An affectionate nod to a hardly forgotten 1980s franchise gets another reboot from Jason Reitman (Truly).
Ghostbusters: Afterlife isn’t a clever blend of fantasy and comedy in what ties to embrace the supernatural more lightly than the popular streaming series Stranger Things. Although it caters to loyal acolytes in a pleasingly retro way, leading-to familiar appearances to a divisive, if not so overwrought conclusion.
The screenplay co-written by Reitman invokes the aura of the late, beloved Harold Ramis through his brainy researcher Egon Spengler influencing his 12-year-old granddaughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace of Captain Marvel) in an adventure not far removed from colleagues like Peter Venkman and Ray Stantz back in the day.
In the milieu of Phoebe and her relocating clan to Summerville, Okla. there’s a selective amnesia when it comes to responding to situations, at least imperiled ones. Single mom Callie (Carrie Coon of Gone Girl) lost her job and is with nebbish, Phoebe and older teen son Trevor (Canada’s Finn Wolfhard of The Addams Family 2) in an inherited, deteriorating farmhouse from recently deceased, estranged Egon. The aging science buff was into earthquake research.
The likeable, spunky Phoebe connects with a podcaster named Podcast (Logan Kim), while Trevor warms up to a waitress, Celeste O’Connor’s lucky. Even the downcast Callie finds solace with Phoebe’s summer teacher (who moonlights as a seismologist) Gary Grooberson, endowed with silly, sardonic streaks by the reliable Paul Rudd (Ant-Man).
The reincarnation may touch an earlier generation who grew up on films like The Goonies with a youthful energy as long-ago garb, gadgets and gangs begin anew. Vintage effects arise with more predominant CGI as aficionados will like what Phoebe and Trevor discover. Like what emanates from a nearby hilly enclave or neat stuff like the Ecto-1 vehicle, beige uniforms, proton packs, and ghost traps.
The alternating of the freakish and scary is more of an awkward nostalgia trip with occasional scene chewing and a bit arbitrary as Gozer and Stay Puff Marshmallows re-enter the fray. While Afterlife doesn’t really offer much depth, imagination and laughs, its a cinematic artifact with a soft center and the comfortably amusing, if not sometimes amazing Grace.