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'Ghostbusters: Afterlife'

by Dan Lybarger | November 19, 2021 at 1:32 a.m.

‘Ghostbusters:

Afterlife’

75 Cast: Carrie Coon, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim, Dan Aykroyd, Celeste O’Connor, Annie Potts, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver

Director: Jason Reitman

Rating: PG-13, for supernatural action and some suggestive references

Running time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Playing theatrically

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" aims for nostalgia but feels like necrophilia.

Most of what made the 1984 original work is missing here. It is impressive how much special effects have improved in three and a half decades, but the relationships between the guys with the proton packs were the real reason to catch the movie.

Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who also wrote the script) were brainy true believers who were so worked up about the supernatural that they'd alienate people who were more interested with the living. By pairing them with the wisecracking opportunist that Bill Murray played, the interactions made the wait between silly looking phantoms more entertaining. Murray was a worthy surrogate because he had the same sort of quizzical looks viewers might have if they encountered the ghosts in real life.

The three sequels, follow-ups, or pale retreads don't work because the chemistry isn't there anymore. Even when former cast members made cameos in Paul Feig's remake, they weren't doing anything they haven't done better elsewhere.

Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman, is at the helm this time, but the story he and Gil Kenan have written is short on laughs. They also don't seem to know where to focus the new tale. Carrie Coon plays the grown daughter of a former Ghostbuster but she seems like more of a bystander than a participant in the tale.

The performers playing her teenage kids fare a little better. Both look as if they could be relatives of the late Ramis. Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) has no room for small talk and has an advanced understanding of physics and electrical engineering. Liker her older brother Tervor (Finn Wolfhard), she resents having to leave their home for rural Oklahoma because they've recently been evicted.

They now live in a dilapidated farmhouse few of the locals dare visit. The the kids' grandfather was using it to catch and neutralize local ghouls the way he used to do in New York.

They team with a young podcaster named, um, Podcast (Logan Kim) to find out what Grandpa was up to outside of town. They get a little help from a local science teacher (Sexiest Man Alive Paul Rudd), who's mystified at all the earthquakes the town has without conventional fault lines.

The laughs come fitfully, and somehow the apocalyptic stakes don't seem terribly urgent. It's more fun to watch Murray struggling to comprehend how a woman he's lusted after has come to be possessed than it is to hear Grace reciting dad jokes. You'd expect more wit from Reitman, who once upon a time penned the script for "Thank You for Smoking."

He and Kenan go out of their way to make call outs to the first film. Reitman even recycles Elmer Bernstein's musical cues from the first movie and loads the film with ads for Stay Puft Marshmallows as if he had actual product placement contracts to fulfill.

They could have devoted more time to developing their own tale instead of reminding viewers how the 1984 movie was more enjoyable. Having ghouls gone wild in a Walmart is a nice touch, but the inspiration ends there.

The logic behind the ghosts seems a little shaky. One wonders why a phantom would help Phoebe discover her destiny when she's likely to capture him and fight his supernatural peers. Phoebe and her next generation of Ghostbusters seem to damage more property than the specters do.

Seeing this allegedly safe tale only serves to remind viewers that the first movie was risky. The combination of expensive visuals and comedy scared executives at Coca-Cola, who owned Columbia Pictures at the time.

Seeing the first film's comic Armageddon was funny because it was unexpected. The entertainment value is lost if you know who you gonna call.

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