NOTE: Sony/Columbia did not screen this film for critics in my market.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (hereafter simply referred to as "AFTERLIFE") is directed by Jason Reitman. It stars Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, JK Simmons, and Celeste O'Connor. It's the fourth installment in the GHOSTBUSTERS film series, following GHOSTBUSTERS, GHOSTBUSTERS II, and GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL (the latter of which was a female-centric reboot unrelated to the main film series).
In the years following GHOSTBUSTERS II, the Ghostbusters have gone their separate ways. When Egon Spengler relocates to a sleepy Midwestern town and dies under mysterious circumstances after years of being considered crazy by the locals, his estranged daughter inherits the home where he was living, with her and her two kids move there from the city to live following financial troubles. It isn't long before supernatural goings-on attract the attention of Spengler's descendants as they struggle to fit in with a changing lifestyle far removed from the big city, as all-too-familiar dangers that threaten the safety of the world once again come to light.
It's been a long and strange journey for the GHOSTBUSTERS franchise, with the potential future of the series suffering a crippling blow with the loss of Harold Ramis a few years back. There have been many attempts to revive the brand with nothing coming to light, unless one counts the unrelated reboot GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL from a few years back, which didn't exactly fare too well with fans or critics. At long last, we have a proper follow-up and continuation of the classic series, and while it's may not quite be exactly what followers of the series are hoping for and a little heavy on nostalgia and fan service, the end results are surprisingly good. Director Jason Reitman (JUNO, TULLY), the son of Ivan Reitman who directed the first two movies, takes over behind the camera and gives audiences two hours of classic retro-style entertainment that still keeps things fresh and modern.
One thing that becomes immediately apparent is that AFTERLIFE focuses on Spengler's heirs rather than being the reunion of the surviving classic cast that people might be expecting; if you're expecting to see Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Dan Aykroyd as the main characters here, you'll be disappointed. However, the crop of young and energetic stars, most notably Mckenna Grace, ends up being perfectly suited to carry the torch of this classic franchise. While I was skeptical as to the decision to focus on new characters, in the long run, this actually works in the movie's favor. I wouldn't be opposed to seeing another sequel focused on these characters. The cast is rounded out with Spengler's daughter/the kids' mother, portrayed by Carrie Coon, and a hilarious Paul Rudd as a disenfranchised summer school teacher who'd rather be anywhere else.
A major stylistic decision of AFTERLIFE is to set the film is a sleepy Midwestern town as opposed to the New York City setting of prior installments. The change of venue helps the movie to stand out from its past installments, giving it a different feel and vibe from the past movies. This also makes the movie a surprisingly entertaining fish-out-of-water story, with these eccentric children from the big city adjusting to small-town life. But don't let the little town of this movie fool you; it's still a GHOSTBUSTERS movie at heart, and that's what matters most.
The movie spares no expense at letting you know this is the same GHOSTBUSTERS universe you've missed for so very long, feeling like something totally new but also like a return to a world you haven't been in forever. Some may argue the film is a bit heavy on the fan service (and they wouldn't be wrong), but personally this moviegoer didn't mind too much. There's something here for everyone, from the die-hard fan of the original movies to the newbie who's never seen a film in the series before, although the long-time fans will likely get the most from the experience. There are some minor pacing issues, most notably in the film's first act and its climax, but once it finds its footing, it's the retro-flavored sci-fi experience we've long been overdue for.
While GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE isn't a perfect film, it entertains from start to finish, and fans shouldn't be disappointed. The movie was delayed several times due to the current world situation, but the end result is a satisfying picture that was worth the wait, giving audiences something that's deliciously retro while brand new at the same time. Strongly recommended!