We got one! Hitting theaters on November 19, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the film Ghostbusters fans have yearned to see for decades. Finally. Afterlife is better than 1989’s Ghostbusters II and superior to the 2016 reboot. It’s also a film about family, for families, made by the Reitman family. More specifically, that’s Ivan Reitman, director of the original two films, who produced this outing, and his son, Jason Reitman, a talented filmmaker in his own right, who settled into the director’s chair for this sequel. Despite all expectations and the wonky trailers, here’s why Ghostbusters: Afterlife is good, actually, and also, a great movie to unite Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, Gen Z-ers, and of course, our kids. Only mild spoilers ahead.
Afterlife is funny, sweet, scary, playful, and emotional. It’s so emotional, in fact, with its myriad callbacks to the original films and their characters, that more cynical moviegoers and critics might find it a tad maudlin. But if you’re a fan, you’ll likely embrace the feelings it stirs: anger (at being abandoned), love (for who and what’s come before – and what we’ve got now), nostalgia (try not to smile when you see the Ecto-1 and see or hear other familiar elements), pride (in one’s self and in those around us, especially our children), awkwardness (it’s the geekiest of the young characters who evolves the most), and hope (for a better future, explanations of what went wrong in the past). And – and this is big – even if Afterlife feels geared to audiences that grew up with Ghostbusters, which it does, kids should be equally entertained by it as well. There are thrills and laughs and characters their age leading the charge.
That said, parents may want to watch Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II with their kids before sending them to theaters to see Afterlife. Maybe a Ghostbusters double feature at home before a trip to the mall? (Note: Here’s where to stream the existing movies.)
The plot introduces us to Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children, 12-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and 15-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Just as they’re being evicted from their Chicago apartment, Callie learns that she’s inherited possession of a rickety, mostly worthless house in the middle of nowhere, a/k/a Summerville, Oklahoma. It turns out that ghosts, spooks, and specters call Summerville home, and the house belonged to Callie’s dad, a former Ghostbuster. (We won’t tell you which one here.) Trevor discovers the legendary Ecto-1 in a garage on the property and Phoebe stumbles across some old ghostbusting equipment, and they team up with some new friends, including a teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), Phoebe’s podcast-hosting classmate (Logan Kim), and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), a server at a local drive-in diner, who immediately catches Trevor’s eye, to prevent an all-out poltergeist invasion.
Reitman directs the movie assuredly. The story, which he co-wrote with Monster House director and Ghostbusters obsessive Gil Kenan, leans heavily into nostalgia. Again, it definitely helps to know the original films, as there are major story threads and entertaining Easter eggs that fly or fall based on one’s Ghostbusters IQ. Each character gets his or her moment and the actors are uniformly outstanding, particularly Grace, who is the nominal star of the movie and nails every scene as the science nerd and introvert who slowly comes out of her shell. Rudd, as always, brings the funny, and Coon keeps things grounded, but all the adults in the movie are meant to support the adolescent cast. Meanwhile, the pace is zippy (after a slow-ish section in which mom and the kids relocate to Oklahoma), the visual effects are convincing (and help amplify the scares), and the music (score and songs alike) hits all the right notes. Are there other old-school Ghostbusters surprises in Afterlife? By now, you know the answer is yes, but we’re not about to ruin those surprises. We will say this, though: be sure to stay all the way through the credits.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife opens on November 19, only in theaters.