The zeitgeist time capsule of modern reboots now really only needs to include Ghostbusters: Afterlife. A self-serious, calculated blockbuster designed to be maximally inoffensive, the fact that it was directed by the son (Jason Reitman) of the first film’s director (Ivan Reitman) gives it a perfect, nepotistic cherry on top. It is wholly devoid of originality and feverishly devoted, not to the actual spirit of the comedy classic, but to the hyperbolized mis-memories fanboys have cultivated over the last 30 years. It’s forgettably fine franchise fodder.

Determined to ape an Amblin atmosphere, Afterlife follows Egon’s estranged daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon), and her two kids, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace). The trio move into their granddad’s farmhouse after his death. Horny gearhead Trevor resurrects the classic Ghostbuster car, the Ecto-1. Science-nerd Phoebe is polter-guided by Egon’s ghost into fixing proton packs and other gear. Callie meets and then immediately wants to do with Phoebe’s teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), what Dan Aykroyd did with a dead lady in the first film.

Before long, the exact same bad guys from the first movie come back to do the exact same thing they did before, including repeating many of the exact same lines of dialogue. Whether “Who you gonna call?” could have been worked into any script in a clever fashion is a question for philosophers. What is settled fact is that nothing clever happens here. Other than letting Rudd and Coon be weirdos for like a total of 10 minutes, the film has zero interest in being anything other than oddly somber.

Because the original Ghostbusters was a horror comedy and not prepubescent supernatural superhero nonsense, issues of “science” and practicality could be laughed off. The moment Bill Murray spoons goop from his mouth and declares himself slimed, disbelief is suspended. Because Afterlife wants to be some weird blend of 80s nostalgia porn and Marvel Universe Lite, questions like “How do all of these old, abandoned ghostbusting devices still have power?” and “Did the Ecto-1 still have gas in the tank from 35 years ago?” feel fair to ask.

Also fair to ask: How did almost everyone forget to add the funny? Rudd remembers and tries to squeeze his every scene for whatever haha juice he can. But it feels like the film gets angry with him for it, benching him to the sideline for a huge chunk. Okay, fine, if this is supposed to be a serious kid-centric fantasy coming-of-age story, maybe the biggest character arc shouldn’t be given to a mute dead guy? The awkward editing clearly chopped and truncated every subplot and character arc, leaving an ectoplastic mess and calling it a family photo.

This all sounds overwhelmingly negative when, in reality, Afterlife is too doggedly middling to provoke a legitimately strong response. It’s a checklist of memories someone had about the original movie come to life. If you want to hear people say all of the words and phrases you remember from three decades ago, you’re in for a treat! If you’re looking for any meaningful growth in a series with seemingly limitless potential, streams aren’t the only things that will end up cross.

Grade = C+

Other Critical Voices to Consider

Jana J Monji at Age of the Geek says “This film isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the original because there’s an air of missed opportunities and a melancholy for the people who have preceded us into the afterlife that not only plays out on the screen for those new to this franchise, but off-screen for those who have grown old with it.”

Michelle Kisner at The Movie Sleuth says “It manages to capture much of what makes Ghostbusters a timeless classic and at times is quite poignant and touching though that mileage may vary depending on how much emotional attachment the viewer has to the property. The approach of the film is completely sincere without a drop of ironic detachment and it’s all the better for it.”

Murjani Rawls at Substream Magazine says “In ways, the film fights to entirely escape from the ghost trap of the past to form into a clear future. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a love letter to the built legend of yesteryear.”

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