REVIEW: Lead performance and fun adventure push ‘Afterlife’ above average

Unlike the 2016 “Ghostbusters,” which was a reboot, this latest film serves as a direct sequel, set decades after the events of the 1989 picture.

The movie introduces viewers to Callie (Carrie Coon), the daughter of Dr. Egon Spengler, and her two children, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). At the movie’s outset, Dr. Spengler passes away and the death notice is sent to Callie. After the update, Callie and her kids travel to rural Oklahoma, where Spengler left a farmstead to his family.

Upon arrival, Callie and Trevor are mostly unimpressed by the small town and rundown house. However, Phoebe, who’s interested in science, begins finding Ghostbuster equipment and her interest is piqued even more as there are several abnormal earthquakes in the area. To investigate what’s going on, Phoebe teams up with one of her classmates, who simply goes by “Podcast” because he produces one (Logan Kim).

There have been a few movies in the last decade that have really leaned hard into nostalgia, and “Afterlife” isn’t all that different. There are a plethora of references and the small town where the film is set has many things from days gone by, from a diner with waitresses on roller skates to an old school theater.

Despite that being the case, though, there’s an earnestness and a heart to “Afterlife.” Director Jason Reitman, who also co-wrote, delivers a level of genuineness in the characters, and mixes in a fun adventure for them to go on.

The story, admittedly, takes a lot from the original “Ghostbusters” film, even having Gozer as the main antagonist. A lot of it feels too familiar at times, yet having the main protagonists be kids who’re learning on the fly gives it the charm to hold up.

What makes a whole lot of that work is Grace, who’s stellar in the lead role. She carries the movie in every scene she’s in, certainly up to the task of being the main character.

Phoebe is precocious, studious and observant, but is also very much an introvert. It’s not a unique type of character, but Grace not only captures those aspects, she gives Phoebe a lot of personality and brings a likability to the role.

Ghostblogafterlife
Courtesy Sony and Columbia Pictures.

Another fun character is Podcast, with Kim giving a cute performance and having a good chemistry with Grace. Some of his lines are a bit too on the nose about popular podcasts, but Kim has some good comedic timing with them and his character is overall a positive addition.

The weaker link character-wise is actually the adults. Callie, for example, seems a bit too unlikable. It’s understandable that she’s under stress because of money issues and she had a strained relationship with her father, but she’s written as overly cynical and not even interested in her own kids’ lives.

On top of that, Coon, who has done impressive work in the past, such as her performance in “Gone Girl,” feels miscast.

Paul Rudd, meanwhile, who plays Phoebe’s teacher, feels more at home, able to balance comedy and adventure similar to how he does it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His character does become a bit too clownish, though, rather than being just a more humorous mentor.

The film also features some of the cast from the original film. However, while it was good to see them again, the main scene where they arrived did feel forced, like it was inserted out of necessity, rather than being organically in the movie.

Even with all that said, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” remains a fairly good family movie. There’s enough entertainment value with the proton packs and the ECTO-1, plus the young characters are good, with the protagonist being a standout, as well as some clever lines. 3.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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