Ivan Reitman's ghost hunting franchise has been through a few bumps, and not the kind that come at night. From the mixed reaction of its 1989 sequel to the heavily criticized female reboot in 2016, Ghostbusters has had a hard time moving forward. So it makes sense for anyone to be a bit cautious going into Jason Reitman's Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Thankfully, this isn't a soulless sequel and instead is a loving tribute to his father and the legacy of the original film.
This late sequel doesn't even acknowledge Ghostbuster II. It instead builds on the lore of the original film, modernizing it and expanding it with great respect for the source material. It does so with a lot of heart and warmth and even manages to be more inclusive while also touting the importance of science.
Egon (Harold Ramis) has been living like a hermit in a small town in Oklahoma. He is known as the "dirt farmer." In the opening scene, he is attacked by an unseen ghost. It is clear he is prepared to fight it, but something goes wrong and Egon ends up dead. His estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) takes her two kids to the farm to sort out his affairs and put his existence behind her. Her kids, teen Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and 12-year-old brainiac Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) are not thrilled to be there but soon begin to find out who their grandpa was. The town is plagued by small earthquakes, despite being nowhere near a faultline. A mystery begins to build as we wonder why Egon was there and what is going on underneath this small town.
Phoebe connects with her summer school teacher, manchild Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), after she shows him that she would rather be figuring out these seismic tremors than watching Cujo or Child's Play. Phoebe also soon experiences supernatural moments with her grandpa's ghost. Trevor gets a job at a local fast food joint and crushes on a girl.
The film really takes off when Phoebe befriends Podcast (Logan Kim). The two of them make a charming and engaging pair. Rather than trying to be copies of the original Ghostbusters, these characters combine several characters from 80s films, like Data from The Goonies, into something charming and likable.
The film succeeds in deepening the lore of the original Gozer, the head ghost of the original, while still being original. The cast is wonderful here. Grace gives a focused and thoughtful performance as Phoebe. She feels like a natural extension of her grandpa. Kim is hilarious as Podcast. Rudd is dependably good in a comedic role, adding a lot to the scenes he is in. It is a bit of a shame that Coon's role is written as very one noted. She hates her father and that is the only defining quality she has. Coon is extremely talented so I wish that she had been given more to play off here.
The third act does become a retread of the original, albeit with a few small twists. The appearance of the original Ghostbusters is a reminder of how funny their interplay is and how light on witty banter Ghostbusters: Afterlife is. Still, the film is a fun and heartfelt tribute from a son to his father. You can feel the care taken here to make a good sequel. It is a rare thing to get a sequel with this kind of heart 30+ years down the line.