Grade:  B+
Rated PG-13

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) is the kind of film that unapologetically panders to fans of the franchise. Dedicated to the late Harold Ramis, this fourth incarnation features nostalgia-inducing cameos by stars of the original 1984 smash hit:  Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Sigourney Weaver.

That original cast appeared in a slightly disappointing 1989 sequel, but was absent in the polarizing 2016 all-female reboot starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife seems aimed at an audience of both fans who have felt like the franchise owed them one and fans of child-centered mystery-drama-adventures like TV’s Stranger Things or the newer Jumanji films.

So who ya’gonna call to direct a heavily nostalgic picture that aims to please both old and young viewers? How about Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking), son of Ivan Reitman—the man who directed the first two Ghostbuster films.

Set 32 years after the events of the first two films, Afterlife stars Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Post), who already has crossover appeal for a younger audience from playing Proxima Midnight in Avengers: Infinity War. Here she’s a single mom and the estranged daughter of Egon Spengler (Ramis, who appears as a hologram). When she inherits Egon’s farm in an isolated part of Oklahoma, the timing is perfect. Recently evicted from their Chicago apartment, Callie decides to move there with her two teenagers, Trevor and Phoebe. The audience learns that Egon was still tracking ghost events and had captured one in his trap inside the old mine of an occultist named Ivo Shandor. Soon afterward he suffered a heart attack as he was attacked by another supernatural creature.

The plot is a relatively slow burn in the mode of Stranger Things and the old Hardy Boys mysteries, as we follow nerdy daughter Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and new friend and Ghostbusters devotee Podcast (Logan Kim). They find Egon’s old Ghostbuster equipment and end up doing the Pandora’s box thing, letting loose the contents. Meanwhile, son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) has a thing for local girl Lucky (Celeste O’Connor), so there’s a little teen chemistry to go with the science project sort. And Phoebe just happens to be enrolled in a summer school class taught by a goofy seismologist (Paul Rudd) who hovers about like Back to the Future’s Doc Brown.

Eventually Murray, Akroyd, Hudson, Potts, and Weaver make appearances in a surprisingly entertaining film that also resurrects Gozer and Zuul from the original. The visual effects are superb, but since there aren’t as many surprises as the original because it deliberately covers some of the same ground, I won’t spoil it by saying anything more. Well, maybe just a few words: J.K. Simmons . . . in a Ghostbuster film? Bring on the Stay-Puft marshmallow man!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife may not get the same amount of repeat play as the original, but it’s still worth adding to your family home theater libraries. It’s enough of an enjoyable diversion that while it runs over two hours, it doesn’t feel much longer than a 90-minute film. As for the scare-level, because the kids in the film aren’t especially terrified, that sets an example and tone for children who are watching. Even when Phoebe swings out on a shooting side-seat in the resurrected Ghostbustersmobile there are more thrills than scares.

Entire family:  No ( 8 and older?)
Run time: 124 min. Color
Aspect ratio:  2.40:1 widescreen
Featured audio:  DTS-HDMA 5.1
Studio/Distributor:  Columbia/Sony
Bonus features:  B-
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Amazon link
Rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references

Language: 3/10—No f-bombs but probably a dozen or so milder swearwords

Sex:  3/10—verbal references (humping, boning, pole dancing, virgins, etc.)

Violence:  5/10—Not much blood, but a creature and a man get torn in half, though the latter seems to be played tongue-in-cheek; more frightening, actually, is an intense chase scene involving a wolf-like creature, and there are brief clips from Cujo and Chucky that some children might find disturbing—or, more likely parents will be disturbed that the kids might be bugging them to see those films next

Adult situations:  2/10—A dating couple share drinks, and a woman refers to a bar; mostly, it’s the level of emotion regarding deceased people

Takeaway:  Ghostbusters was beloved, and this is a loving tribute