Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) ☆☆1/2 (2.5/4): A hollow piece of nostalgia

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” exists only for the nostalgia for its target audiences, and, unfortunately, that is all. Although it does try to recharge its franchise with a number of new characters at the beginning, the movie ultimately regurgitates old familiar elements from its predecessors while not generating anything new or surprising for us, and I only came to observe its story and characters without much care or attention.

After the opening scene which involves with one of the four Ghostbusters in the previous two films, we are introduced to a young nerdy girl named Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), her mother Callie (Carrie Coon), and her older brother Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Due to their current difficult financial status, Callie and her two kids have to leave their small apartment in New York City, and then they go to a rural town in Oklahoma where Callie’s estranged father lived before his recent death. Callie hopes to get some money from selling her father’s house and the surrounding land, but her hope is soon dashed as she later sees how shabby the house really is, and she and her kids have no choice but to live in the house for a while.

As they gradually get accustomed to their new home, Phoebe becomes more interested in who her grandfather really was, and then she comes to sense something invisible inside the house after one incident involved with a chess board. Eventually, she discovers not only a certain device familiar to many of us but also a secret laboratory hidden below the barn next to the house, and she naturally becomes all the more curious about what her grandfather was trying to do before his death.

Fortunately for her, someone in the town knows a lot about the Ghostbusters, and that person in question is Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a local middle-school science teacher who turns out to be a bit too smart to be stuck in his current position even though he often shows his students old horror films such as “Child’s Play” (1988). Besides showing Phoebe more about what happened in “The Ghostbusters” (1984), Gary talks with her a bit about a series of inexplicable earthquakes happening around the town, and it does not take much time for Phoebe to discern the connection between this mysterious happening and her grandfather’s secret project.

Around that time, you will get a pretty good idea of what you are going to get, if you ever saw “The Ghostbusters”. Yes, there is an evil supernatural force to be unleashed sooner or later at some old abandoned spot not so from the town. Yes, Phoebe and Trevor come to have an adventure once they acquire all those equipments from the 1984 film besides that iconic vehicle. Yes, they and their two new friends, Podcast (Logan Kim) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), must stick together for stopping that evil supernatural force from causing, of course, the end of the world we know.

In the meantime, the movie throws one familiar thing after another along the story, and you will certainly get nostalgic if you enjoyed the 1984 film just like I did, but, sadly, the screenplay director Jason Reitman and his co-writer Gil Kenan does not go beyond that at all. While I was amused a bit by the appearance of several notable creatures from the 1984 film, there is not much fun and surprise from that, and I am disappointed to report to you that the climax of the movie is more or less than a lazy variation of that memorable climactic part of the 1984 film. In case of what is supposed to be a big emotional moment around the end of the movie, it feels merely obligatory without adding much to what has been so predictably and perfunctorily accumulated on the screen, and I come to miss more the 2016 reboot version than before, which was surely flawed but actually tried some new things with its all-female Ghostbusters.

At least, the movie is not a total waste of time mainly thanks to the good efforts from its several young main performers. McKenna Grace, a young promising actress who drew my attention for the first time via her likable performance in “Gifted” (2017), anchors the film well with her plucky performance, and Finn Wolfhard, who has been mainly known for Netflix series “Stranger Things”, Logan Kim, and Celeste O’Connor are also well-cast as Phoebe’s three fellow Ghostbusters, though their supporting characters are rather thankless in comparison.

In contrast, a number of notable adult cast members in the film are seriously wasted due to their flat supporting characters. While Carrie Coon, who has been one of the most dependable actresses working in Hollywood, does not have many things to do from the beginning, Paul Rudd only utilizes a bit of his considerable comic talent, and the other adult cast members including Bokeem Woodbine, Tracy Letts, and J. K. Simmons simply come and go as required by the screenplay. In case of several main cast members from the 1984 film, their expected cameo appearance will surely delight the fans of the 1984 film, but the movie does not do anything much besides bringing their characters back to the screen, and that is another disappointment in the movie.

Overall, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” did not entertain me enough, and whatever I saw from it was quickly evaporated as I came out of the screening room. I do not hate it, but I still wish it would do much more than serving us with heaps of nostalgic stuffs, and I can only hope that I will be more entertained by whatever will come next after this hollow entry.

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