GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE movie poster | ©2021 Sony/Columbia

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE movie poster | ©2021 Sony/Columbia

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor
Writers: Gil Kenan & Jason Reitman, based on characters created by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Director: Jason Reitman
Distributor: Sony/Columbia
Release Date: November 19, 2021

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE is directed and co-written (with Gil Kenan) by Jason Reitman. Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed 1984’s GHOSTBUSTERS and 1989’s GHOSTBUSTERS II (he’s also one of the producers here).

Oddly, though, GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE doesn’t feel like a film directed by either Reitman, based on their work (Jason Reitman’s previous credits include UP IN THE AIR and THE FRONT RUNNER). Instead, it seems more like one of the movies Steven Spielberg produced but didn’t direct himself back in the ‘80s.

After a prologue, in which a person and a spectral entity do battle in a cornfield and an isolated, spooky old house, we meet Callie (Carrie Coon), the single mother of teen Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and 12-year-old neurodivergent genius Phoebe (Mckenna Grace).

The family has fallen on financially hard times, so when Callie inherits a house from her long-absent father, she uproots the kids and they move into it. The house sits just outside the small but well-integrated rural town of Summerville, Oklahoma. We recognize the building from the prologue, and before long, we’ll recognize a few other elements, too.

Grace is wonderful, at once intense and deadpan. Wolfhard, of the IT films and STRANGER THINGS Netflix series, is expert at interacting with CGI. Coon is excellent, as always, and Paul Rudd is an agreeable presence as the other primary adult on hand. Logan Kim and Celeste O’Connor are both appealing as local kids who befriend Phoebe and Trevor.

At the press screening for GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, the film was preceded by a brief filmed statement from Jason Reitman. In the event that this is not attached to the public edition, Reitman requested that people refrain from spoilers.

Exactly what constitutes a spoiler and what doesn’t is a bit murky. Let’s risk saying that, in contemporary terms, GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE is a much more YA-leaning enterprise than its predecessors. It’s also oddly paced like an ‘80s teen fantasy/science fiction film, something that worked better back in the days when more of this sort of thing felt newer. We really know where this is heading, even if the characters don’t; while there is some fun to be had with their sense of wonder, we wish they’d catch on a little quicker.

There is one thing here that really is new – so new in fact that it threatens to peel us straight out of the movie and into meta-contemplation. This doesn’t seem to be the intended effect.

There is an overarching problem with GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE that can’t be discussed in detail without spoiling all over the place. In broad strokes, it can be said that having GHOSTBUSTERS in the title creates expectations of tone and content that don’t match what’s delivered.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE is decent, in the way that lesser but watchable ‘80s films along these lines are decent, with a great cast and one aspect that’s guaranteed to be discussed for a long time. It just doesn’t seem a lot like GHOSTBUSTERS.

Viewers should be advised that there is both a mid-end credits scene and a post-credits scene.

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