My original intention for this movie review was to write a long, in-depth piece about Ghostbusters: Afterlife, reflecting on the themes of legacy and nostalgia. But then, I came down with a bad cold and struggled to finish all my work projects before the Thanksgiving holiday break, so what you’re getting instead is a much shorter round-up of my thoughts.
My one sentence summary: This movie was a lot of fun, and it (mostly) nails the balance between the new and the nostalgic. Here are my five spoiler-filled highlights:
1. It reminded me of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Afterlife is to the original Ghostbusters what The Force Awakens was to the original Star Wars trilogy. It introduces a new cast of young characters grappling with and then learning to carry on the legacy of the older characters so many of us have fond memories of. The Star Wars sequel trilogy is my favorite Star Wars story, and I loved that Afterlife chose to take a similar narrative approach. Mckenna Grace is particularly great as Phoebe, the granddaughter of original ghostbuster Egon Spengler, played by the late Harold Ramis.
2. It honors the past in an authentic, emotional way
I get a little nervous whenever filmmakers use special effects to create a performance for an actor who has passed away (it can be a minefield of ethical issues, and also shatter the film’s illusion of realism). Afterlife manages to pay tribute to Ramis without the moment seeming like a gimmick. I loved the part of the film where you see Phoebe standing alone to fight a monster in the film’s climax, then you realize the spirit of her grandfather was right there with her, helping her. I’m sure I’m not the only one who got teary-eyed during that scene.
3. Paul Rudd is a national treasure
Paul Rudd was simply a delight in Ghostbusters: Afterlife (then again, when is Paul Rudd NOT delightful?). He plays the coolest summer school teacher ever and helps the kids start investigating the strange supernatural occurrences in the town of Summerville, Oklahoma.
4. Stay Puft mini marshmallows
I don’t know that the scene of the mini Stay Puft marshmallow creatures wreaking havoc in a Walmart was strictly necessary to this film, but I also really, really loved it. I didn’t even mind the blatant Walmart product placement because it reminded me exactly what it’s like to visit a small town Walmart late at night (you may not see Stay Puft marshmallow creatures, but you will see some strange stuff).
5. This movie made me smile – and we need more of that in the world
I love movies that spark my imagination and make me think, that challenge me and push me intellectually. However, sometimes it’s also nice to have movies that feel cozy – they wrap you up in a warm, fuzzy blanket of childhood nostalgia. Afterlife strikes me as one of those feel-good movies I’ll curl up with on a winter evening to watch with my daughter when she’s older.