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Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s Failed Magic Trick

Posted by May 22nd, 2022 1 Comment »

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard and McKenna Grace

The formula looked strong: have the son of the original Ghostbusters director make a film set almost 40 years after the events in the first film, but, this time, set it in rural Oklahoma and have a group of teenagers be our conduit to the supernatural. Then all you have to do is cast well known comedic actor Paul Rudd for some star power and voile!, a hit film that tackles the new while honoring the old through tasteful nostalgia. Magic, right?

Speaking of magic, let’s examine the three acts in Ghostbusters: Afterlife using the method Christopher Nolan detailed in his 2006 film The Prestige: 1) The Pledge, 2) The Turn and 3) The Prestige.

The first act in Ghostbusters: Afterlife is “The Pledge.” Director Jason Reitman shows us a single mother with two children moving into their family home, a home that the mother (played by character actor extraordinaire Carrie Coon) has never been to. She’s been raising her family in the big city, so her children have deal with being different. For Trevor, (played by Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things), this seems easy. He lets his hormones lead him. For Phoebe, it’s more difficult. She’s on the spectrum and far from neuro normative. This role is played convincingly by young Mckenna Grace who also impressed me with her roles in I, Tonya (2017) and the TV series The Handmaid’s Tale. In the first act, we are also introduced to bumbling teacher Grooberson played by Paul Rudd.

The next act is “The Turn.” In it, we discover that things are not what they seem. Ghosts from the past disrupt what was going so well for our new arrivals. And we get our first look at how Reitman labors to employ modern CGI effects while also paying homage to his father’s stylings from the original film. Unfortunately, this mishmash approach comes across as incomplete and sloppy. Also sloppy is the onset of young Phoebe’s sudden assertive nature, undoubtably added to the film to show that even the weirdest of us can “step up” in times of calamity. This is a great sentiment, but it happens too quickly and clumsily to be felt on an emotional level.

Finally, the the third act, “The Prestige.” The act of bringing back what once was. Intended to mirror the glory of the original film and its climax, unfortunately there’s no magic here. Just an honest to goodness effort that falls amazingly flat. Beat for beat, we get a modern interpretation of the original final act but with a new setting and modern twist. And it doesn’t work on any level. As a last-ditch effort, Reitman goes for a tug at the heartstrings to save his magic trick but that falls even flatter. I left the screening disappointed and skeptical of future entries in this re-booted franchise.

If the original Ghostbusters (1984) and it’s excellent blend of the supernatural and comedy was an A and the average blend of the supernatural and comedy in the 2016 film of the same name is a C then this new attempt at magic is a D.

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