As sequels go, it really does not get much better than Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a heartfelt celebration of the classic original Ghostbusters, and an emotional story of stepping into your family’s legacy, which is extra fitting as co-written and directed by Jason Reitman, son of the original two films’ director Ivan Reitman.
The new film is a sequel following the events of the original 1984 Ghostbusters and its 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2, and while all of the main legacy actors return to briefly reprise their iconic characters – including Bill Murray as Peter Venkman, Dan Aykroyd as Ray Stantz, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zedmore, Annie Potts and Janine Melnitz, and Sigourney Weaver as Dana Barrett – but the true star is the late, great Harold Ramis, who of course played Egon Spengler.
After an opening scare that is one of many strong echoes of the original film, we follow Egon’s daughter, Callie (played by Carrie Coons), a single mom, who arrives with her two kids in a town to live in the old farmhouse Spengler left to them after he seemingly abandoned his family decades ago for reasons Callie still doesn’t know. Soon enough, the kids begin to uncover their grandfather’s secret history with the Ghostbusters, who haven’t made headlines since their infamous New York battles with the supernatural in the 1980s.
The always pitch perfect Paul Rudd (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Ant-Man) plays a teacher who remembers the Ghostbusters as much as we do.
Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) actually looks a lot like Ramis in his angsty portrayal of Egon’s grandson Trevor, while the reliably amazing McKenna Grace (Annabelle Comes Home) is a straight up young and modern version of Spengler, right down to his glasses and his passion and understanding of science.
In addition to the numerous visual Easter eggs that reference the first two films, the primary antagonists in this new story both go back to the original film. I won’t spoil who they are and who plays them here, but needless to say, everything is connected.
The new ghosts are mostly presented in the same glowing transparency as the originals, outlandishly shaped and rowdy troublemakers that don’t really hurt the living so much as they freak them out.
Watching Phoebe and Trevor discover their granddad’s secret life of spirit hunting reminds us why we all fell in love with the very idea of the Ghostbusters almost 40 years ago, and if the heartfelt finale doesn’t choke you up, you may have to check your pulse to make sure you’re not one of the ghosts.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in theaters now.
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