With the release of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the supernatural comedy now playing in theatres, the Reitman family proves they ain’t afraid of no sequels. The fourth film in the franchise sees Jason Reitman, son of the original director Ivan, reinvent the series, this time for a younger audience.
The reboot begins with single mother Callie (Carrie Coon) inheriting a rundown old house from her estranged OG (Original Ghostbuster) father Egon Spengler. Located just outside the tiny town of Summerville, Oklahoma, it’s “worthless aside from the sentimental value,” but Callie is desperate. She’s been evicted from her city apartment and sees the move as a way to start a new life for her two teenage kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace).
“We’re completely broke,” Trevor tells a friend. “And the only thing that’s left in our name is this creepy old farmhouse my grandfather left us in the middle of nowhere.”
Summerville is far from New York City, the original epicenter of Ghostbuster’s supernatural activity, “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria,” but it turns out the sleepy little town is also haunted. Phoebe, who takes after the grandfather she never met, is sensitive to the ghostly goings-on and with the help of her grandad’s old ghost traps, new mentor Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) and some familiar faces, she will attempt to get to the bottom of the paranormal problem.
Despite the Reitman name front and center, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” doesn’t really feel like a “Ghostbusters” film. There is plenty of fan service and call backs to the original movie but the humor is muted and the anarchy of the first film is replaced by family drama. Modelled after the kid led adventure movies of the 1980s, it feels more like a coming-of-age indie grafted onto a big studio premise.
Reitman populates the film with likable characters. Grace nails the nebbish Phoebe, creating a deadpan wise-beyond-her-years character that blends seamlessly into the “Ghostbusters” world and as her sidekick Podcast, Logan Kim is a scene stealer. The adults, Coon and Rudd, acquit themselves well, and Dan Ackroyd’s first scene is the best role he’s had in years.
But despite the characters the story takes too long to get to the ghostly stuff. Once there, it delivers a proton blast of nostalgia and an epic CGI supernatural showdown, but at twenty minutes longer than the original it feels stretched.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” attempts to pay tribute to the franchise while moving it forward in a different direction but despite a couple stand out performances, it is a ghost of the original.