Characters within Ghostbusters: Afterlife may not be afraid of ghosts, but the spectre of the previous reincarnation of these phantom-busting heroes still lingers on the minds of audiences everywhere. Jason Reitman follows in the nepotistic steps of taking on the family business. Ghostbusters, the classic feature from his father, Ivan Reitman, is ready for another drubbing. Another staged moment in the spotlight, but at least this one feels right. It hits the notes of the past while pushing forth into a bleak and unknowably bright future. There is no severing of the predecessors, but an acceptance of it. No way of backing out or putting down the accomplishments of those that had come before them, the greatest step Ghostbusters: Afterlife takes is in accepting the past and the nostalgia that comes with it.
Doing so is a dangerous line to cross, but a rewarding one for Reitman’s work here. He grapples with that post-Stranger Things boom amicably enough. Finn Wolfhard is the inevitably cast lead, stripped away from that pool of Netflix talent and fed into Ghostbusters: Afterlife with little, if anything, to do. His storyline shoves him away from the real meat of the story, one of uniting distant relatives of Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and the ghost-busting science he worked on. All is, apparently, forgotten. The existence of the paranormal and unusual is swept aside by the generational divide. It leads to scenes of nice nerd-out embodiments, with Paul Rudd doing much of the heavy lifting here as seismologist Gary Grooberson. He and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) have good chemistry, and with the ill-thought-out Podcast (Logan Kim) character tagging along, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has an amicable leading trio.
Groan-inducing lines are inevitable. Throwbacks to the 80s are frequent. For the unindoctrinated, passing fan, these nostalgic moments will do nothing to derive joy from them. But those that are on the Ghostbusters bandwagon will fail to fall in love with those pop culture-ready references. Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men made more to sell merchandise than provide a delicate or terrifying villain. J.K. Simmons appears as Ivo Shandor in just one scene to give off the scent of continuity in this strange universe. It is all there, adapted very extravagantly, but still brushes shoulders with those vaguely understood notions of any light comedy feature. Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon are wasted, but strong in their roles here. Mckenna Grace comes out of this best of all, a fantastic leading performance from someone with clear talent, adapted well to fit the Ghostbusters formula.
There is no love lost or gained in the big inferno that Ghostbusters: Afterlife provides this blockbuster series. It does bust the illusion that remakes can’t be fun, but it is afraid to standoff against the point that, no matter how grand a change a film can make, it will often pale in comparison to those before it. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is so dependant on the past that it struggles, really, to make a future for itself. Where can it go from here? There is nothing to add or to create from this, and the omissions for uber-fans of the forty-year-old classic feature may fracture the love some have for the classic moments. Or, at least, remind them that they weren’t that great in the first place.