Ghostbusters: Afterlife film review

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

⭐⭐⭐ (3 stars out of 5)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) Directed by Jason Reitman

An exercise in nostalgic reminiscence, goofy and undisguised, persistently determined to hit all the right sentimental notes to hook the die-hard fans of the 1980s Ghostbusters franchise. Something that embarrassingly I must confess worked on me; although honestly once you see the film with all its indulgent flaws it really isn’t as catastrophic as one would imagine. For one thing,  Ghostbusters has no sequels that can give us the possibility of categorizing it as a set of films that make a solid franchise, it is an inconsistent franchise or rather leaving aside euphemisms, it is a disaster in its entirety, of course with the mere exception of the first installment (which is by no means perfect). So based on the comparative tradition of films belonging to the same universe then we would be facing nothing less than the first, questionable, yet effective Ghostbusters sequel; and taking into account the fragile level of this stereotypical form of pop corn filmmaking, I certainly think it’s more than enough to make this benign entertainment passable.

I also believe that it would be implausible, somewhat utopian and unrealistic to believe that a sequel of this nature can be made with competent qualities, in itself the core of the Ghostbusters vernacular is uneven and too prosaic to have a story nurtured with details that establish a narrative worthy of being called great blockbuster cinema; the singular reason for the infinitely entertaining power of the 1984 film is exclusively because of the sparkling, quirky characters and the masterful transmissible attitude of comedy and terror, nothing more than that. This film emphatically loses itself in its own insecurity, a fact that significantly affects and precludes a narrative that brings fresh ideas or at least a microscale detail that makes yet another pedestrian sequel ”justifiable” where there should have been none. However, this production does what the sequels did not do, brazenly steals many of the narrative tricks of the first installment and uses them without forcing anything at all, that is the most appreciably attractive thing, it is a film 100 percent determined to make the same harebrained mistakes and never apologize for it.

With that personality it starts out suggesting to us that rather than a sequel it will be a warm embrace for the fans no matter how much stupidity there is on top of it. There’s nothing new to add that tells us it’s a film doing everything exactly right, nevertheless the positive energy buildup the film produces is unmistakable; even having an omnipresent cliché setting and characters naturally typical of 21st century society, the already familiar narrative isn’t affected at all, and to say that in and of itself, even for me, is something that took me by surprise. It serves as an appendage for an unsatisfied audience, and produces more excitement than not.

Callie (Carrie Coon) is a single mother who moves to a small town with her two children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace). There, in the middle of nowhere, they find the farm they have inherited from their grandfather. Soon this family will learn some of the secrets related to themselves and to this place, as their grandfather’s legacy connects to the origins of the Ghostbusters. Together with Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a seismologist and teacher who has come to the town because mysterious earthquakes have been happening, they will discover a replica of a trap to capture ghosts, something unusual, since no ghosts have been seen in 30 years, since the team formed by Venkman, Stantz, Winston and Spengler became famous in the 80s.

I think we all understand how tremendously intimidating it is to make sequels, not only because of the amount of scrupulousness with which the production must handle the film but also because of the inevitable confrontation that unfortunately must be shared with the film that started it all; but who are we kidding, this is Hollywood cinema and they are not afraid of absolutely nothing as long as they earn succulent sums of money. Consequently nowadays Ghostbusters is just another franchise that Hollywood exploits to exhaustion; in 2016 a frustrating remake appeared using the Ghostbusters name and ended up ruining the childhood of many, not only did they turn Ghostbusters into a pseudo-feminist metaphor but it was ostentatiously bad. And yet against all odds we are here again with another sequel…or quasi-sequel?

Whatever this movie is, one thing is evident, it’s a movie created to make you relive emotions, a movie made with the purpose of making your eyes lachrymose and your fan’s heart move, and from my perspective it succeeds in doing so and tellingly so…well? I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a film that’s going to leave you thrilled and enthralled in every sequence, that won’t happen, although what it does promise you is innocuous entertainment that knows where it’s going and how it wants to get to that end point. But to get to the central idea I want to get to, we must first synthesize everything, starting with how portentously irritating this movie is. The characters, they’re all trivial dramatis personae that seem more like an imitation of something we’re already familiar with. Paul Rudd is basically Paul Rudd, annoying and perpetually infuriating, I wouldn’t say his performance isn’t ideal but it’s extraordinarily superfluous, remove him from the film and the plot would run its course normally. The inherent humorous element in the dialogue is what boringly murders virtually any trace of good acting in the film; however there is one exception, the addition of actress Mckenna Grace playing Spengler’s granddaughter adds a touch of authenticity to the film, or to be more precise she gives the film a singular personality, despite playing a character endowed with platitudinous intelligence and being modernly androgynous there is a special appeal to the character, I would say she is the only character in this film that brings something ”out of the ordinary” to the well worn narrative.

The third act is the point I wanted to get to, both the beginning and the fast-paced over-the-top action of the middle acts build up an indulgent adrenaline rush, we know what’s in store for the finale and we await it with skepticism but still look forward to it with sufficient interest. And it gives us what it promises, it won’t be the most coordinated way to spoil us yet it has fun doing it and that’s the essential principle of any film with these characteristics. It’s not the outrageous emotional feeling of watching your favorite characters back together, it’s the satisfaction with which it’s filmed as if it were a poorly written but readable love letter, and that’s exactly what this movie is. It has a shaky and trashy outcome, and yet it feels right. Moral of the story, this was refreshingly enough for the Ghostbusters franchise, now let them rest in peace.

 

Matteo Bedon

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When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them. Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.

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