I don’t do too many negative reviews on this site because, as I’ve said in the past, I don’t have the time to waste on something that’s already wasted my time. That said, with the level of disappointment I had after seeing the last movie I was really looking forward to in 2021 (Matrix, The King’s Man, Nightmare Alley, and Spider-Man are definite must-see’s for me but my expectations are currently tempered for all of these) and at the urging of Mrs RNRF, I kinda had to. So for that, I thank you Ghostbusters: Afterlife or as I will forever unaffectionately refer to you: Crapterlife.
The good: Paul Rudd and Mckenna Grace’s characters are charismatic and fantastically quirky until the third act stalls the progression of every character to the point where everyone just becomes a sci-fi/action caricature and the film really unravels.
The bad: Everything else.
To backtrack a bit: While music might be my life, going to the theater is akin to going to church for me and I was more heartbroken over the last year and a half or so when I couldn’t go out to a movie rather than go to a show especially as I (mostly) go to movies by myself and will take personal space+large popcorn+large Cherry Coke over a way packed club, late start times, and overpriced drinks any day of the week.
Let’s also let it be known that I love the Ghostbusters franchise. I still remember pressing my ear to the connecting wall at our local twin cinema growing up when my aunts had taken me, my sister, and cousin to The Karate Kid instead of Ghostbusters (And I vividly remember hearing the Venkman/Slimer attack through the wall). And I dug II. And y’know what? I’m not ashamed to admit I LOVED the Paul Feig version in 2016 despite naysayers and trolls and the general misogyny of people hating it without even trying. The vitriolic response to attempts at representation while ALSO retaining phenomenal storytelling continues to confound and vex me. But I loved the world built there. The heart of the story between Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kristen Wiig), Leslie Jones’ working stiff POV, Kate McKinnon’s sheer suppressed/sustained lunacy. Chris Hemsworth stretching his comedy chops. And excelling! The whole cast, actually! Current comedy legends. I mean, Andy Garcia as the mayor FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT when compared to the mayor from Jaws?!?!? Comedy. Gold. And the fact that you had all the original actors and actresses interwoven throughout in an organic way and not some “Lookit who’s here!” kind of grab was nice. Just think of it like an alternate universe but oh no, we can’t have nice things because thanks to the constant complaining and malicious moaning and deliberate attempts to sabotage it we now get Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
There’s fan service done right and fan service done wrong. There’s recent outings like Jurassic World and Halloween (2018) and The Force Awakens which build new ideas from old ones, effectively integrate older characters into the story while focusing on and introducing new torchbearers’ and also happen to pull on ye olde heartstrings with nice nods to the past and some good old fashioned nostalgia that’s not shoved down the audience’s throat.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is fan service done wrong.
From the moment the Elmer Bernstein-inspired score is played over and over and over again throughout to overbearingly remind you of the 1984 film to the seemingly shoehorned in appearance of the old guard, everything about Jason Reitman’s new entry into the Ghostbusters story is a miss. Do you need the plot at this point? Okay. Egon’s broke abandoned family (Carrie Coon’s single Mom raising Mckenna Grace and Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard) move away from the city to Oklahoma and take up residence in the property he left them after his death. Weird shit starts happening. The mystery of Egon’s curious solo adventure is revealed! Also, Paul Rudd pops up aping on Mark Harmon’s Summer School role but is also an amateur seismologist? Sure.
As a whole, it’s slow and kind of heartbreaking for all the wrong reasons. The fact that Egon died alone and was so isolated from his friends and family at the end is awful. The fact that Grace’s Phoebe is so misunderstood to the point where it’s revealed that her father abandoned them because of her and that Coon’s Callie, knowing that similarly misunderstood Egon is her grandfather, still has no idea what to do with her just makes you feel bad (Callie carts Phoebe off to summer school despite her intelligence and before dropping her off deadpans :”Don’t be yourself”). And the fact that the final act is almost a complete retread of the original’s finale sans Stay Puft just solidified the heartbreak.
But the biggest heartbreak of all: Ghost Egon. Yep, you read that right. I’ll admit that the non-corporeal moments with Phoebe were great but then you get full-fledged spirit version on screen for the final battle?!?! Now, lemme ask: Are the same people who were making fun of a Tupac hologram on tour fine with this? Like, it was weird. Having all these moments with the new cast and the old cast was just odd and kind of disingenuous for me.
Speaking of, why tout the return of the original Ghostbusters when they’re barely in it? ‘m fine with passing the torch and a new generation stepping up but there was absolutely no need to see Venkman, Zeddemore, and Stantz back in action. And then you’re going to have Dana in a fucking post-credits scene that means nothing??? At least her appearance in the post of the 2016 movie was interesting. That said, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts’ exchange in the final post-credits scene was great and illuminating towards the future and hopefully pushes for a bigger role for Hudson’s Winston who has been historically underused in the franchise. Also, it’s beyond lazy to have Ray (Dan Akroyd) play exposition fairy and recall the demise of the Ghostbusters over the phone to Phoebe (Who he doesn’t even know!) for a five minute scene in order to advance the plot.
And why are JK Simmons and Bokeem Woodbine even in this? The former as some deep cut character that is on screen for all of 5 minutes before befalling a particularly gruesome fate while the latter, who’s been slaying on the small screen in Fargo among other things, gets the same amount of screen time and is basically just the local asshole lead cop figure.
Beyond the two post-credits scenes, Ghostbusters: Afterlife just kind of ends. No “Two weeks later” or shots of the old guys having hot chocolate with the kids. Just credits after Egon’s ghost departs. I’m all for bringing back OG villains but they were so throwaway here and really felt like it was a plot device to make viewers’ intentionally feel nostalgic. I figured out the “Egon as a spirit” thing right after the opening scene but for fuck’s sake, I didn’t need an actual fucking Ghost Egon showing up at the end. I didn’t need to see fake Egon on screen at all. You have his family to act as his legacy. You have Phoebe who was this glorious homage to the late Harold Ramis went to glorious places when played by Grace as a tribute! But no, we get cheesy CGI Egon. AND HUDSON, AKROYD, AND BILL MURRAY AGREED TO THIS AND “ACT” ALONGSIDE IT.
Anyway, for all of you who complained and keyboard warriored, and campaigned, and raged against the woman and the “woke”…this is what you got. And I truly hope you’re happy now because for all intents and purposes, you got what you deserved. To be honest, I went into this film expecting to cry. I came out of it and almost cried because of how disappointed I was.
If my swearing and raging and negativity wasn’t enough for you then I implore you to check out another review by Israel Daramola for The Ringer which echoes some of my sentiment. Without the swears. Read it here. Oh, and I also implore you to save your money or at least wait for the digital release of Ghostbusters: Afterlife when planning your holiday weekend movie-going experience.