; donning the Ghostbuster regalia with a rag-tag crew to takedown a paranormal threat.
Keeping it all in the family, director Jason Reitman takes the reins from his father (Ivan), bringing the original Ghostbusters universe into the twenty-first century. It is quite the change of guards given their contrasting styles: Jason’s penchant for making spikey characters accessible versus Ivan’s big swinging comedic bravado. With this said, Jason Reitman brings a tonal shift that deviates from Ivan’s goofball masterpiece(s). Because of this, most of the humour is cast aside and left to heavy hitters. The most predominant force in G:A is Phoebe’s summer school teacher, Mr Grooberson (Paul Rudd, sporadically seen). Rudd is dynamite in the role and had the film focused on him we’d perhaps have something bearing a resemblance to the excellence of the ‘80s flicks. This is not to say there is no fun to be had with G:A, nor is a fresh direction a hindrance, but the flip from comedy-supernatural romp to kids-first-pseudo-horror (the Stranger-Things-ness of it all) makes the film feel possessed by another entity.
Performances are solid across the board, with Rudd and Coon proving an excellent comedic pairing. Phoebe’s classmate, Podcast (Logan Kim), will elicit cute smirks from the crowd, particularly as he goes about explaining his journey to finding his podcasting groove. Wolfhard and budding admirer Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) aren’t given much to do; appearing there because the film had paid for four Ghostbuster suits. There is a fresh feel to the action sequences, particularly those involving Phoebe taking the gunner seat in the Ecto-1. There is a sense of adrenaline to these scenes that feel unique to G:A, and one that ought to be credited to the film’s effects team. This is further brought to life through the film’s radiant cinematography, with Eric Steelberg (a long-time collaborator with Jason Reitman) and his team doing a tremendous job in creating a crisp looking film.
Family plays a key part in both the story and making of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, with Jason Reitman bringing to life a film of conflicting body and soul.
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