McKenna Grace stars as twelve-year-old Phoebe, the granddaughter of a recently-deceased hermit she discovers has a connection to the original film‘s Ghostbusters, who have long since disbanded. When her mother inherits the grandfather’s decrepit farmhouse, Phoebe learns he wasn’t the mad man people thought he was. He was actually doing everything in his power to stop an ancient evil from taking over the world. With her insane science knowledge and a little supernatural assistance, Phoebe becomes a next generation Ghostbuster and picks up where her grandfather left off. She’s assisted by her older brother (Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard) and a quirky classmate (Logan Kim). Paul Rudd’s along for the ride, too, playing a nerdy teacher who encourages Phoebe’s pursuit of science, while he also pursues a romantic relationship with her mother (Carrie Coon). Phoebe and her friends try their best to keep evil at bay, but they’re in over they’re heads. Who’re they gonna call?
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), the son of the original film‘s director, Ivan Reitman. The son utilizes the father’s cast, designs, music, and mythology to create a sequel that often feels a lot like a remake. The main differences are that the ghostbusters are kids this time, and instead of New York, it takes place on the wide-open prairie. It’s a little too nostalgic for my taste — more like a sentimental fan film than a genuine sequel or reboot.
What it lacks in originality, Afterlife makes up in heart and humor. Reitman and cowriter Gil Kenan are great with witty dialogue, especially for the younger cast members. McKenna Grace handily carries the lead role, and young Logan Kim is a scene stealer. Rudd makes for a fun third wheel to their little ‘science team’, and delivers one of the movie’s most memorable lines when he encourages Grace and Kim to embrace their nerdiness, insisting that, “Science is the safety pin through the nipple of academia.” These new characters are strongly drawn and endearing, so much so that I wonder if a Ghostbusters sequel really needs the old cast members to survive. But at the same time, a little Bill Murray never hurt any movie. Ever.