PG-13, but mostly for scares. When you slightly improve on the 1984 special effects, it becomes way scarier. Instead of being stop motion characters, the terror dogs becomes actually pretty disturbing. There are some sex jokes that mostly go over the kids' heads and there's some mild language, but it's really the spookiness of the movie as a whole that can wreck some younger audiences. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
Okay, I'm a nostalgia nut. I'm saying that up front considering that I'm going to gush about this movie. It's not even going to be a little bit fair. Honestly, and this is even keeping in mind Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ghostbusters: Afterlife might be my favorite movie of 2021. I'm going to be even more blasphemous. I can't believe I'm committing this to writing that people can read. But I might have to say, Ghostbusters: Afterlife might be the best Ghostbusters movie?
Okay, I'm going to do a little bit of triage after that sentence. If we're all accepting that the 1984 Ghostbusters is the Ur Ghostbusters film, I have to say that it will still be one of my favorite movies of all time. For the sake of vulnerability, it is a funnier movie and way more groundbreaking than Ghostbusters: Afterlife. But my central thesis is that Ghostbusters: Afterlife might be a better structured movie in terms of storytelling. There's always a villain problem in first movies. Well, Marvel has recently started fixing that problem, but older films definitely had this issue. If you are doing a big genre film, the bulk of a film has to be devoted to the origin story of the heroes. The villain has to just settle into a role that plays either parallel or second fiddle to the hero's origin. Gozer the Gozarian, in the first film, is wildly underdeveloped. There's all this cool world-building stuff that is said in passing that I completely appreciate about the original film. But the first film is really about confronting skepticism while developing a solid business model for trapping ghosts in a cynical market. Gozer just happens to be part of that story. Okay. Enter Afterlife.
Afterlife does what a sequel is supposed to do. While there is a lot of origin stuff going on with the contemporary generation of Ghostbusters, Jason Reitman riffs off of his father's work and allows all of those foundations to do some heavy lifting. In doing so, Gozer isn't exactly relegated to a B-plot. If anything, from the first shot of the movie, there is some degree of ghostbusting action happening against Gozer. When Gozer actually appears, they get a bit more attention than the previous film afforded them. This makes Gozer scary. Gone are the days of gimmicky crossing the streams and the random survival that might ensue from it. Instead, Jason Reitman embraces the notion that there is a deep lore to the world of the supernatural that Answer the Call seemed to ignore. It's appropriate that it has always been Dan Aykroyd who has kept the Ghostbusters dream alive because this is all the stuff you felt that Aykroyd added to the canon. I always loved that Ray was the canon guy. Egon was the scientist. Peter was the goofball. Winston was the man on the street. But this is Ray's canon paying off. These ghosts just don't exist; they have a rich history.
But then there's the Harold Ramis thing. I know that the actors from Answer the Call were bummed that Jason Reitman was going to make a movie that basically nixed their film. I can get that. But none of this feels like a reactionary move on Jason Reitman's part. If anything, this feels like Jason Reitman paying tribute to a childhood that was shaped by Ghostbusters. As part of taking over Ivan Reitman, his father's, franchise, he really is writing a love letter to both the franchise and to Harold Ramis. Now, I think I felt what a lot of people felt while watching that big reveal at the end: torn. It is such a loving tribute to a man who made these films in terms of script and performance. The whole movie sets up for it, so it doesn't feel gimmicky. But it also feels like it is toeing a line between honor and entertainment. Is it being done for Harold Ramis or is it being done for Egon fans? Thinking of how many personal connections are tied to this movie, I have to believe that Jason Reitman is doing to pay tribute to an avuncular figure in his life. For me, it was saying goodbye. I know that Bill Murray regretted the deterioration of their friendship, so seeing him in the movie next to a representation of his friend went a long way. It feels just so personal.
I think I have a million things to say about this movie, but I also want to give props to Jason Reitman for mending some of the bridges when it came to Ernie Hudson's Winston. I read somewhere that Afterlife fixed the problems that the other movies created. (Note: I think that Leslie Jones should also be mad about how her Patty was treated.) While watching the movie, I kept getting an itch in the back of my brain wondering when someone was going to address Winston. But then came the after credits sequence. I love that Winston is the only one of the group to really become self-actualized. While Winston was always kind of on the outs of the Ghostbusters, the hired hand who does the schlep work, he's the one who has the healthiest relationship to his youth. He's become wildly successful post-Ghostbusters and owns the firehouse, preserving it for the future. It's not everything, but it's a smart move for Winston. He was able to maintain a healthy work / life balance and that's rad. I also like the idea of Ernie Hudson being excited for Ghostbusters. It's not a secret that Hudson was written in for the fact that Eddie Murphy said no, so there's a lot of reason for him to cast off the franchise. But having his character being the new heart of the series is smart.
But this movie gets a lot of grief for leaning heavily into nostalgia. I can't deny that there's a large heaping of nostalgia. I started this blog with that exact comment. But Jason Reitman kind of does nostalgia right. Sure, it's easy to say that he simply applied the Stranger Things formula to Ghostbusters. After all, Finn Wolfhard is in it as a pretty significant role. But so much of Ghostbusters is about New York. Simply taking it out of the metropolis environment does so much to distance itself from the original movie. You can make this Gozer follow-up that hits a lot of the same beats, not limited to the Gatekeeper / Keymaster stuff. But we have all of these new characters that seem real. They aren't stand-ins for the other OG Ghostbusters. They are their own characters. Sure, the kids are the grandkids of Egon Spengler and there are Egon traits to them, especially Phoebe. But they come to the series from very different perspectives. They have different senses of humor and are super relatable. While Peter was the avatar for the audience, really all of the characters come from this grounded perspective that made the movie completely accessible.
And as much as I said that the original Ghostbusters is funnier, Afterlife is pretty hilarious. Like, I laughed a lot. The chemistry of the kids is wonderful. Podcast is a wonderful addition to a world that probably didn't necessarily need him. But the best part is that the kids never once became annoying. I wasn't watching a movie that tried marketing itself to kids simply to sell toys. Nope. The movie works just as it is and I absolutely adored it. Now, I'll admit that I tend to really like things that I just discovered. But I'm honestly waiting for my pre-ordered Blu-Ray to come in the mail so I can watch it again. It's that good.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.