Comfort Entertainment: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Review

Screenshot of Finn Wolfhard as Trevor, Mckenna Grace as Phoebe, and Logan Kim as Podcast in ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’. Copyright goes to Columbia Pictures, BRON Studios, and Ghostcorps.

Hey! Hallie here!

I finally got to see the long awaited ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ in theaters! This is definitely a bit late but, as many who follow this blog know, I live in a bit of a conservative area that makes me warier than most to go out to the movies. However, ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ was the one movie that released this year that I knew I wanted to see in theaters. After waiting for the demand for this movie to die down a bit, and desperately avoiding spoilers in the process, I can finally review it! To start this off I want to confess that I’m a giant ‘Ghostbusters’ fan. The first film was the first “scary” movie I could sit through and genuinely enjoy as a kid who was scared of almost everything. As such, this entire franchise holds a special place in my heart and this movie was my most anticipated film of the last few years. So did it live up to my expectations? Yes. The answer is yes and then some. I loved this movie so much and I’m going to talk about it all in a second, but here’s your SPOILER warning. I’m hoping most of you have seen it already, but if you haven’t, tread carefully.

The Story: So many people were skeptical of this movie before it even came out because of the fan service that is obviously present. This seemed to indicate to some fans that the movie would try to stick too closely to the premise of the original ‘Ghostbusters’ film. I can now say with confidence that this movie does nothing of the sort. It isn’t about a bunch of scientists starting a ghost busting business. It’s a deeply personal story about family. The whole movie starts out with Callie, a single mother of two children, being evicted from her home. This winds up being the worst news she receives that day though she learns of her father’s death right before it, whom she despises for abandoning her. Despite her original interest in getting whatever money she can from what her father left her in his will, her sudden eviction means that she can’t just sell the house he left her, she has to live in it. And even that isn’t as temporary as she hopes once Janine shows up (Yay!) and tells her that she’s likely to be facing more debt rather than more money for her family. Meanwhile, her son, Trevor, is trying his best to fit in as fast as possible after a fast-food worker, Lucky, catches his eye. He lies about his age, gets tricked into doing the work everyone else hates at his minimum wage job, and worries that he’ll be stuck forever in a place he considers to be “a dump”. As for his sister, Phoebe, she hasn’t ever fit in anywhere. To the point that her mother worries that she’ll always push the people around her away. And yet, it’s Phoebe who manages to adjust the fastest to their new life and brings her family together. This family is the center of the film, and the fact that its major action comes from their adjustment to difficult circumstances while Phoebe uncovers her family’s past makes it wildly different from the original, but just as heartfelt.

The Kids: I do like the adults in this film, and I’ll talk about them in a bit, but the kids are where this movie really shines. Lucky is probably the least focused on of the four kids in this movie, but she’s always fun to watch on screen. She’s refreshingly grounded and confident, which plays nicely against Trevor’s constant anxiety over being liked. Trevor has a bit more depth. His insecurities are well explored during the film and his loyalty towards his sister is very touching. The real stand-outs in this film though, are Phoebe and Podcast. These two get to do the most ghostbusting and they’re definitely the most fun to follow. Podcast first gets introduced by thrusting a microphone into Phoebe’s face while dramatically narrating her mysterious appearance in town. It’s all part of his podcast, hence why he calls himself Podcast, where he discusses spooky mysteries that he comes across. This whole thing could come off as really annoying, but this character avoids annoying entirely and jumps straight to endearing. He’s outrageously supportive of everything Phoebe does and demands to be by her side when she begins to explore her ghostbusting heritage, even when things start to get dangerous. Everyone wants a friend like Podcast. I leave probably the best for last with Phoebe. Phoebe is outrageously smart for her age, even blowing away seismologist Mr. Grooberson when she meets him. But she isn’t some perfect girl-genius. She’s painfully awkward and so bad at making friends that she starts to learn adorably terrible jokes in order to relate herself to others. Seeing her come out of her shell as the mystery of what her grandfather was doing before his death unfolds, is perhaps the most rewarding part of the movie. Especially as she begins to connect to her past, feeling understandably betrayed by her mother for not telling her that she was never abnormal, but rather following in the footsteps of Egon Spengler, a fellow scientist and her grandfather. She’s the heart of the film and I would pay for much more Ghostbusters content starring Mckenna Grace.

The Adults: Callie and Gary Grooberson don’t get as much focus as the kids, but they’re still fun characters. Mr. Grooberson is played by Paul Rudd, which makes it absolutely impossible to dislike him. Grooberson’s a summer school teacher, but he doesn’t take the job too seriously. He takes up class time to play old VHS tapes of ‘Cujo’ and ‘Child’s Play’. His true passion is science and seismology, making him the first person in the town to notice that their frequent earthquakes are abnormal explosions rather than actual earthquakes. He’s not the most level-headed guy. He’s definitely the type of person to blow something up in the name of science. But he’s the type of guy you’d want to hang out with, and that’s enough. Callie, on the other hand, is hard to pin down. She’s a loving mother, but her prejudice against her father makes her flawed. She doesn’t tell her children about the giant supernatural event that occurred to her father in the 80’s or even who their grandfather is. Anytime Phoebe begins to wonder that there may be a purpose to her grandfather living in the middle of nowhere, Callie shuts her down to the point of driving a wedge between them. But that makes her story all the more rewarding when she finally interacts with Egon’s ghost, guiding her down to all of the pictures he kept of her. By learning that her abandonment was a sacrifice rather than a willing choice, she gets some closure. She’s also badass in the final battle and quick to throw herself in front of Phoebe despite knowing nothing about ghostbusting. I definitely enjoyed our keymaster and gatekeeper this time around.

The Ghostbusters: These guys get a section all to their own. Its was so nice to see Dan, Ernie, and Bill back. All of their dialogue was authentic to their characters, which makes sense because the actors had quite a bit of say in that regard. I loved that Ray is still working at ‘Ray’s Occult’ and that he still talks a mile a minute about topics that are seemingly unrelated to the problem at hand. He also 100% WOULD be the only subscriber to Podcast’s podcast. Peter’s relationship with Dana, as shown mostly through the end credits scene, is perfect, as are all of his quips to Gozer. Winston went on to start a lucrative business, which makes so much sense for his character. I loved that he was financially supporting the rest of the guys while keeping his eyes on the firehouse in the hopes of buying it again. Given the end credits scene, it even seems like he might be the one to start up a new era of Ghostbusting. All of it was tastefully done. Even the ending where they come in to save the day. Ray, Peter, and Winston help the rest of the characters take down Gozer, but it’s still the kids who do most of the work. In my opinion, it’s the perfect passing of the torch. My only issue was Ray’s fall out with Egon. I don’t dislike that Ray and Egon had a fall out. In fact, picking Ray as the one who tells Phoebe that Egon can “burn in hell” is the most impactful choice you can make. But there has to be a really good reason for it, and Ray not believing Egon’s warnings about the apocalypse isn’t one of them. I can see Peter or even Winston getting angry at Egon for driving away business with a claim like that. But I can’t see a scenario where Ray wouldn’t hear Egon out on his Gozer theory. Although, I can believe that Ray would be hurt by Egon stealing so much equipment.

Egon: And finally, the most emotional element of the movie as well as the most controversial. I thought Egon’s presence was done perfectly from beginning to end. In the opening sequence we see Egon die in an attempt to use a giant trap he rigged to stop Gozer. Some fans didn’t like this death, but I thought it made perfect sense. The mystery of Egon turning his back on his family and friends is revealed to be because he stood vigilant trying to keep them all safe. It only makes sense for him to give his life for that cause. Not only that, but his spirit would only linger if he had unfinished business, and that certainly counts as unfinished business. I especially loved that this sequence never revealed his face. It’s respectful and doesn’t feel excessive. As the film goes on we feel his presence in every scene in his house. He plays chess with Phoebe to reveal himself and leads her to a trap in an attempt to get her to finish what he started. I loved the moment where he helps Phoebe fix a proton pack and shows off his PhDs in the process. He even helps Trevor start up the Ecto-1. But the moment every Ghostbuster fan is going to remember for years to come is the moment where his hand closes over Phoebe’s as she fights Gozer and we get to see Egon for the first time in many years. Egon stands with the other Ghostbusters for one final time while they all apologize for not keeping in touch, saying a last goodbye. He gets to fully interact with his grandchildren for the first time. And he hugs Callie, closing up her storyline as well. After that whole scene the film didn’t wait for the credits before giving us a giant “For Harold” sign in the sky. Not everyone is happy with his presence at the end, and I understand the hesitation. Using the likenesses of beloved actors who have passed on can too easily be mishandled. However, they took the perfect precautions for this sequence. They chose to involve Harold’s daughter in the design of Egon’s spirit, chose to keep Egon silent, and decided on footage of Harold as Egon, not of Harold himself, in order to honor his memory. The care and concern behind these decisions comes through.

Those were my thoughts on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’. This movie is one of the best editions to the Ghostbusters franchise I could have hoped for. It was exciting, heartwarming, and had the perfect amount of respect for the films that came before. I fully sobbed for the last ten minutes of this film and I don’t regret a thing. The movie did pretty well at the box office, especially considering quarantine, so I hope that it indicates that more movies are coming in the future. I can’t wait to see what Ghostcorps gives us next!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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