“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a Movie for the Fans and Full of Heart

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the fourth motion picture for the franchise, released in November of 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it from its original Summer of 2020 release.

Paramount Pictures

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the fourth motion picture for the franchise, released in November of 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it from its original Summer of 2020 release.

Olivia Hain, Staff Writer

This review will contain very mild spoilers for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

When single mother Callie and her two children, Trevor and Phoebe, are evicted from their home, they are left with nothing but an old farmhouse on the outskirts of a podunk Oklahoma town bequeathed to them by Callie’s late father. What they soon realize is that Callie’s father may not have been a loon who abandoned his family like they were led to believe, but trying to save everyone from a terrible force attempting to re-enter our world after lying dormant for decades.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” directed by Jason Reitman, is a movie that is meant to pay tribute to the past in a fun and exciting way. Any viewer can tell that Reitman took special care in ensuring that “Afterlife” was a well-executed film calling back to the original movies his father, Ivan Reitman, had directed in the 80s. “Afterlife” contains several small nods to the original 1984 film that hardcore fans will have a fun time discovering as they follow the cast uncovering their family history and recovering the Ghostbusters’ legacy in order to save the world.

Not only is this movie meant to act as a beautifully written love letter to the original movies, but it’s very much a tribute to the late Harold Ramis, one of the writers on the originals and who portrayed Egon Spengler. With this, it very much becomes a story about Egon’s legacy that he passes down to Callie and her children. 

Phoebe, portrayed by Mckenna Grace, especially personifies this as any viewer can tell from the moment she is first introduced, tinkering with the electrical wires in their small apartment and adjusting her wire-framed glasses. Grace simply did a phenomenal job with her role and her performance cannot be praised enough. 

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” earned $44 million in its opening weekend, the ninth best opening of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes. (Paramount Pictures)

With the human side of the original Ghostbusters’ legacy being showcased through Phoebe, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), Phoebe’s friend Podcast (Logan Kim), and Trevor’s crush Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), the small details only add to the film’s charm. From the get-go, we’re introduced to familiar items like Egon’s PKE meter under an armchair or the famous Ecto-1 car that Trevor spends part of the movie fixing up. 

Even still, there are even more subtle details that dedicated, eagle-eyed fans will no doubt spot. Trevor finds a Twinkie in the glovebox of Ecto-1 (referencing Egon’s metaphor about the amount of psychokinetic energy in the state of New York), and there’s a small sign on a closet door requesting for a maid (referencing a similar sign outside of the college office the original Ghostbusters worked in at the very beginning of the movie). Even the movie’s score serves to remind people of what came before, using some of the same motifs from the 1984 film.

In all of this, it goes to show that “Afterlife” is truly a movie made for the fans. The fanservice is copious, but it doesn’t in any way detract from the story. If anything, it helps it. There is even a harmonious blending of CGI effects and practical effects, the latter of which are falling further and further out of fashion. The Terror Dogs make a return in this film, and they were actually brought to life through physical means. It goes a long way to increase the atmosphere of the film and keep the audience invested.

Along with the return of these familiar creatures, some familiar faces make cameo appearances as well. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver all make cameo appearances periodically throughout the film in delightfully charming ways. Alongside Carrie Coon (Callie) and Paul Rudd (Gary Grooberson, Phoebe’s summer school science teacher), the cast for this movie is incredibly well-rounded and all did a wonderful job. 

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is currently sitting at a 63% critic score and a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. (Paramount Pictures)

One more small thing to mention is that hardcore fans will likely want to bring a couple of tissues with them. With the way the story is written to revolve around the Spengler family, it makes for a very touching and emotional ending after all is said and done. 

If I were to give a personal note about this movie, I would have to say this. I am someone who grew up watching the original movies, and so I went into this movie very cautiously optimistic. Oftentimes, reboots and sequels released decades after their original source material end up being received poorly because the story is just a bland retelling of the original or took the story in a bad direction. “Afterlife” more than exceeded my expectations in this sense because the story it told was very cleverly crafted. Going back to the emotional aspect of it, I did find myself in tears both times I viewed this film. I heard others in the audience having similar reactions. I laughed, I felt suspense, and I gasped at several moments.

I smiled like I was watching the original for the first time again.

Overall, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a wonderful film that crisply breathes life back into the franchise. It is a story made with so much love, brilliant characters, and fun moments that you remember long after you’ve left the theater. It earns a well deserved 5/5 stars as a result.